Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rain today, hurricanes tomorrow in Wyoming

Chris Boswell talk to the LarCoDems last night and depressed the heck out of us.

Maybe it was just me. Fortunately, I'm always heavily medicated, a prerequisite for Wyoming Dems.

Ten percent budget cuts for state government in FY 2010. More severe cuts later on. "It may be raining tioday, but it's really going to rain tomorrow." State collecting less money on mineral taxes. Natural gas was selling for $8 per Mcf a year ago and now it's down to $2.37 Mcf. The companies are still pumping out the gas and selling it for less, even though a dramatic oversupply is predicted for this summer. Other mineral prices are down, although Wyoming is selling its coal like there's no tomorrow.

And there may not be.

Greenhouse gases. Global warming. Alternative energy. These are not welcome terms in Wyoming. Boswell mentioned that one of three main companies digging up our low-sulphur coal is a global warming-denier -- and actively works against any new legislation on CO2 emissions.

That may have been fine in the Bush Administration, when every federal office had an open-door policy for energy companies.

But that's changed. There are some coal-producing states that have a seat at Obama's table. Illinois, for instance, the president's old stomping ground. West Virginia (Sen. Byrd!) and Kentucky, too. Dare I say Pennsylvania and its new Dem senator? Our neighbor to the north has two Democratic senators who support coal -- and a powerful and popular Governor who has all sorts of way-out plans for King Coal.

Who is representing Wyoming and its magnificent low-sulphur coal at these meetings? Sen. Enzi is busy with health care reform and, to his credit, working on it in a bipartisan manner. The almost-rookie, Sen. John Barrasso, is too busy ragging about Obama on Fixed News. Too bad, Boswell says, because "he's an intelligent man." A physician, too, and a big supporter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association who votes against stem-cell research and tows the Repub line on just about everything -- including global warming.

Rep. Lummis? She votes against anything that comes across her desk. A lost cause, just like her predecessor.

Boswell noted that it doesn't help that the "Big Three" coal conglomerates that operate in Wyoming haven't done a good job promoting their product -- and investing in clean coal technologies.

That has to change if Wyoming is going to keep selling its energy products. It's the taxes on oil and gas and coal and trona that keeps the state afloat. The impregnable Repub fortress that is our legislature won't raise taxes, not even on gasoline (one of the lowest taxes on gas in the U.S.). They won't spend any money unless there's a zillion-dollar surplus, as there has been in the past four years or so. We need to spend more on renewable energy sources and then figure out a tax structure for them.

Wyoming is on the wrong end of history, energy-wise. Otherwise, too, now that the president that I helped elect is making the decisions, backed by a huge Dem majority in Congress.

Next time: impact of the stimulus bill on Wyoming.

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