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Q&A w/Amy Oliver Cooke: ‘I always try to defer to individual freedom’

Author: Dan Njegomir - July 17, 2017 - Updated: July 17, 2017

Amy Oliver Cooke

Call Amy Oliver Cooke an energy feminist; call her a mother in love with fracking. Just don’t call her late for the debate. It’s something she does with gusto; for 10 years, she was a familiar presence on northern Colorado’s airwaves with her Amy Oliver Show on Greeley’s News Talk 1310 KFKA-AM radio. Today, she is Executive Vice President and Director of the Energy and Environmental Policy Center for the Denver-based Independence Institute.

From her Independence Institute bio:

… She is one of the few state-level, free market energy policy experts, and is famous for her provocative messaging like “Mothers In Love with Fracking” and “I’m an energy feminist because I’m pro-choice in energy sources,” which the eco-left called “hands down the worst kind of feminism.”

In December 2016, she was honored to be the second person named to President Trump’s Transition Team for the Environmental Protection Agency.

She has authored and contributed to numerous opinion editorials, issue papers, and issue backgrounders and has been published in the Daily Caller, Townhall, Denver Post, Pueblo Chieftain, Greeley Tribune, Denver Business Journal, Denver Daily News, Liberty Ink Journal, The Hill, and Wall Street Journal. She has appeared on Fox News, NPR,, Devil’s Advocate, Colorado Inside Out, and Power Hour.

Cooke indulged us for a one-on-one via one of our Q&As, and she gave us her take on the proper role of government and the entrepreneurial spirit — as well as the thing she finds “predictable and boring.” Read on.

Colorado Politics: “Energy feminist” may be a tongue-in-cheek use of the term, but it raises a good question: Should the left view you as a fellow feminist even though your politics skews right? You are, after all, a very political and outspoken advocate for your views — and you are a woman.

Amy Oliver Cooke: The feminist left has been pretty clear that from their perspective, energy feminism is “the worst kind of feminism”… “hands down.” God forbid, women should have the ability to choose their own energy source. Anyway, I don’t lose sleep over it because self-described feminists don’t speak for all women any more than I do. In fact, I’m a lousy collectivist. I find the manufactured outrage over perceived slights to be predictable and boring, and the feminist left’s missing sense of humor to be unfortunate.

CP: You were on the airwaves for a decade as an award-winning talk-radio host. Why has talk radio’s popularity persisted long after its critics, notably on the left, predicted its demise? And why is it particularly popular on the right?

AOC: It’s economics. Right-of-center consumers of news didn’t feel like their perspectives were accurately reflected in the mainstream media. So, conservative news talk radio stepped in to fill the demand, and it did so in an organic way.  Conservative news talk continues to succeed because its profitable, the demand is still there, and the format continues to produce a product that people want.

CP: You were on the Trump transition team, helping navigate the president’s picks for new leadership — and a dramatic departure from business as usual — at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. How do you address push-back from environmental groups that argue the administration wants nothing less than to dismantle the agency — started in 1970 under a Republican, Richard Nixon?

AOC: Just to clarify, I don’t speak for the president or the transition team. From my perspective, President Trump’s vision of U.S. energy and environmental policy is liberating, so responding to critics has been straightforward. President Trump made it very clear that he has faith in the entrepreneurial spirit of all Americans. We can have it all — a robust economy, affordable power, responsible resource development, and a clean environment. It’s a far cry from the environmental left and the previous administration’s cynical false choice paradigm that we must choose between affordable power and clean air or a thriving economy and clean water.

CP: How would you describe your politics, and what first drew you to political and policy advocacy?

AOC: I’m a registered Republican, but I’m more of a pragmatic libertarian. I always try to defer to individual freedom.

Politics is in my DNA. Both my parents came from politically active families. My Great Aunt Marie Oliver designed and made the first Missouri flag while my Great Uncle was serving in the state legislature. But I really am my maternal grandmother’s granddaughter. She embraced public policy. She was one of the first women in Missouri appointed to serve on a grand jury. She was also the first woman to resign from a grand jury because she felt like justice had not been served. She received threats for doing so. It was a big news story. She never shied away from speaking truth to power, no matter how unpopular.

My parents taught me to enjoy politics. They threw the best election night parties, when people still went to the polls, and bars couldn’t open until after the polls closed. They would invite all their friends both Democrats and Republicans, watch returns, and debate, but at the end of the evening, they were all still friends. I remember as a teenager thinking that my parents and their friends knew how to have fun, and it involved politics.

Interestingly, both of my parents were registered Democrats their entire lives. I became a free marketer after starting a business in my late twenties, which is also when I began listening to Mike Rosen. In 1994, I finally came out of the closet as a Republican to my parents. It took some time for them to accept it, but they eventually did.

CP: You say you’re “pro-choice” on energy — that you want a mix of energy sources meeting the public’s needs and driving the U.S. economy. Critics say that mix is still too dirty; others say our continued reliance on traditional fossil fuels gives the U.S. the most affordable energy portfolio in the post-industrial world. Is there an ideal mix of energy sources, and how should it be achieved?

AOC: I don’t know the ideal mix of energy sources any more than the state legislature or two of our Democrat gubernatorial candidates who seem hell bent on an industrial wind corporate welfare program at the expense of Colorado ratepayers.  The choice of energy resources and how they are utilized should come from the demands of an innovative and free market. The role of government is to remain neutral, let markets work, let individuals innovate, limit regulations, and refrain from picking winners and losers.

CP: You are a prominent media presence; your husband, John Cooke, is a former Weld county sheriff and current state senator. By Colorado standards — like it or not — that makes you a political power couple. How did you meet?

AOC: How we met is actually a very funny story, but John tells it far better than I do. To do the story justice, it is best told in person. I encourage anyone who runs into him, to ask him how we met. He LOVES telling it because he can and does embellish. There are some state senators who can attest to that.

CP: You are a mom — one of the “Mothers in love with fracking,” in fact. Do you talk politics to your kids?

AOC: My kids are all adults now, but when they were growing up, our dinner table topics varied from politics to pop culture to sports and everything in between. I always encouraged them to be critical thinkers with the confidence to speak their minds. As a result, our conversations are interesting, lively and filled with laughter whatever the topic. And we don’t always agree!

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir

Dan Njegomir is the opinion editor for Colorado Politics. A longtime journalist and more-than-25-year veteran of the Colorado political scene, Njegomir has been an award-winning newspaper reporter, an editorial page editor, a senior legislative staffer at the State Capitol and a political consultant.