By Dillon Thomas

WELD COUNTY, Colo.  – As gasoline prices top $4.00 a gallon at some gas stations in Colorado due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, experts in the energy industry say the impacts of the war on Coloradan’s wallets are likely just beginning. Russia, the aggressor in the war in Ukraine, is one of the top producers of both oil and natural gas.

Due to sanctions and other factors associated with the war, including President Joe Biden’s announcement that the United States would cease purchases of Russian fuels, natural gas prices could also cause many basic commodities in the U.S. to become more costly.

(credit: CBS)

John Harpole, Founder of Mercator Energy in Colorado, told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas he predicted the world would see Russia use its energy as a weapon for nearly a decade now. Mercator Energy is an energy broker that helps private companies purchase and retain energy resources like natural gas.

“There is no question that Putin wants to utilize oil and natural gas as a weapon of geopolitical change,” Harpole said. “I was talking about Europe walking into this trap that Putin began to set as many as 20 years ago.”

Harpole said, when it comes to Europe’s reliance on Russia for oil and natural gas, they are not victims in the current supply crisis associated with the war. Harpole said countries in the region have voluntarily given Russia power through their energy policies in recent decades.

Harpole believes Americans are just now getting a glimpse at the strength a country is given by being such an energy powerhouse for an entire region.

“(Consumers) are about to become very educated by virtue of the prices that they see that are a derivative of worldwide events,” Harpole said.

Gasoline prices have already jumped more than 40 cents, on average, in Colorado in just the last week. Most gas stations, when this article was published, were selling a gallon of gasoline for $3.79 or higher. Some gas stations have already marked unleaded gasoline at $4.00. Some economists told CBS4 the $4.00 a gallon mark would be a base for months so long as the conflict in Ukraine continues.

“When you see one price move on the commodity of oil, you see typically a commensurate move on natural gas,” Harpole said.

Harpole and several other energy experts said Colorado’s decision to implement further restrictions when it came to access to drilling for oil and gas in 2019 has made it difficult for the state to combat the increased prices we are now experiencing.

(credit: CBS)

“Some of the regulatory changes we saw take place three years ago have caused oil production in Colorado to drop 30%. Which is significant, which impacts the local markets and local prices as well,” Harpole said.

Harpole said natural gas prices could jump in October in Colorado, right as consumers typically double their consumption of natural gas.

Some, like Harpole, encouraged law makers to reconsider their political commitments and stances when it comes to energy production, saying he backed Germany’s Economy Minister when he said pragmatism should always trump political commitments.

“Without question this should be a wakeup call,” Harpole said. “The true sharpness of the weapon that Putin wields here on energy has not yet been felt, and will be felt soon.”

Dillon Thomas