Green River Star -

Our view: Leaders need to be proactive


December 4, 2019

No one would argue the fact that coal has been the lifeblood of Sweetwater County and Wyoming for much of the state’s history. Without coal, Rock Springs wouldn’t exist. The state as a whole would be much different without the economic benefits coal has provided us. That’s why it isn’t surprising to see how people are reacting to Rocky Mountain Power’s plan to retire portions of the Jim Bridger Power Plant.

Sweetwater County Commissioner Wally Johnson isn’t out of line in fearing the retirement of the two units would lead to them being dismantled -- forever reducing the plant’s capacity. If that does take place, the demand for coal would permanently decline, costing jobs in mining and other support roles. While there is some hypocrisy in a conservative seeking government intervention in how a private business conducts itself, Johnson’s fear justifies his request for congressional intervention.

However, we’re convinced state and local leaders need to look beyond coal in the future. The world is moving beyond coal and while the “War on Coal” narrative is a convenient excuse, it ultimately doesn’t hold up because the energy market is moving away from coal. Not because of regulation or policy, but because costs involved with coal make other forms of energy production more viable and attractive.

Natural gas, which the county also depends on, is also facing shortcomings. According to an article posted by two weeks ago, the state’s annual gas tax income has declined by 74 percent in the last 12 years. While that time frame does account for heightened prices during the natural gas boom Wyoming experienced during the latter half of the 2000s, the massive revenue the county and state received was an anomaly. quoted Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander) as saying the situation with coal and natural gas is creating a “new reality” in Wyoming.

The question is, how does Wyoming move forward? We don’t believe fighting for coal or the energy industry will yield long lasting results for the county or state. We believe county and state leaders should adapt a new outlook in trying to solve the problems that come from relying on energy as a major economic generator. Does that mean leaders should start focusing on manufacturing products created from our natural resources? We’re not sure.

But, we can be sure that a fight against the market forces bearing down on Wyoming won’t be successful.


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