- - Wednesday, April 27, 2022

With inflation at a 40-year-high, Americans are faced with sky-high gasoline prices and soaring home heating and cooling bills. Is this really the cost of remedying climate change?

Who can, or should pay for it? How have we reached this juncture, two years after oil prices went negative and gasoline prices hovered around $2.00 a gallon?

And what should be done about the climate? Is there a better way? These are the questions confronting our nation and our world.

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine certainly impacted energy costs, but we must also acknowledge that the catalyst was President Biden’s 180-degree policy reversal away from U.S. energy independence. Instead of being able to drive technological advancements and innovation in energy and usage, this administration surrendered our leadership to smothering regulations, a leasing pause, and disingenuous platitudes about “clean” energy. Instead of remedying climate threats, Biden administration policies are pushing production and development off to places lacking the very environmental or labor protections that America is rightly proud of.

Recognizing our world is increasingly dependent on all forms of energy, here in Wyoming we are leading the research and developing the policies to improve how we use and produce energy from our legacy industries, while also taking up new ones. We are staying focused on two principles: environmental stewardship and energy prosperity. These are not cannot be mutually exclusive. Poverty has never been good for the environment.

While the White House may downplay the effects of federal energy policy based entirely on climate fear and rail against the industry, those in the energy business see clearly what has happened. Reliable, reasonably priced and abundant energy sources are being pushed aside in favor of complete dependence on intermittent (and therefore unreliable) power sources. Simply put, we need it all and we need to do it all better. Better technologies for fossil fuels can provide low-carbon, consistent fuel. When combined with renewable sources (which are not carbon free), they can provide U.S. consumers power whenever they need it not just when the wind is blowing and the sun is shining.

Western states are dominated by federal lands and minerals. Because of this White House’s policies, domestic oil production and rig counts remain below pre-pandemic levels, even as the price per barrel steadily increases. Because activity is down, employment is down, school funding is down, compensation for wildlife habitat projects is down, and the state’s ability to help communities is compromised. Unlike fossil fuels on Federal land, renewable energy projects do not pay royalties, they pay leases. which are not shared with the states or communities. Conversely, renewables reward investors with generous tax incentives that completely bypass the impacted local communities.

While it is a warm and fuzzy feeling to believe renewables alone are capable of reversing climate change; the reality, is that we cannot cut our ties to fossil fuels unilaterally. As the Ukrainian debacle has revealed, we will have to act far more aggressively to redress climate change than just vilifying the very industries that we rely on in blizzards, hurricanes, and heatwaves to keep the lights on. We must build a better-designed, better-engineered, and more diverse supply of energy one that can actively remove carbon dioxide from our atmosphere, not just slow the contribution to it.

Wyoming is the highest net energy producer in the United States, exporting 90% of the energy it produces. Much of our state’s oil and gas mineral estates exist on federally owned land. Instead of empowering Wyoming to help make this nation energy independent again, the Biden administration has focused its efforts on stopping the exploration and production of federal oil, gas and coal. Choking domestic output through misguided attempts to end drilling on federal land and halting quarterly lease sales have contributed to this dramatic price spike. The recent announcement that Federal oil and gas lease sales are resuming was the typical sleight-of-hand decision from Washington, D.C. Yes, sales are resuming, but at a greatly reduced level and a nearly 50% increase in royalty rates. Hello Venezuela, can you help with our energy needs?

It doesn’t have to be this way. America needs to follow Wyoming’s lead and pursue an all-of-the-above approach to energy. Our future is not predicated on an/either or scenario, it is based on our ability to be innovative, to look at transition by lifting all boats, by distributing better technology globally, and by letting an appropriately regulated free-market address the issues of our time. If we are concerned about climate, we do not need to choose between fossil fuels or new types of energy. Instead, we must be committed to simultaneously growing renewable energy and improving dispatchable, dependable baseload power.

The latter should include advancements in nuclear power, as we are doing in Wyoming with the potential development of TerraPower’s next-generation Natrium nuclear power plant. It should include investing in carbon capture and sequestration and encouraging carbon innovation, as Wyoming is doing with the development of the Integrated Test Center, where promising technologies can be tested. It means developing regional solutions like the Western Inter-States Hydrogen Hub, where shared resources can accelerate the development and distribution of hydrogen.

Wyoming is ready to seize these opportunities and affirm our commitment to succeeding generations. We will oppose ridiculous regulation, promote sensible development, and embrace new technologies in those efforts. Innovation, not regulation is a path forward to give our nation the energy it requires while also helping to solve the world’s climate concerns.

• Mark Gordon serves as the 33rd Governor of Wyoming. A rancher and businessman, he is a strong believer that Wyoming must chart its own course, and a steadfast defender of its interests to do so. Prior to being elected governor, he served as State Treasurer where he transformed and modernized the state’s financial portfolio management leading to Wyoming’s No. 1 ranking in the U.S. and No. 3 in the world among all sovereign funds by the Peterson Institute.

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