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Wyoming Needs Real Energy Solutions, Not Pandering

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By Amy Edmonds

As summer slowly heats up and families around the state begin turning on their air conditioning and fans, they do so with no small amount of trepidation. Electricity prices, like so many other things individuals are paying more for these days, have been hard to afford for far too many of us, especially our elderly and disadvantaged. 

But even with rising costs, there is no denying the importance of energy as a driver of health and wealth for our state and our nation. 

The same energy which powers our factories and mega-marts also powers lifesaving equipment in our hospitals and urgent care centers, as well as our emergency dispatch and call centers. Nothing any of us does in our daily lives can be done without energy. And yet, the issue divides us. 

Wyomingites do not require seasonal cooling and warming – or in the case of some states, blackouts – to remind us of the importance of energy. We see it as we drive, work and play. We see it in the ebb and flow of men and women going to work in our mines, natural gas fields and refineries each day. 

These jobs feed Wyoming families and enliven our communities with an economic cascade of benefits. The taxes Wyoming receives from energy extraction and production fuel our public schools as well as many other government functions. 

From coal to natural gas to wind, solar, sequestration and beyond, Wyoming’s energy is the most important economic driver of our state, and we need leaders who focus more on diversification and less on political pandering. 

The recent proposal by the Biden administration to effectively shut down coal extraction by 2041 in the Powder River Basin, the heart of Wyoming’s coal country, is another troubling example of the kind of  pandering we don’t need in the quest to solve America’s energy issues.

This damaging new federal directive prompted Gov. Mark Gordon to respond by stating, “This is not about making a well-informed decision. It is about President Joe Biden’s partisan, vindictive and politically-motivated war on America’s abundant, cheap, efficient and consistent energy sources – one which holds practical and achievable goals to remove carbon dioxide from our atmosphere. This administration touts its preference for ‘best available science’ yet only chooses to highlight the science that advances their job- and career-killing agenda.”

He continues, “As governor, I am profoundly disappointed our nation’s highest executive leadership has chosen to ignore innovation and opportunity to grovel at the feet of coastal elites. The issues we face globally right now are too important and too urgent to dither away with incoherent policies and wrongheaded initiatives. As with the other attacks on Wyoming’s fossil fuel industries, the attorney general is actively pursuing options to challenge these destructive decisions.”

Gordon is right to continue defending Wyoming’s energy sector, including our coal producers, but let’s keep in mind he is also right to defend and promote all forms of energy production in Wyoming. 

Let’s look at what Wyoming energy, like coal, means for our state and our nation. 

Wyoming mines around 41 percent of the nation’s coal, and we produce 12 times more energy than we consume. We are the second largest overall energy provider in the nation, the eighth largest crude oil producer and the 10th largest natural gas producer, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. 

According to the Wyoming Mining Association, Wyoming has over 1.4 trillion tons of coal resources in seams in the Powder River Basin. Estimates give Wyoming more than 165 billion tons of currently recoverable coal with today’s technology. 

This coal contains a low sulfur composition, has a very low production cost given its location and sits near a rail system giving it immediate access to easy transportation across the U.S. 

Coal use has been slowly decreasing, in no small measure because of political agendas, but also because of technologies like fracking which have produced lower-cost natural gas – something Wyoming’s energy sector also produces. 

But coal is still needed by Wyoming and a myriad of other states like Texas, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Nebraska, Kansas, Michigan and Iowa that burn it. Coal is still the third-largest energy source in the country, and while coal-fired power plants are slowly fading out, they are not gone. The need for coal is expected to continue well past 2041.

But one need only look through Biden’s energy policies to find ideas that won’t meet the need for reliant, clean, efficient and low-cost energy in the U.S. Rather, his plans contain a lot of political rhetoric pandering to voters, unhelpful ideas like clean energy projects to advance social justice issues, such as the Justice 40 Initiative. 

While plans to upgrade our aging transmission lines are important, it is clear there are far too many politics being played at the expense of long-term plans to prepare for America’s expanding energy needs. All of this is relevant to Wyoming and our energy producers. 

While the shutting down of the Powder River Basin may be a victory for some who would like to end all coal use today, the reality is very different for those millions of people dependent upon Wyoming energy far beyond tomorrow.

From those on the right who wish to outlaw wind energy or carbon sequestration projects and those on the left who want to eliminate coal and use our energy sector as some kind of social justice experiment, we see extreme positions which are dangerous and idiotic. 

These extremes in energy positioning help no one and only serve to further divide the nation politically. 

Wyoming’s future as an energy producer will be secure if we stay focused on defending our legacy while looking to the future toward innovation and diversification. But we will only achieve this if we elect leaders who see the importance of all of it and aren’t narrowly focused on using energy to play politics. There’s too much at stake to do otherwise.

Amy Edmonds is a former state legislator from Cheyenne and can be reached at This opinion column was originally published by WyoFile on June 5.

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