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A Governor’s Plan: Mead’s plan puts focus on fossil fuels
JACKSON, WYO – Wyoming Governor Matt Mead says advancing a state energy strategy that “strikes the right balance between energy development and environmental conservation” is among his highest priorities. Conservationists contend Mead’s vision for Wyoming’s energy lacks clarity.
Concerned that Mead’s agenda centers too heavily on fossil fuels and too little on energy efficiency, conservation and transition to a more balanced mix of renewable and conventional power sources, critics argue Mead’s strategic vision lacks incentives to promote comprehensive environmental conservation.
In 2013, Mead’s office released a 65-page document entitled, Leading the Charge: Wyoming’s Action Plan for Energy, Environment, and Economy. On January 30 Mead shared his strategic vision at a Center for the Arts special event entitled “Wyoming and Our Energy Future.”
Mead joined State Senator Leland Christiansen, State Representative Ruth Ann Petroff, Jackson Mayor Mark Barron, and moderator Paul Hansen, author of “Green and Gridlock,” to talk about Wyoming energy development and environmental conservation. Despite blizzard conditions and differences of opinion, the well-attended forum afforded panelists a warm, familial welcome.
Governor Mead takes Wyoming’s role as a top global BTU producer seriously. If Wyoming were a country, it would rank 10th overall in energy production, after Australia. Wyoming accounts for about 14 percent of all energy produced in the United States. In 2010, Wyoming supplied 397 million of the 401 million tons of coal that met 42 percent of the nation’s electricity demand.
Global energy consumption is projected to increase 53 percent between 2008 and 2035, and as the number one national producer of coal and uranium and the third-largest producer of natural gas, Mead plans to deliver. Most of Wyoming’s energy is sold to commodity markets. Mead’s key strategic objectives aim to lead Wyoming in development, production and generation of exports, maintaining and growing the state’s energy market share.
“Wyoming’s energy and natural resources are intrinsically tied to our economy,” Mead avows, and his Action Plan envisions working with state and federal regulatory agencies to protect wildlife, water and other key resources.
While the plan’s Objective 15 nods to energy efficiency with a state facilities energy audit, it lacks any comprehensive strategy to advance incentives to spur thrifty energy conservation throughout state government and local municipalities. Though considered a top wind resource state, Wyoming ranks 11th in wind production, and the Action Plan lacks incentives to broadly expand renewable energy alternatives to fossil fuels. Wyoming’s sunny climate is the only reference made to solar power potential. Creating a diverse portfolio of conservation, efficiency and renewable energy incentives would greatly improve Mead’s vision, conservationists argue.
Jackson Mayor Mark Barron, on the other hand, appreciates efficiency and cost savings. Since 2006, for example, he has presided over a 50 percent reduction in the cost of gas for the police department. Barron embraces Teton Sustainability Project goals to cut consumption and offset growth costs by implementing energy reduction and efficiency measures. When it comes to energy efficiency, some taxpayers say Mead might do well to copy a few pages out of Mayor Barron’s thrifty sustainability playbook.
While Barron gratefully credits Wyoming Energy Office, Department of Transportation and other state entities for funding pathways and many other significant energy conservation “success stories” in Jackson Hole, Mead said a comprehensive statewide approach to creating incentives for energy conservation, efficiency and renewables would be costly and time consuming.
Unlike Barron, Mead is skeptical about climate change, though Mead agrees, “it’s clear the markets believe it.” Mead’s vision, nevertheless, clearly favors fossil fuels, and the governor isn’t likely to roll out a renewable energy and efficiency incentives package any time soon.