By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The closure of businesses across the state has led to a drop in demand for energy, resulting in a downturn for much of Wyoming’s energy industry, industry representatives said Friday.
During Town Square Media’s “Economy Town Hall” on Friday morning, Travis Deti, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association, and Pete Obermueller, president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, agreed the coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on their industries.
Obermueller noted that there wouldn’t be one single moment when miners, oil rig workers and other industry employees would head back to work, but that recovery would be a “long-term process.”
“When people start driving and flying again, we’ll get the demand back,” Obermueller said. “It’s a demand issue right now and until that comes back, oil and gas in Wyoming won’t come back.”
Deti agreed, adding that the Wyoming coal industry has been on a downward trend for a few years due to competition with low-cost natural gas and other alternative forms of energy. But with much of Wyoming’s businesses being shut down, there has also been a decline in demand for coal.
The WMA executive director wouldn’t speculate about whether or not the coal industry in Wyoming would see long-term effects from the virus, but felt the situation would ultimately “get better.”
The two men also discussed how federal and state social distancing guidelines would change the way miners and oil riggers would work.
Obermueller noted that for the most part, employees on drilling rigs are usually physically distant, but for Wyoming miners, the situation has been a little different because they work nearer each other.
“We’re essential, so we have to keep operations up and running,” Deti said. “We have to provide appropriate work conditions for our employees to be safe, so we’ve put restrictions on vendors and visitors to the sites. Certain sites are implementing temperature checks. All of the operators are taking appropriate steps.”