By Bill Sniffin on Mon 07/15/2013 08:39am
One of the fun things about writing newspaper columns is speculating on things that sound interesting – but will never happen.
Most recently, we have been seeing folks in northern Colorado wanting to create their own 51st state.
Weld County Commissioners in Greeley boldly announced in the New York Times their county is bigger than the state of Delaware or Rhode Island. Their county also has 252,825 people inside it, which is about half the population of Wyoming.
In Colorado the problem is one of political philosophy. You have the metro areas of Denver, Colorado Springs, Boulder dominating their legislature and approving anti-gun bills and pro-marijuana laws.
Meanwhile, in a state like Nebraska, the folks out west in Scottsbluff, North Platte and Ogallala feel disenfranchised by distance. Some of these panhandle folks have often yearned to become part of Wyoming, whose capital Cheyenne is much closer to them, both in distance and politics, than Lincoln.
Idaho is similar with its capital Boise a million miles away from Idaho Falls and Pocatello, both in distance and occasionally, in political philosophy.
Getting back to those ornery 10 counties in Colorado, they actually are not petitioning to join Wyoming. They want to band together with these same disenfranchised Nebraska counties and a few from Kansas to create a 51st state called Northern Colorado.
If all this fanciful stuff happened, maybe we should consider going back to 1904 when there was an almost successful effort to move the capital to Lander. That effort failed due to clever politicking by Cheyenne folks.
A big neighborhood in Lander is still called Capitol Hill and the Lander newspaper was re-named the “Wyoming State Journal” when hopes were running high that our small town would be picked.
When I owned the Journal, I really liked that fancy name. That moniker may have had something to do with my ability to get full press pass privileges to the Colorado Rockies baseball team when that team came into being.
Getting back to an expanded Wyoming – it won’t happen and if folks outside the state want in, it is doubtful that folks already here want any more company.
One of the reasons people want to be part of this state is our robust minerals economy. With $15 billion in the bank from severance taxes and more accumulating every day, the state is on sound financial footing and is being run under conservative Republican-like business principles.
Our two biggest minerals are coal and natural gas and both have been in the news lately.
President Barack Obama is seriously at war with coal and now wants to virtually shut down most of the coal-fired power plants in the USA. Where coal used to provide over half of the electricity in the country, that number today has slipped to under 40 percent.
Coal is the energy bad boy in America and with three more years of Obama and potentially eight years of Hillary Clinton on the horizon, well, it could be famine time for the black gold.
In recent years the coal industry has been promoting shipping coal to China and India. But Oregon and Washington citizens are balking at using their ports. Such exporting involves hauling the coal by rail to the west coast, which is spurring the outrage.
A new twist was presented at the recent Wyoming Mining Association gathering. A writer for Coal Transporter Magazine touted sending Wyoming coal east to a terminal on the Mississippi River where it would then head down to the Gulf of Mexico and then shipped 9,300 miles to India.
Natural gas was in the news lately when the cable channel HBO showed a documentary called Gasland II, which featured extensive coverage of fracking around the country as the new way to discover gas.
Because of fracking, huge gas fields have been unlocked all across the country.
The documentarian Josh Fox also contended that there are more than 20 proposed docks being built along the coasts to transport liquefied natural gas to other countries.
This will get the price of natural gas up to levels where it is profitable and that actually could help Wyoming.
A lot of time during the program was devoted to the situation near Pavillion, Wyoming, where residents have been able to light their water sources on fire because of contamination they claim is from fracking techniques.
Pro-industry folks no doubt hate the documentary but there are a lot of interesting items in it if you can watch it with an open mind.
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.