Sunday, December 02, 2007

Even in Wyo., King Coal may lose crown

Bill Sniffin's column in today's Wyoming Tribune-Eagle is the second of his I've read that addresses coal's precarious future in Wyoming.

Sniffin, a long-time Wyo. journalist who once ran for governor in 2002 as a Republican, seems to know his subject. He notes that the state has 250 years worth of low-sulphur coal in the ground. He adds: "Wyoming is North America's Saudi Arabia when it comes to coal."

We are in the midst of an energy boom that began back in 2002. Coal, oil, and natural gas are partners in the boom. Sniffin doesn't mention this, but this also coincides with a Republican president and a Republican Congress, all friends of fossil fuel. Not to mention Wyoming's own, Dick Cheney, whose secret meetings with corporate energy tycoons early in the Bush presidency set us on our current path of energy dependence and Middle East wars.

But Sniffin, at least, recognizes that coal's days are numbered. And why is that?

"A bogeyman named global warming has entered the nation's consciousness and is starting to put a crimp into some of these developments, especially coal."

While Bush has spent most of his tenure denying that global warming exists, he now at least acknowledges that there's a slight possibility that it could exist. Even Texas, Dubya's home state, has cancelled "a huge development of coal-powered plants that would have used 7 percent of Wyoming's coal." Not even Texas wants a new batch of coal-fired plants polluting the atmosphere and ratcheting up the global CO2 index. Sniffin also notes that Utah residents are up in arms over plans for a coal-fired plant next door in Nevada.

People everywhere, it seems, are taking global warming seriously.

Meanwhile, battles rage over keeping energy development out of the Wyoming Range and the Red Desert. While energy development is king in Wyoming, hunters and ranchers and environmentalists are forming alliances to save those natural places which make up the true bounty of the state. It's ironic that fossil fuels pulled from beneath the high prairie and rugged mountains may be the cause of a warmer planet that will kill alpine forests and turn grasslands into desert.

Bill Sniffin wraps up his column by saying that "the public relations advantage is definitely in the hands of the global warming folks." His wording implies that he is not one of these folks, nor are most Wyomingites.

But it's not just a mater of P.R. Global warming is a real threat with dire consequences. Republicans, too, have only one planet to call home.

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