A federal report on the effects of climate change shows a real impact in Wyoming, with more hot days than ever by mid-century. We have no doubt the projections will be used for both good and bad. But what everyone can agree on is that it’s not good news for our energy industries.
Regardless of whether you believe humans are contributing to the changing climate, here’s the thing: That doesn’t matter. What matters is what everybody else thinks. We don’t get to reassure all 49 other states and the rest of our potential customers around the globe that scientists are wrong and global warming is a myth, or that maybe it’s real but we’re not causing it, and expect them to buy our coal. That’s not how this is going to work.
Like all others, our energy industry is about supply and demand. We can supply all we want, but it won’t change the fact that we’re still subject to our customers’ whims. California, wisely accepting that we are indeed contributing to our changing climate, wants green power. If we want to collect on that, the smart thing to do is adapt, regardless of how we feel about that state's choices.
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Even Gov. Matt Mead, who is skeptical of climate change, acknowledges the real point of the discussion. “Let’s just assume, for today, that I am wrong,” he said last week. “Let’s assume that, in fact, coal-fired generation is the cause of global warming. Then the question is: What is being done and what should be done?”
What should be done is planning. The last thing we want is to end up like West Virginia. That state still has coal in the ground and thought it would have mining jobs forever, but Clean Air Act legislation and tighter restrictions on mining techniques shuttered future plans and led a lot of coal mining to close down. Now the state's left with coal in the ground but a gutted coal industry. It's a lesson Wyoming should take to heart.
We have to sustain our energy industry, and the era that we’re on the cusp of is a critical one. This is Wyoming’s time to get out ahead of the curve and define our own energy future. That means carefully eyeing energy demand trends, and investing in next-generation, cleaner ways to use coal and harnessing our natural gas, uranium and wind power resources as demanded by our buyers.
It truly is up to us. We can take action, or we can bury our heads and risk losing our signature industry because of our personal beliefs. Those, however, don’t come with much of a paycheck.