By Alan Gionet

(CBS4) – The Colorado economy might overall, be better off under the new Biden Administration, say experts looking at the state’s future.

“I think there will be a lot more pluses than minuses given the types of industries that we’re focused on here,” said Dr. Richard Wobbekind, senior economist and associate dean for business and government relations with the University of Boulder’s Leeds School of Business.

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The largest question looms over the energy industry, which is no longer just oil and gas, although some parts of the state are highly dependent on oil and gas jobs.

“Probably going to be eliminating drilling on public lands. Which has happened quite a bit in Colorado a lot here in Colorado,” said Wobbekind. “So for the energy industry you could say that might be a little bit of a negative. But certainly the emphasis on renewables — and we have a strong renewables industry in Colorado — is going to be extremely positive.”

“Historically the jobs in the oil and gas industry were higher paying on average. But of course that’s changing,” said Professor Morgan Bazilian, director of the Payne Institute for Public Policy at Colorado School of Mines.

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“The skill sets are not necessarily completely different,” explained Bazilian. “Because the end product is a service or a commodity. That new sector of clean energy has a certain vibrance that’s very attractive. … Someone has to be good at finance, someone has to be good at data, someone has to be good at technology, someone has to be good at marketing, et cetera, et cetera.”

The State of Colorado is already making its own push toward renewable energy and market pressures, says Bazilian, will push forward the development of the renewables industry.

“You do see Colorado especially in the electricity sector or the power sector moving to 100 percent clean energy rather swiftly.”

But oil and gas are far from done in the state.

“The oil and gas sector has gone through a very rough patch, there’s no question about that, and it may continue to. The scale of the endeavor is still that there still are quite a few jobs that exist.”

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The cost of renewable energy has dropped significantly. As it drops further, Bazilian sees greater change and with Colorado’s growing wind and solar industry jobs.

“It’s not necessarily because of these long term goals, it’s wholly enabled by these significant cost and price declines.”

Innovation will also create opportunities in Colorado.

“Energy and climate research with the renewable energy lab in Colorado, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Lab in Colorado, I think we could be the next big beneficiaries with the focus on climate change and the environment and renewables,” said Wobbekind.

Science and research could also be beneficial to the medical research community.

“I do think the Administration will invest more in medical research and in health research. That has the potential for being positive because we do have a fairly strong biotech bio pharma sector in the state,” added Wobbekind.

There may also be opportunity with changes to international relations and trade. While changes in trade deals with China are not likely to budge said Wobbekind, “I do think you’ll see more trade agreements with countries around the world and maybe a stronger ability to export particularly to export our agricultural products.”

Agriculture has seen problems in the Trump years not only due to trade, but production issues. Immigrant labor to work the fields at times was so short, there was difficulty in harvesting. Changes to immigration policy remain controversial, but to Colorado, said Wobbekind, immigrant labor is productive.

“That’s the issue if you end up bringing in people ultimately wind up being some sort of a social drag on the economy, but a lot of those people wind up honestly supporting the construction workforce, the agricultural workforce, as well as very importantly the high tech, workforce and the tourism workforce.”

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Colorado’s tourism industry might get a boost in an increase in international travel that could come as the pandemic ends. International students who have dealt with restrictive policies may also bring money to the state.

Alan Gionet