Bill Sniffin: Looking Ahead To 2023

Bill Sniffin writes: The nations short-sighted view of using our vast (and clean) fossil fuel resources will provide blackouts and brownouts across the country.

Bill Sniffin

January 05, 20237 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Eli Bebout and Dave Bell both have strong opinions about what is going to happen in Wyoming during 2023.

And here during my annual prediction column, these two guys wanted to chime in and I am glad they did.

But first, here’s my take:

Hmmm let’s see. Looking ahead at 2023, it is easier to see what is not going to happen rather than what is.

Hopefully, we will not have a pandemic like 2020. Or the worst winter storm in four decades as last year (just a few weeks ago). Or a world-class political clash like Liz Cheney and former President Donald Trump’s battle that created all the headlines last year.

Looking ahead, it appears that 2023 might be a gap year for big news. And maybe that will be just fine.

I am a big fan of college kids taking a “gap year,” now and then — to get their heads straight and get a breather. Young people who take care of themselves may live to be 110 years old. You have plenty of time, I tell them, much to the chagrin of their parents. But I digress.

The Legislature will be meeting shortly and it will generate a lot of news. The state’s financial fortunes are dire in the long run, and yet we are awash in cash right now. Spend it all now? Or be prudent and squirrel a bunch of it away for future more needy times? 

It would be nice if we could anticipate a mature reasonable legislative session but, alas, this probably will not happen. The divisions within the Republican Party will make it very entertaining.

Bebout of Riverton is the only man to be both Speaker of the House and President of the Senate. He knows the Legislature. He opines: “Looking back at our history, we seem to always have the same issues. You know what they are: Diversify our economy and tax base, enhance tourism, minerals, and agriculture, keep our young Wyomingites in our state, save for the future, and live within our means. I continue to be proud of how past legislative sessions have successfully chipped away and made progress.”

Bell of Pinedale is a former chairman of the Wyoming Business Alliance. He says: “There must be a way to provide relief to senior citizens in high value markets – which are spreading throughout the state. And that could be citizens of all ages for that matter. We don’t discriminate in Wyoming based upon age. But the little old lady (reported on) in Jackson whose property taxes went up from $9,000 to $19,000 due to valuation simply cannot afford it. And if she sold, where would she go? A workable solution needs to be found, even if it means amending the state constitution. Heck, I’d take a 1 cent sales tax increase to stabilize property tax increases.”

Cowboy State Daily will be doing a full-court press on coverage. If you want to know what it happening on a day-to-day basis, check out what Leo, Jimmy, Mark, Greg, Renee, Kevin, Rod, and the rest of us have to say. If we were a newspaper, it would amount to thousands of barrels of ink being expended on this coverage. But in digital, it will be coverage that is fair, well-written, and extensive. Stay tuned.

Water And Energy

In Wyoming, whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over. That will happen again as states downstream from us will continue to be so jealous of all our water, we can anticipate some ambitious and greedy attempts to take it from us.

Our inability or unwillingness to build storage facilities will come back to haunt us as water we could have used here will be sent downstream to other states so they can prosper from it.

Wyoming’s unofficial state motto for the past three decades has been “America’s Energy Breadbasket.”  We hope that continues but the nation’s short-sighted view of not using our vast (and clean) fossil fuel resources will provide blackouts and brownouts across the country.

We can only hope some sanity will emerge. All those electric vehicles need power – Wyoming has the power. We just need to keep the power-generating facilities running. Please, President Joe Biden and your hare-brained staff – please come to your senses!

It is predicted that even here in Wyoming we could see brownouts and blackouts in 2023 based on industry projections. What a farce that would be. Iowa should never run out of corn. California should never run out of wine. And Wyoming should never run out of energy.  

Maybe the Legislature could pass some law that would mandate a reserve of power being held back to protect our local citizens and local businesses? 

Bell gets his dander up on this subject: “Even the mention of blackouts and brownouts appears as if we are being conditioned to become a third-world country. If I were the Governor, I’d be calling the head of every utility company operating in Wyoming and convening a Brownout Summit.  The message:  This can NEVER happen in our state. Period. That is not how we roll in Wyoming and if PacifiCorp thinks this is a possibility, then Gov. Gordon needs to be calling Warren Buffett and advising him this WILL NOT happen in our state, and to fix it so it doesn’t!”

Tourism Will See Record Year

I will predict that 2023 will be a record year for tourism in Wyoming. Now that Yellowstone has repaired damage caused by horrible floods last year, a true “flood” of tourists are coming.

Plus, we are primarily a state where tourists drive to our sites and sights. With gas prices continuing to drop, folks will jump into their gas-powered cars, trucks, and RVs and head to the Cowboy State.

Our infrastructure statewide is better than ever. From Evanston to Hulett and Cody to Cheyenne, we are ready for tourists. International tourism will bounce back although the Chinese will continue to not be a big factor. Prior to the COVID pandemic in 2020, that country was providing huge tourism numbers. There are plenty of other international folks to make up the difference.

Bell thinks this year will not top 2021 or the eclipse year of 2017. But it will be a very good year, he predicts.

Culture Wars

Alas, this year will see even more activity in what is called culture wars.

I will agree to being an old fogey who prefers a more traditional way than what seems to be underway in our state.

Misguided craziness will continue in the area of overly explicit books in our libraries, causing people to somehow compare this to old-time book-burning incidents. No folks, this is quite different.

Also, we will see more craziness in our schools, at our community colleges, and at University of Wyoming, as folks promoting an extreme minority view will try to bully the leaders of our institutions to comply to extreme views that reflect a tiny portion of our population.

The attempts by this noisy minority to turn Wyoming into California will be costly and toxic. Hold on to your hats.

So far in this column, I have not predicted anything gigantic. If Yellowstone explodes, well, we will not be around to talk about it.

And finally, financially, I hope that the work being done to pioneer small nuclear plants (such as those that power aircraft carriers) could be used in our communities to provide power for Wyoming and the rest of the country. That just seems to make sense to me.  

Again, maybe the legislature could fast-track some rules that make having such facilities in Wyoming a possibility? Seems like it would be worth a try.

Eli is an expert on all things nuclear. He says: “As you know, I have been a proponent of nuclear power for a long time. It may not be the total answer, but it sure needs to lead the way. Wyoming can be a leader in this area as well as fossil fuel.”

Next year, I will write about what happened in 2023. It will be interesting to see how close these predictions were. Happy New Year.

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Bill Sniffin

Wyoming Life Columnist

Columnist, author, and journalist Bill Sniffin writes about Wyoming life on Cowboy State Daily -- the state's most-read news publication.