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Ritter talks up his econ plan and renewable energy in a coal and oil world.

We recently sat down with Gov. Bill Ritter at the Capitol to ask him about his legislative and economic priorities. The following Q & A was culled from our videotaped interview, which can be viewed at cobizmag.com in three installments.

CB: You've named aerospace, bioscience, renewable energy and tourism as your administration's economic focus. How do you see those areas shaping Colorado's future?

Ritter: We've got the second-highest concentration of workers in any state in the country involved in aerospace. The defense industry is important to us as a state, and aerospace is a part of that. But there are other things outside of it that involve satellite technology that we're involved in, in a very significant way, both in the private sector and with respect to what our institutions are doing.

We think we can lure companies and grow companies. We can take ideas out of academia and transfer them into the private sector in aerospace. The same is true of the life sciences. It's not as big a sector for us, but we're ideally positioned as a state to do more around life sciences.

Renewable energy: We obviously worked very hard to put ourselves on the map in a significant way in 2007. And I think most of the people who were skeptical about the possibilities now look at us and say this is a sector we can develop.

Tourism is the second largest industry in Colorado if you take all of the clusters that are involved in it. The Legislature before I arrived, under Gov. Owens, dedicated another $15 million to marketing tourism. We've already seen the impact in a fairly short amount of time.

CB: Traditional oil and gas is a $23 billion a year industry. You're working toward a compromise allowing some drilling in the Roan Plateau public lands. How do you balance the renewable energy economy with our traditional energy economy?

Ritter: You mix the two and understand that, in this state, we passed last year a statute that said for the investor-owned utilities, 20 percent of the energy they provide in Colorado has to come from renewable energy by 2020.

We have the ability to capture wind, sun, even geothermal--all three great possibilities. But we know the future of energy use in this state is going to mean natural gas usage, and it burns cleaner than other hydrocarbons. It also means that coal will be a part of our future. It is incumbent upon us to figure out how to burn that coal in a clean fashion.

CB: Recently you said that discussion of using the severance tax on the oil and gas industry to fund higher education was progressing faster than any other tax hike under consideration at the Capitol. That's caused some people in the energy industry to threaten to take their business elsewhere. How do you see that playing out?

Ritter: I think the industry is concerned about this rulemaking process we're going through as a result of last year when we reformed the (Colorado) Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. And they absolutely have input. What I won't do is trade off the rulemaking process for some agreement on severance taxes. We committed to the people of this state with legislation that the rulemaking process would be about ensuring responsible development and measuring impact.

CB: The recent update of the 2003 Statewide Water Supply Initiative Report estimates demand will exceed supply by about 20 percent by 2030. What's your administration doing to solve this problem?

Ritter: We really have to focus on conservation. Secondly, we have to look at re-use projects. The city of Aurora is probably the best example of a city that is putting a big investment in a pipeline that allows them significant re-use for water they release back into the South Platte Basin. Shared use between municipalities and agricultural use also is something we've tried to promote.

coloradobiz TV

WATCH OUR COMPLETE THREE-PART "EXECUTIVE EDGE" INTERVIEW WITH GOV. RITTER AT COBIZMAG.COM/VIDEOS.ASP

Mike Cote is the editor of ColoradoBiz. Read his twice-monthly Web column and his music and pop culture blog, "Poppin' Circumstance," at cobizmag.com or e-mail him at mcote@cobizmag.com

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Title Annotation:COTE'S colorado
Comment:Ritter talks up his econ plan and renewable energy in a coal and oil world.(COTE'S colorado)
Author:Cote, Mike
Publication:ColoradoBiz
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1U8CO
Date:Mar 1, 2008
Words:701
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