Gov. Mark Gordon said on Sunday’s episode of “60 Minutes” that his “carbon negative” energy goals for Wyoming and belief that climate change is a crisis has made his seat hot with some Wyoming Republicans, but that those positions have “generally … been well-respected” in the Cowboy State.
Gordon brought his climate change agenda to the long-running CBS news magazine, saying he believes Wyoming can simultaneously address climate change and welcome green energy projects while also embracing its legacy fossil fuel industries.
As “60 Minutes” put it, Gordon is looking to be “both red and green,” a Republican who believes climate change is real and an urgent issue.
“We needed to be aggressive, and we needed to really address this issue,” Gordon said of climate change.
The governor has consistently espoused an “all-of-the-above” energy policy, expressing equal support for alternative energies like wind and solar as traditional fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. He believes it’s important for the state to “find something for everyone.”
“I think if — if people are going to embrace how we get to a carbon neutral, carbon negative future, it has to be by saying, ‘We're all going to be a little bit better by embracing innovation,’” Gordon said.
Gordon acknowledged that he’s received some pushback from Wyoming residents for his stance on climate change.
State Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, R-Lingle, recently invited Gordon to debate the causes of climate change, a proposal that Gordon eventually declined. She told Cowboy State Daily that Gordon continues to pass the buck on the issue and should provide a cost-benefit analysis of his proposed policies.
“Governor Gordon continues to fail at presenting a full case that climate change is caused by C02, and that global warming is an urgent crisis,” she said. “The governor has never told the people of Wyoming what becoming carbon negative and decarbonizing the West will truly cost and what benefits they will lose in the process.”
The “60 Minutes” interview was conducted in September, about a month prior to comments Gordon made at Harvard University that received a strong backlash from some in Wyoming for saying that the state “needs to urgently address climate change by going ‘carbon negative.’”
These comments drew surprise, outrage and a vote of “no confidence” from the Wyoming Republican Party.
While the Harvard visit got widespread reaction, Gordon has espoused his stance before. During his 2021 State of the State speech, he made a similar remark.
“I think some people probably resented it,” Gordon told “60 Minutes” of the public’s reaction at the time. “I think generally it's been well-respected. It was, to — to some degree, a bold move, and — and one that was intended to make a difference in that discussion about energy in the future.”
Steinmetz said decarbonizing the West is not possible anytime soon.
“We must understand the harm to our economy, energy sector and even our national security before we blindly follow the governor down this road,” she said. “The governor needs to put all of his cards on the table and let the citizens of Wyoming decide if his vision is the future they want, or if he is putting all of our futures at risk to accomplish his own agenda.”
During Sunday’s broadcast, Gordon promoted Wyoming as a place where all energy is welcome and mentioned how 83% of the state’s energy is exported.
“Whatever you're going to do in energy, probably you're going have something to do in Wyoming,” he said. “We have tremendous wind resources. We have the largest reserves of uranium, important for nuclear energy, the largest coal producer, we're number eight in oil, No. 9 in natural gas.”
But he also made it clear he wants the world to know that Wyoming is particularly open to green energy and climate-friendly ideas.
“We, we want to be part of the solution,” Gordon said. “There are some really remarkable things that if we stop talking about what we shouldn't do and start talking about what we can do and how we can embrace that future. And that's what we're dedicated to here in Wyoming.”
Sen. Mike Gierau, D-Jackson, said the governor represented the state positively in the show and that Gordon’s approach to energy is essentially “like minds can differ.”
“What he’s saying is, no matter wherever your statements lie, Wyoming has an answer for you,” Gierau said.
‘It’s Going To Happen’
Sen. Jim Anderson, R-Casper, also said he thought the governor represented Wyoming well.
“I don’t know what exactly he means about becoming carbon negative, but in Wyoming we want to do all of the above for energy,” he said.
Although Anderson is highly skeptical of electric vehicles, even sponsoring legislation during the 2023 session that would have phased out the sale of all electric vehicles in the state by 2035, he believes Wyoming has a real opportunity to harness a world market that is moving away from traditional fossil fuels but will still need to produce just as much, if not more, energy into the future.
“With how electricity produced is going down, we’re going to need an all-of-the-above energy policy so that Wyoming can power the world,” Anderson said. “I think that’s a good idea.”
“60 Minutes” also interviewed Bill Miller, president of the Power Company of Wyoming, which is building what will be the largest wind farm in the continental United States in Carbon County. Once completed, the $5 billion project will produce enough energy to support more than 1 million homes. Energy from this project will be sent to California via an 800-mile transmission line.
At the groundbreaking ceremony for the transmission line this summer, Gordon was joined not only by Miller, but two members of President Joe Biden’s administration.
Miller said that “society has spoken” in favor of renewable energy.
“It's going to happen,” he said. “And this is the best place for it to happen.”
Miller mentioned how his project has taken 17 years to receive permitting. Reducing regulatory restriction has been a large priority for Gordon over the past year.
“I think it's massive,” Gordon said. “Permitting reform, I think, is one of our biggest challenges at a federal level. It is something that's being embraced — by both sides.”
Holly Krutka, executive director of the School of Energy Resources at the University of Wyoming, told “60 Minutes” it’s very unlikely the word will ever completely move away from fossil fuels, mentioning how it still supports 82% of the world’s energy consumption.
Krutka, along with Gordon, has been one of the state’s leading advocates for carbon capture and storage. Many have lauded the purpose of these endeavors but have criticized how economically feasible they will be to roll out.
“It will always be cheaper to do nothing than to add carbon capture and storage,” Krutka said. “If you want to reduce emissions, this is part of the solution. We have to decide is it worth the cost?”
Finding a way to make this practice affordable would be a game-changer for Wyoming, Gordon said. Convincing Wyoming residents of the potential can sometimes be a challenge.
I know people will say, ‘Well, you're just trying to extend the life of the coal mines.’ I am,” Gordon said. “But I am also trying to do that in a way that is going to do more for climate solutions than simply standing up a whole bunch of wind farms or sending up a whole bunch of solars.”
Leo Wolfson can be reached at Leo@CowboyStateDaily.com.