CASPER, Wyo. — Coal is on the decline as a major source of energy.
The Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Minerals, Business & Economic Development Interim Committee thinks allocating $1 million to market coal could help reverse that.
Some Wyomingites say that money would be better spent investing in renewable energy.
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“I understand the cultural inhibition to accepting this kind of news,” Mike Selmer with Wyoming Climate Activists says of coal’s decline and problems that come with a changing climate. “I don’t hold it against them.”
Selmer said on Thursday, Sept. 19 that states around Wyoming, particularly Utah, have done a better job of embracing renewable energy. He points out that renewable energy creates jobs and generates revenue for those states.
“Utah has a renewable portfolio goal that requires all electric distribution utilities to pursue renewable energy resources to the extent that they are cost-effective,” the United States Energy Information Administration states.
“Each utility has a goal of acquiring 20% of its adjusted retail electricity sales from qualifying renewable sources by 2025. Qualifying renewable energy sources include: solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, hydrogen, municipal solid waste, landfill gas, and farm animal manure.”
Selmer says that the Wyoming Climate Activists hosted a Wyoming Climate Forum on Monday in Laramie attended by about 200 people.
“It was actually a pretty exciting event,” he says.
Climate scientists from the Earth Institute, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spoke at the forum along with a climate change activist from the Wind River Reservation.
Selmer says he understands people’s skepticism if they only get their information from media headlines. He encourages people to look into scientific reports themselves, though he acknowledges that may not be the most exciting prospect.
“For myself personally, up until a year ago, I never really paid attention to it,” Selmer says. “I did my own research. People have to look at the science themselves.”
Selmer disagrees with the notion that scientists are intentionally looking to stir up alarm. He says the reverse is actually the case.
“The scientists are not trying to sound alarmist, but people are calling them alarmist,” he says.
Selmer has nine grandchildren and thinking about their future was part of what made him begin to take climate change more seriously.
“This is not a conspiracy,” he says. “This is real. I think it is important for us to get our community ready for the future.”
At a climate strike planned for Friday, Sept. 20, people will be able to voice what they think is important in regard to climate change.
“There’s a global climate strike going on tomorrow,” Selmer says.
He’s helping organize a local strike in Laramie. The event begins at 2 pm at the First Street Plaza next to the railroad.
Selmer says it will begin with an open mic to let people make their own statements, followed by a few brief speeches.
“Action is needed that will force our local, state and national leaders to acknowledge and address the climate emergency,” an event description reads. “Join us for a brief rally and a march to city hall and then the county courthouse to demand that our local governments declare a climate emergency.”
Selmer adds that changing net metering laws would allow solar to play a bigger role in Wyoming’s energy market. Net metering refers to a billing system in which those who install solar energy at their homes can receive credit for adding that energy to the grid.
At Monday’s climate forum, attendees also ate a locally sourced meal.
“As climate disruption gets worse, the food crisis will get worse,” Selmer says. “Local farmers are helping fight climate change.”
At the individual level, he says people can also try to bike or walk more often or purchase electric vehicles if they can afford them. These, along with making energy efficient decisions in their homes, are ways people can help slow climate change.
Selmer says that he started organizing the local climate strike after people at the forum urged him to do so. He says that some national groups like the Sierra Club and the League of Women Voters support the global climate strike, but that local chapters hadn’t engaged in extensive efforts to organize a local strike.
At least 4,500 actions are planned across 137 countries for the global strike Firday.
“On September 20, three days before the UN Climate Summit in NYC, young people and adults will strike all across the US and world to demand transformative action be taken to address the climate crisis,” the global strike organizers say.
“The climate crisis is the largest threat of our time, and we’re counting on our collective power to demand immediate and decisive action. This is our opportunity to move beyond the traditional climate bubble and expand the table of who is involved in this movement. It is time to lift up the voices and stories of young people on the frontlines of this crisis and ensure we are creating an intergenerational and intersectional climate justice movement.”
Selmer says that he thinks most Wyomingites know that coal will fade going into the future.
“No one in Wyoming talks about it,” he says. “They recognize that coal is pretty much done.”
He says that leaders in the state should start thinking about adapting for the future rather than panicking about short term economic hardship.