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The largest coal producing state, Wyoming, sets carbon negative goal

By Governor Mark Gordon

Wyoming has long recognized the need for a broad energy portfolio that is reliable in reality—and not just on paper. This past year has reconfirmed the value of that proposition, as we have seen both summer and winter conditions test regional electric supply.

The energy and environmental policies of Washington, D.C. have recently changed; radically changed. In just a few weeks, through a series of executive orders, cabinet appointments, and policy announcements, we are facing a clear and present threat to our long-term core industries in Wyoming.

All decisions from D.C. must now pass a superficial, climate litmus test that ignores jobs, cost, reliability, and in many cases, real climate solutions. In D.C., they claim to follow the science, but they adopt policies that resemble science fiction.

This crazed pursuit of 100 percent "green" energy ignores the urgency of finding better ways to capture, use, and sequester carbon. It fantasizes that crippling our own nation is somehow good for our world. Nothing could be more off the mark.

In Wyoming, we know "green" can mean greenhorn; defined as an untested and potentially unreliable newcomer that is not capable of doing what is demanded. But Wyoming is embracing solar and wind development. Both are emerging and important parts of Wyoming's total energy portfolio. But, we are not fooled by false promises either. We want to see what can be done.

Our long history of working with coal, oil and natural gas, and regulating its related impacts to protect and enhance other natural resources, such as wildlife, is well established. Wind and solar development must be held to the same standards.

I am committed to continue working with the Legislature to provide a consistent and clear policy for future wind and solar development, as well as to secure an appropriate economic benefit to the people of Wyoming.

I would ask wind and solar companies to increase their commitment to Wyoming just as our fossil fuel industry has done, by bringing their long-term jobs such as manufacturing of turbines and panels here.

Still, we must recognize the solution to C02 in the atmosphere is not found in a single technology that has singular limits. It is found in our agricultural practices, and in healthy forests. It is also found in innovative and breakthrough technologies like those being developed in Gillette at the Integrated Test Center, and, at our own university.

But, and I say this with both confidence and conviction, to achieve meaningful climate goals, and provide a resilient affordable energy supply, fossil fuels, coupled with a commitment to improving the ways we utilize them, must remain a substantial supply option. As Governor, my position remains clear and firm. I will continue to fight for our state's future, and defend the right to responsibly develop all of our resources.

I will not waiver in my efforts to protect our industries; particularly, our coal industry. The use of coal is under assault from all directions. We have stood firm in our support of it throughout, for good reason. Paradoxically, it is the very industry, which offers the best chance, and most efficient way, to remove C02 from our atmosphere.

That is why I ask this Legislature to pick up where we left off last year, with the establishment of the Wyoming Energy Authority, so we can provide the means necessary to make C02 capture a reality in Wyoming and preserve one of our most important industries.

We have to take the lead, and not look back. That is the best, and maybe only, way to meet the threats we face. With our commitment, our fossil fuel industry, and broader economy, can achieve this ambitious goal of net negative C02 emissions without falling behind economically.

Promising new technologies such as hydrogen, which can be produced through the use of carbon capture and our abundant supply of fossil fuels, can help us meet the demands of transportation in ways electrification alone cannot. Moreover, a hydrogen economy would be a game changer.

It is not here yet, but it is much closer to a reality than a theory. Wyoming can and must be a leader in this and other emerging technologies, even as we pursue the development of resources such as wind and solar.

I ask for your support. As we actively and thoughtfully collaborate with industry environmental groups, entrepreneurs, local communities, and others to produce our way to net negative carbon emissions, literally. Not by regulating away our past, but by innovating our way to the future.

We must develop responsibly, while continuing our efforts to protect our wildlife and cherished places.

Our work is seminal, and we need to be recognized for it. It is time that federal wildlife and land conservation policies follow the lessons of success in the field, and not the theories from desk-bound policy makers in Washington.

For the Record is an excerpt from Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon's state of the state address in March.