Letter To The Editor: We Need All Kinds Of Energy To Meet Rising Demands

To the editor: As it stands, 80% of the world’s energy comes from coal, oil and natural gas resources. Wyoming produces 40% of our country’s coal and ranks 8th overall in crude oil production and 9th in natural gas production. 

December 21, 20235 min read

Creager 12 21 23

To the editor:

This past week, fossil fuels made headlines as delegates at the UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai announced an empty deal to transition “away from fossil fuels in energy systems.” As it stands, 80% of the world’s energy comes from coal, oil and natural gas resources. Wyoming produces 40% of our country’s coal and ranks 8th overall in crude oil production and 9th in natural gas production. 

While the debates over the virtues of fossil fuels have taken up a lot of headline space, we here in Wyoming know better. There is a glaring omission to this so-called deal – but it is something that I, as the Executive Director at the Wyoming Energy Authority (WEA), am laser-focused on. 

The demand for energy is heading inexorably in one direction – upward. Not by a little, but by a lot. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) has been projecting that world energy consumption will grow close to 50% by the year 2050

The simple truth is that we will need all kinds of energy to meet these rising demands and to do so in a way that does not compromise reliability or affordability. From coal to wind to natural gas to nuclear, more is more. 

Luckily, Wyoming has abundant natural resources and the can-do mindset to capitalize on this challenge. From fossil fuels to world-class wind, to the largest uranium reserve in the nation, and newly discovered rare earth elements, we have it all. We have an opportunity to steer our country to a new energy future as an honest, reliable and pragmatic partner. We have an opportunity to show, not just tell, our country’s leaders and anyone else who will listen that the future of energy is a future that embraces not just one source or another. 

Through investments that support research, development and innovation, the Wyoming 

Energy Authority’s goal is to advance the production of Wyoming-sourced energy. The WEA was created in 2020 by merging together the scopes of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority, the Pipeline Authority, and the State Energy Office – effectively consolidating the state’s energy agencies into one entity designed to coordinate across the energy spectrum to advocate, facilitate and advance our energy economy effectively. We believe that supporting a broad, diversified energy portfolio is critical to Wyoming’s future. 

As Governor Gordon accurately portrayed Wyoming’s approach in a recent “60 Minutes” interview by saying, “We want to be part of the solution. 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.” This is the future that the WEA will champion.

One of the ways we are achieving that future is through the Energy Matching Funds (EMF), appropriated by the Wyoming Legislature and delegated to our office by Governor Gordon. This source of cost-share funding is intended to spur innovation and to provide incentives to energy projects looking to site in Wyoming. 

The first two projects awarded by the EMF demonstrate exactly how this state can improve and advance our legacy forms of energy while embracing new forms, all while increasing the resiliency of our energy economy. The first is BWXT Advanced Technologies’ microreactor assessment project. The vision of this nuclear project is to assess the viability of not just producing nuclear power but creating the full nuclear value chain from manufacturing and deploying a microreactor fleet to supplementing Wyoming’s existing power generation. 

This approach is attracting the attention of Wyoming’s trona and manufacturing industries – both L&H Industrial in Gillette and Tata Chemicals in Green River recently partnered to collaborate with BWXT AT and bring a whole of Wyoming approach to this emerging industry. If these microreactors prove successful, this project could both generate crucial manufacturing jobs for Wyoming and help one of our most valuable industries remain competitive on a global market. 

The second project capitalizes on Wyoming’s pioneering efforts around Class VI well primacy. This project will drill three wells designed to inject carbon dioxide permanently underground. The Sweetwater Carbon Storage Hub, a public-private project between the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources, Frontier Carbon Solutions and the federal CarbonSAFE initiative, intends to develop a permanent carbon management solution for Wyoming’s fossil fuel industry, prolonging it for future generations. Projects like this are vital for our fossil fuel industry, and Wyoming will continue to be a leader in this space.

With this groundbreaking funding source, we have a unique opportunity to support the future of Wyoming energy – and the nation’s energy – today. The first round of Energy Matching Fund projects received $19.1 million, leveraging $52.2 million of federal or private funds. The second round of projects is in the process of achieving approval. Those numbers are even more robust: the recommendation is to fund $37.5 million worth of projects, leveraging $127.1 million.

The answer to our world’s urgent energy needs will not be solved by excluding entire categories of energy systems. This is not an either-or solution but an everything-we-have solution. Fortunately, Wyoming has a lot to work with in terms of resources and willingness, and we are determined to use it. 

Sincerely,

Rob Creager

Executive Director, Wyoming Energy Authority

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