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By Robert A. Vella

Idaho and Wyoming are sister states.  Not only are they next-door neighbors in the rugged U.S. Mountain West, they share similar histories, culture, demographics, geography, climate, and much more.  What they don’t have in common is a particular natural resource widely used for energy since the Industrial Revolution.  Idaho doesn’t have much coal, but Wyoming has an abundance of it in the Powder River Basin.  That this single difference could result in these two sister states going in opposite economic directions speaks volumes about the way Americans, and perhaps all of humanity, conduct their business and run their affairs.

Idaho’s population is booming, Wyoming is losing people at the fastest rate in the nation, and their respective GDP’s reflect this trend.  It would be encouraging to think that the leaders of Idaho wisely diversified their economy, in contrast with the leaders of Wyoming, but that probably isn’t the case.  If Idaho had exploitable coal deposits, it would likely be in the same situation as Wyoming is today.

Coal, by far the dirtiest of the fossil fuels, is on pace to be the first major industry wiped-out by climate change.  It is a very inefficient source of energy, dangerous to extract (for mine workers), expensive to transport, no longer cost-competitive with natural gas and clean energy alternatives (see:  ‘Spectacular’ drop in renewable energy costs leads to record global boost), and a political liability to boot.  It is also ironic – or, poetic justice – that the fate of Big Coal should be realized by its own hand (the Trump Administration’s move to save it, notwithstanding), for coal was the fuel which initially triggered global warming.

Further reading:  Why people really want to move to Idaho but are fleeing Wyoming

6 thoughts on “The Decline of Coal, and a Tale of Sister States

  1. Interesting tale of two sister states. I had no idea that Idaho had become a magnet for newcomers. My friend and neighbor moved back home to Boise to be close to her family when her husband took sick with lung cancer. He died soon after. She and her daughter are doing very well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, we might as well not hold our collective breath in the hopes that Wyoming’s leaders will learn from experience and valiantly move forward into a brave new world. Here’s a look at their current members in the Senate:

    *) Mike Enzi – a shoe salesman who has worked in the oil, coal and natural gas industries. He supports keeping troops in Iraq, the coal industry, the Patriot Act, wire-tapping innocent citizens, privatization of social security, off-shore drilling, building a wall along the Mexican border and he signed a letter to trump urging the United States withdraw from the Paris Agreement. (He has received more than $270,000 from the oil and gas industry since 2012 according to the Center For Responsive Politics).

    He rejects investing in renewable energy sources, considering health care a right, expansion of Medicare, basic human rights for detainees at Guantanamo Bay and is consistently ranked as one of the most conservative members of the Senate.

    *) John Barrasso – ran an orthopedic practice before entering politics. He is pro-life, has voted with the GOP 94% of the time (according to a poll by The Washington Post) and has been quoted as saying, “I believe in limited government, lower taxes, less spending, traditional family values, local control and a strong national defense,” and also said he has “voted for prayer in schools and against gay marriage.”

    Now, the good part: he also signed the aforementioned letter urging trump to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and once stated, “The climate is constantly changing. The role human activity plays is not known.”

    He has a 9% lifetime score on the National Environmental Scorecard of the League of Conservation Voters, opposed the creation of the CIA’s Center on Climate Change and National Security and has introduced a bill in the Senate that would prevent the EPA from attempting to curtail carbon dioxide emissions. (He has received about $600,000 from the oil and gas industry since 2012).

    Good luck, Wyoming.

    Liked by 1 person

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