CASPER, Wyo. — The University of Wyoming announced Wednesday that a new study has been completed which gauged Wyoming residents’ attitudes about energy development in the state.
The study found support for an increase in both renewable and fossil fuel energy development in Wyoming. A greater percentage of survey respondents want to see more renewable energy development.
70% want to see more renewable development compared with 58% who want to see increases in fossil fuel energy operations.
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The survey found that a majority of Wyomingites support most forms of energy production, with the exception of nuclear energy. Natural gas had the highest level of support.
Energy production types enjoyed the following levels of support, according to the survey:
- Natural gas: 82.7% support
- Oil: 71% support
- Solar: 68.6% support
- Wind: 65.5% support
- Coal: 63% support
- Nuclear: 35.8% support (36.5% “not sure”)
The survey also gauged Wyoming residents’ perspectives about carbon capture storage and utilization technologies. 37.8% said they think such technologies “are important to keep Wyoming fossil fuels competitive.” 30% said they think such technologies should be widely adopted to help reduce carbon emissions.
12.9% said that such technologies are perpetuating fossil fuel production at the expense of more renewable energy development. 11.3% said they believe such technologies could have harmful side effects. 5.7% said they think such technologies are too expensive to research or invest in.
2.9% said that carbon capture technologies are not important and the state should not adopt them. The study found that 32.2% of respondents are unsure about such technologies.
The survey also asked participants to rank values which they find most important among 14 values. Respondents were asked to distribute 100 points among the 14 values to indicate which are most important to them.
Wyoming’s scenery, biological diversity and recreation opportunities were the top three values followed by economic opportunities and a sense of community.
UW says that statistical analysis of the responses from the survey revealed three themes about Wyomingites’ attitudes surrounding energy development:
— The first theme prioritized renewable energy; wished for the state to create a renewable energy plan; and did not see conventional energy production as economically or environmentally sustainable.
— The next theme placed more emphasis on conventional energy development as meaningful to Wyoming’s economy and a necessary bridge to a more diverse energy economy.
— The third theme accepted all kinds of energy development with emphasis on job training, health care availability, providing low-cost energy and reducing impacts to wildlife.UW
“Respondents across the board agreed that Wyoming has an opportunity to advance current and new energy sources,” UW said. “Far from rejecting climate change, Wyoming residents feel that using it to an economic advantage — and for many, also an environmental one — may benefit the state. They felt Wyoming should consider energy markets outside the state, create an energy strategy and use a creative approach to its energy future.”
Respondents also tended to agree that Wyoming should develop energy resources in a manner that also creates jobs and helps provide job training and other safety nets to workers that could be displaced, UW said.
“Additionally, respondents agreed it is important for the state to lessen impacts of all kinds of energy development — both conventional oil and gas as well as renewable wind and solar — on wildlife,” UW said.
The study found that Wyomingites tend to “grant social license for most energy development types with the clear understanding that market forces are creating change, and the state needs to quickly adapt to be economically resilient.”
“Residents want to hold on to what they have and to create more,” UW said. “To create more and improve economic stability, respondents repeatedly mentioned the need for leadership, according to the study.”
The study was conducted by UW’s School of Energy Resources (SER) and the Ruckelshaus Institute of Environment and Natural Resources. UW Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources research scientist Jessica Western led the study along with School of Energy Resources assistant research scientist Selena Gerace.
The full study is titled ” “Social License for Wyoming’s Energy Future: What Do Residents Want?” and is available online.
The study surveyed over 500 randomly selected Wyoming residents. In addition to the surveys, researchers asked people involved in the state’s energy industry to “organize statements made by survey respondents according to level of agreement.”
“The researchers then interviewed those individuals about their choices on how they organized the statements,” UW says. “This process allowed for both quantitative and qualitative analysis that revealed important findings with implications for policy and leadership decision-making.”
Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources Acting Associate Dean Rob Godby added: “Wyoming is facing a tricky time as far as figuring out the state’s direction while energy markets change. It’s really important for state leaders and decision makers to understand what citizens want for the future, and this study provides exactly that information.”