Lately, Matthews has been traveling around the state telling chambers of commerce, groups of geologists, community leaders and just about anyone else who will listen that he's worried.
Sitting in his downtown Denver office, wearing a suit and tie that would look at home on a Houston oil executive, Matthews says that China and India, with their huge populations and economies growing at rates not seen since the Industrial Revolution, are ravenous for natural resources. Handing me graphs and charts to prove it, he says that their hunger is already washing across the West, driving up the pressure to develop natural resources. He talks about a Chinese businesswoman he knows in Denver, who frequently asks him how her relatives and clients can get hold of a Colorado mine or mineral deposit. And he reminisces about a visit to the Los Angeles port at Long Beach, where he saw ship after ship loaded down with scrap metal, headed for China.
Even when these countries aren't directly investing in or buying U.S. resources, their appetite for them around the globe is raising prices and spurring new development here in the West, Matthews says.
[Right, map of foreign investments in extractive resources. Map by the Rural West Initiative, Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford University. Credits: Rio Akasaka and Geoff McGhee]