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Editorial: Activists should target Big Marijuana

Some see it as a blessing, others a curse. Either way, environmental activists are vigilant in Colorado Springs and up and down the Front Range. Big Marijuana should be in their sites.

The most dedicated environmentalists take to the streets to protest fracking, opposing more production of natural gas and oil. They ask consumers to use less energy. They advocate tiny battery cars, biking to work, turning off lights, turning down the heat and life without air conditioning. They discourage cigarettes and decry Big Tobacco as counterproductive agriculture. In 2010, environmentalists turned the light green on Pikes Peak during a sustainability conference that talked about ridding the world of nonessential activities that consume power.

Given this extraordinary dedication to conservation, we should expect protests outside of Big Marijuana’s for-profit grow operations and retail stores.

It is hard to think of another new government-sanctioned, media-celebrated recreation activity that consumes more oil, gas and coal than Big Marijuana. If Big Tobacco relied on indoor heat lamps and artificial climate control, environmentalists would try harder to shut it down.

Hundreds of grow operations produce marijuana day and night throughout Colorado. Pot plants grow rapidly in artificially controlled climates and under intense lighting in giant warehouses.

“These are big warehouses without skylights or windows, and they’re running these lights 24/7,” said Howard Geller, director of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, in a Gazette news story.

In Washington state, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council found marijuana production could increase energy consumption by 160 megawatts over the next 20 years. That equals the entire solar capacity of Xcel Engery’s Colorado generating portfolio, based on a 2013 Denver Post article. Given that Colorado’s marijuana laws are more commercialized than Washington state’s, the industry could increase power consumption by even more.

To quantify Big Marijuana’s carbon footprint in more consumer-friendly terms, the conservation council says four marijuana plants consume enough electricity to run 29 refrigerators for the same timespan. Most of the power is generated by coal, oil and gas. The rest comes from solar and wind operations heavily dependent on oil, gas and fracking.

All this new demand on the grid can only raise the cost of running refrigerators, heating systems and lights for businesses and homes.

Big Marijuana poses great promise for investors. But their profits take a toll on the environment and natural resources. If environmental activists don’t take action, their credibility will languish.

In related news, After oil, ex-North Dakota Indian leader forms marijuana firm.

This article was from The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.