It’s easy for me to feel like the stories I publish each day on energy and natural resources in Wyoming are full of doom and gloom: declining coal demand, bankruptcies, layoffs, budget shortfalls, environmental contamination.
The slew of coal company bankruptcies last summer plunged hundreds of families in the dark. Firms caught flat-footed by coal’s tumbling demand left counties high and dry with painful budget shortfalls.
What’s more, natural gas providers, strapped by difficult market conditions, have had little choice but to shut in wells in communities deeply dependent on mineral production revenue. Oil prices have been stubbornly low from growing geopolitical unrest and the concerning spread of the coronavirus.
In short, there’s a lot to worry about. And there’s likely not one person in Wyoming who hasn’t felt the consequences of these economic shocks.
But as the largest net energy supplier in the country, Wyoming is also playing a critical role in the shaping the future of energy. In fact, there’s not one area of energy research and innovation that Wyomingites don’t have their hands in.
The Star-Tribune’s 2020 Energy Journal investigates the promising technological advancements transforming the energy sector, with a particular look into how our state is charting the course.
Ultimately, I worked to capture a glimpse of hope in each of these innovations, most conceived within the state’s borders. I was careful not to glamorize the steep challenges facing the state, or suggest that there’s a silver bullet. I know the stakes are high.
But I think it’s important to remember that technological changes can allow us to creatively adapt to what often feel like unsolvable problems.
Today, that means confronting the exponential rise in carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere and the market-driven transition toward renewable energy.
Wyoming scientists, entrepreneurs and conservationists are responding — finding ways to treat and reuse the trillions of gallons of produced water typically disposed of during oil production, diverting gas from flaring toward energy-intensive activities like data processing and introducing photographic software to ensure land reclaimed after extraction is maintained.
Many people I spoke with admitted that what they’re doing to solve today’s energy challenges is not enough, but that it’s at least a start. Almost all expressed the obligation they felt toward the environment, the state and its people.
Every contributor to this publication exhibited signs of hope and ingenuity, showing a readiness to address what may on its surface appear to be an unsolvable problem head on.
Follow the latest on Wyoming’s energy industry at @camillereports
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