April 9, 2018 Read More →

Editorial: Wyoming Requires an Honest Public Conversation on the Future of Its Economy

Casper Star-Tribune:

Because coal in Wyoming isn’t going to reach pre-bust levels, regardless of what happens to the Clean Power Plan. Pruitt isn’t doing the industry any favors by ignoring the market forces that have driven its decline.

Wyoming added five coal jobs since the bottom of the bust in 2016. That means that while the decline has bottomed out, more than a year into a pro-industry, anti-regulation administration, coal hasn’t recovered. Which speaks to the complexity of the issues that plague the industry. Though the pro-coal agenda may have slowed coal’s decline, it hasn’t stopped it.

That’s because coal’s real obstacle has been cheap natural gas and the rise of renewable energy.

While coal is unlikely to disappear for several decades to come – in fact, we recently reported that the industry has a small chance of remaining stable for another 30 years – it will never return with the vigor that many seem to be hoping for and that some are promising. It isn’t regulation that’s standing in coal’s way.

In fact, it’s coal that may be standing in Wyoming’s way.

The state has long needed to diversify and move away from a dependency on volatile markets. For many years, it was oil that held the promise of a bust in every boom. Now coal, which has long been the stable industry, promises uncertainty and risk too. The whims of a boom and bust economy have given Wyomingites whiplash. It’s time we say enough is enough.

We can’t do that until we start looking to the future with a clear eye. We can’t do that until we make peace with coal’s new normal. And we can’t do that until we start having honest conversations about the future of Wyoming coal.

More: Editorial board: Wyoming needs to be honest about coal’s uncertain future

 

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