U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, seeking to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, defended hydraulic fracturing as a job creator and said bans of the practice would kill thousands of jobs "overnight" in a visit to Durango on Sunday.
His "all-of-the-above energy policy" relies on fracking.
"If an energy ban were to take place in this state, you would lose 120,000 jobs overnight," he said. "Twelve billion dollars in economic activity would walk away and $1 billion in tax revenues that builds roads and schools in this state.
Colorado has some of, if not the most, stringent regulations in place. A hydraulic fracturing ban on the ballot would be devastating to our economy."
Gardner, a 40-year-old Republican from Yuma, was in Durango on a tour of Southwest Colorado; he's been to Montrose, Norwood, Telluride and Dolores on a trip that began July Fourth.
He's been called a GOP Young Gun - the Idea Man - by supporters. He's also been called "too extreme for Colorado" by critics.
On Sunday, he said he's working push ideas of renewable energy on his sometimes-skeptical party.
"We ought to be talking about good conservation policy," he said. "Good environmental policy and renewable energy. Ways that we can embrace an all-of the-above energy without just talking about gas and oil, but also renewable energy, like wind and solar."
He said Republicans should understand renewable energy is a "pretty good free-market principle."
Gardner supports oil seed used in bio-fuel production in Colorado - saying dry-land oil-seed farming would be phenomenal for the state's economy.
On March 1, he launched a campaign platform called the Four Corners plan.
"People say that Colorado is red or blue, but I've never looked at it that way," he said at The Durango Herald on Sunday. "Colorado is a state that reacts to people who can get things done."
The plan, he said, is built on economy, education, energy and the environment, to bring together the four corners of the state.
Although he has taken heat in the media for statements on personhood, abortion and birth control, as well as on immigration, energy and environmental policy, Gardner says he has appealed to members of opposing parties.
He has worked with No Labels and with a Democratic senator from West Virginia and a former governor of Utah to try to "cut through partisan gridlock."
"They gave me their first seal of approval for this campaign because of work we've done across the aisle to bring solutions to both sides," he said.
He said he's been working with Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., on an energy-efficiency savings program that finds ways for the federal government to reduce its own energy use.
"We could save $20 billion if they were more efficient," he said.
He's also working with U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D- Mich., to seek out government waste and overlapping programs and to reduce those expenditures.
He talked about caring for healthy forests and described himself as a Republican who wants to address conservation.
Gardner supports immigration legislation with U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, that would grant citizenship through service in the military.
"I can think of no higher affirmation or loyalty," he said.
He said he is also working on college-tuition savings programs and extensions of existing programs that would help families save for tuition and help college graduates pay off their loans.
Speaking about his reversal of positions on the "personhood amendment," which would grant rights to unborn fetuses, Gardner says a solution to many unwanted pregnancies could be found in making some birth-control options more easily available.
"In fact, we have asked the FDA to make common forms of more contraception available over-the-counter," he said.
"I am pro-life, but I think this election is about the economy and getting people back to work," he said.
Over-the-counter birth control would take the politics out of the argument, he said.
"We have to shake things up a bit," Gardner said, saying sleep is for November.
"I've got two kids - 2½ and 10. This fight? A $17 trillion dollar debt? An economy that is lagging? We have to do better," he said.