Saturday, November 17, 2012

Precious Wyoming water leaves the state with every trainload of coal

Did you know that Wyoming ships its water out of state with each shipment of coal? Maybe I'd heard that before, but sometimes I have to hear it anew for the facts sink in.

One of the speakers at the Wyoming Business Alliance's annual meeting in Cheyenne yesterday was Wanda Burget, director of sustainable development for Peabody Energy, a major coal producer in Wyoming.

Energy producers are notorious water hogs. The fracking process uses notorious amounts of water, polluting it in the process. Energy production is crucial to the state's economy, but we can't drink or eat coal, and our water resources --- lakes, streams, reservoirs -- are at the center of Wyoming's tourist industry.

Casper Star-Tribune business editor Jeremy Fugleberg wrote about the WBA conference in today's edition. Here's an interesting snippet:
Coal from the Powder River Basin is full of water. Burget recognized the Wyoming Research Institute’s work to establish a way to procure the large amount of water shipped out of the state in the coal — about 720 gallons per 1,000 tons of coal, she [Wanda Burget] said.
Let's hope the Wyoming Energy Institute gets busy on finding ways to suck that water out of the coal before it leaves our borders. That's a lot of H2O. According to UW's Coalweb, Wyoming ships 25,882 coal trains out of state each year. Each train has 100-120 hopper cars, each loaded with 100-115 tons of coal. That means that at least 19 trillion gallons of water leave the state annually locked inside lumps of coal. That would slake the thirst of a lot of people and irrigate a lot of crops and absorb the attention of thousands of fishing enthusiasts and boaters. So why isn't Wyoming pouring even more revenue into research on ways to coax the water out of coal?
A trio of Wyoming businesspeople say the future of the state depends on diversifying its economy, developing a statewide water policy, and investing in new technology and infrastructure.
Two of the speakers, members of a panel on Wyoming’s future at the Wyoming Business Alliance’s annual meeting in Cheyenne, said they were troubled by Wyoming’s commodity-dependent economy.
What's to be done? Don't expect much help from our Republican-dominated legislature. The energy industry calls the shots. If the past gives us any clues to activities during the 2013 session, we can anticipate an embarrassing amount of time and energy spent on social issues. Some Republicans seem obsessed with women's reproductive equipment. Others want to stop married LGBT people at the border. Still others openly call state workers "bums" and are intent in taking away our pensions. Others demonize teachers and will again try to strip them of any collective bargaining rights. Who has time to focus on diversifying our economy?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So the coal has .3/10 percent water. Whooppee.