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While environmentalists celebrate commitments and progress made by the Biden administration, some stakeholders aren’t so happy. Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon (R) has passed a new state law providing the state government with $1.2 million in funding to sue other states that refuse to buy Wyoming’s coal. W.Y. is the largest coal-producing state and produces 14 times more energy than it consumes. But as other states embrace big green infrastructure projects, the W.Y. government is doubling down on producing fossil fuels.
Why This Matters: It’s easy to get swept up in the big news coming out of the White House and California. But this measure from the W.Y. government shows that we’ve still got a long road ahead of us if the U.S. wants to meet the goals of the Paris agreement. Wyoming communities have “kept the lights on” in America for decades, but even for communities with proud coal mining heritage, the time has come to make the switch.
The Trump administration made big promises to coal country that a new era of prosperity was on the horizon; it wasn’t. The Wyoming state government’s stubbornness may now cost local communities, who will watch even more jobs and income vanish as the coal market dwindles.
Cutting Back: President Biden has pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, investing billions into green energy infrastructure and programs like coal mine and oil well clean up.
Many of these programs work with fossil fuel and green energy companies to create a just transition for former coal and oil communities.
In the new green economy, the future very much exists for those willing to reach out and take it.
This new bill is Wyoming’s refusal. “It will look like the state is pushing back against the leftists,” said Rob Godby, an expert in natural resources at the University of Wyoming. “But…even if you win a court case, it’s a pyrrhic victory because no – one really wants the coal. The losses to the state are going to be so large that the rationale is to try to postpone that for as long as possible.” Coal revenue pays for so much of the state’s public services that the government may have to hike up taxes to make up for losses without a fitting replacement.
“Demand for coal will continue dropping in the U.S., and abroad, now that clean energy is more affordable and keeps pollution out of our air and water,” said Rob Joyce, an energy campaigner at the Sierra Club in Wyoming. “If we want to get out of this state’s boom and bust cycle, we have to focus our investment on a new economic future rather than clinging to a fading industry.” For now, many W.Y. voters support the measure. “For people in Wyoming, there is no other industry,” said Godby. “People here were proud they kept the lights on across the U.S. It’s very difficult to go from the hero to the villain.”
Wyoming currently ranks 16th for installed wind capacity. Still, experts say that Wyoming can be a wind power juggernaut due to its topology, which has many large air tunnels of strong winds. W.Y. has the power to be an energy hero once more, but it’ll need a significant shift in ideology and a leap of faith from the state government.
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