For decades, Wyoming has basked in the glory of being the country’s “energy breadbasket.”
But that was before the developing of a bedrock-fracturing drilling system known as “fracking” which has opened up most of the country for oil and natural gas drilling.
Getting used to this kind of national energy production has been hard to do here in Wyoming and has been an absolute shock to the national consciousness.
Heck, the USA is now a net energy exporter! Who could have possibly thought this could happen just a decade ago?
Over 160,000 new oil and gas jobs have been created in this country in the last five years. Based on the total of all the recent discoveries, now it looks like we have a 100-year supply of oil and natural gas to serve our needs.
No longer are we so dependent on places like Saudi Arabia, Russia and Venezuela as places to import energy from in the future.
But what a change to the country’s energy producing landscape.
States like Texas, Oklahoma, Alaska, Louisiana, California and Wyoming were all known for producing energy.
Now, add states like Ohio, North Dakota, Colorado and Pennsylvania to that mix. North Dakota has already moved into the number-two spot in the country in producing oil with over 800,000 barrels produced each day. These numbers are amazing.
And when our leaders try to figure out a way to resolve the economic crisis that started five years ago, the glut of oil and natural gas right here at home will be a key to better times ahead in all aspects.
Wyoming is still a major player. It’s just that several other states have joined the party, who were never expected to be players.
Historians studying energy at some distant point in the future will look back on the first two decades of the 21st century as a turning point in how energy was produced in this country.
Smack in the middle of these discussions will be that place called Wyoming. This is a state with the smallest population in the union yet produces gigantic amounts of energy.
A futurist looking back at the Wyoming of today will study coal, natural gas, oil and uranium production. Such future discussions will talk about a national desire for conservation plus development of cleaner energy sources like solar and wind (which are also in abundance in Wyoming).
Plus perhaps the biggest questions: How do utilities guarantee the lights will not go out? And how to utilize energy produced by huge power plants (and even wind and solar) that goes unused because there are no inexpensive ways to store it?
These historians will note the first decade of the 21st Century as a time when coal, the cheapest, most abundant fuel on the planet, was vilified as a dirty contaminant that was fouling the earth’s upper atmospheres causing climate change and wreaking havoc on the planet’s weather systems.
And Wyoming, as the largest coal producing state, again found its leaders sitting astride this push-pull of public opinion and contrasting scientific conclusions.
The years 2005-2013 will be recalled as a time when planned coal-fired power plants were being scrapped as big utilities tried to become better citizens. Many utility leaders thought they could appease a loud portion of their customers, who seek cleaner forms of energy generation, was by scrapping coal projects in favor of cleaner alternatives.
Thus, based on news reports, the common belief of people would be that the USA was in the midst of a paradigm shift as its utilities switched to clean energy like wind power from dirty energy like coal.
But all is not lost. There really still is a lot to brag about, hen it comes to energy if you are from Wyoming.
And the man bragging the most about this recently was Gov. Matt Mead who appeared on the CNBC business show Squawk Box early one morning six months into his first term.
The CNBC business channel interviewer asked the governor about what she had heard, that if “Wyoming were a country, it would be the largest energy exporting country to the USA in the world.”
The governor answered by referring to “the 10.76 quadrillion BTUs of energy that come from our coal, uranium, natural gas, oil and wind, being used both within our state and to the other 49 states.
Ten point seven-six quadrillion? How many zeroes is that, anyway? I think 10,760,000,000,000,000,000,000 is sort of how that would look.
Plus it was so funny for an old-timer like me to hear the opening introduction where the interviewer commented to Mead “that Wyoming was not a boom and bust state” like so many other states. Wow.
Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns at www.billsniffin.com. He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written four books. His most recent book is “Wyoming’s 7 Greatest Natural Wonders” which is available at www.wyomingwonders.com.