DENVER (CBS4) – Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner made a rare joint appearance on Wednesday to address the future of oil and gas development in Colorado.

The event was hosted by Vital for Colorado, a coalition of more than 35,000 business and civic leaders. The group is trying to get the politics out of the debate over energy development.

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“You’d be surprised how little we disagree on,” Hickenlooper said at the event.

“I think for a long time we just counted on the industry to do the education work and this breakfast is a sign that … the industry isn’t just at stake here,” Gardner said.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

The U.S. is now the top oil and gas producer in the world, and Colorado plays a major role in that. Gardner says the ramifications are enormous.

“We’re now in a position where we can export, and this is going to help our allies, our allies who have been beholden to Russia or dictators or other dictators for their energy sources,” Gardner said.

Gardner says there’s growing support in Washington for expediting exports of liquefied natural gas, and lifting the ban on crude oil exports.

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“We’re entering in a situation now where we’ll have tanks full of U.S.-developed, produced oil, without a refinery capacity to refine that oil into gasoline,” he said.

Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner at the Vital for Colorado breakfast (credit: CBS)

Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner at the Vital for Colorado breakfast (credit: CBS)

In Colorado, Hickenlooper says support for anti-fracking ballot measures has faded.

“A year ago there were lots of people from lots of different industries that were actually talking about writing a check and funding something like this,” he said. “Most of those folks, not all of them, but most of them now are saying, ‘I think we’re making progress.’ ”

Hickenlooper says other Western states may join Colorado in rolling out regional regulations in the U.S. in the next year. That will further build trust between industry and communities.

“We’re going to begin to see kids in schools and people all over the state having a much more balanced approach,” he said.

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Hickenlooper and Gardner also took questions from the audience.