BY D. REED ECKHARDT
“My name is Mark Gordon. I am the governor of Wyoming, and I am an addict.”
“My name is Steve Harshman. I am speaker of the Wyoming House, and I am an addict.”
“My name is John Barrasso. I am a United States senator. And I am an addict.”
The list goes on and on. The roster of Wyoming leaders who are
addicted to coal – and who will do and sacrifice almost anything to keep feeding their habit – is long and storied.
|The longer Wyoming mainlines coal, the more the state will suffer.|
And their denial is great. They cover their eyes and stop up their ears. And they try to hold back global forces in a battle that a state of just 600,000 people will never win.
They pretend climate science doesn’t exist, even when 99 percent of the world’s scientists know, and can prove, that humans are heating up global temperatures. They lie to the voters about this reality in order to drum up support for their addiction.
They see coal use headed downward at a catastrophic pace, yet their addiction drives them ever forward toward fantasy efforts to develop new uses for the black stuff and to seek new markets.
They see nations from around the globe and peers in other states committing to the use of renewables and other cleaner forms of energy. Yet like pushers of a fading drug, they do everything they can to try to get others to mainline it.
And rather than joining the forces for change, they chase even harder after the substance that has clouded their thinking and fouls the world’s air.
This is classic addiction.
You doubt that? Consider some of the well-recognized signs of drug addicts:
1 -- Acquiring and using the drug becomes the user’s main priority of life while ignoring obligations to work, family or school. Ask anyone about Wyoming’s budget and they will show you what the decline of coal is doing to this state. Revenues are plunging. Education is running a multi-million-dollar annual deficit. And anyone who thinks the coal addicts won’t go after programs for the needy – the Wyoming family these men and women are elected to protect – in order to pursue their fantasy of “saving coal” is fooling him or herself.
2 – They continue to use their chosen substance even as they know the harm it causes.Wyoming’s leaders are fully aware that coal fouls the air and the environment. Its negative effects on community health are clear. And, again, the budgetary impacts of declining sales will hurt both the health and education of this state residents when the budget cutting gets underway.
3 – They feel the need to use the drug in order to deal with their problems. Rather than truly diversifying Wyoming’s economy or looking to other energy options, such as renewables, to solve budgetary matters, leadership remains focused on coal as the be-all and end-all. Legislation is passed to prevent the closure of coal-using utility plants. Taxes are levied to impede the development of rival forms of energy, such as wind power. The governor presents plans to market coal, but to where? Threats are levied against utilities that are breaking their addiction to the black stuff. These companies perform the economic and social math that Wyoming’s leaders refuse to even consider.
4 – They are willing to make large and regular financial sacrifices to secure a regular supply of their drug.Wyoming’s leaders have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in their ill-begotten efforts to “save coal.” One can only speculate where this state would be had its leaders chosen years ago to spend that money to invest for the future.
5 – They will often undergo a change of appearance, looking more disheveled and worn out. Has anyone noticed that the pace of school building has slowed to crawl? That highways, streets and bridges are falling into disrepair? That state parks are charging more to visitors while providing fewer amenities? Yes, the State Capitol is being renovated, but cities, towns and counties are unable to meet their infrastructure needs due to lack of help from the shrinking state budget.
Friends, it is time for a classic intervention.
Coal is dead – or at least it is on its deathbed. And all of this state’s efforts can no more keep it alive than can drastic measures return health to a cancer-riddled body.
It is time for Wyoming’s leaders end their coal habit and spend their time and energy on a true “moon shot.” An all-out effort is needed to make this state a national leader in energy forms that bring life and light, not blackness and death. Few states have Wyoming’s barely tapped wind resources, and it is mindboggling that no one has talked about solar development in a state that gets more than 300 days of sun a year.
The governor and Legislature must stop trying to hold back the tsunami that soon will engulf this state. Such things as taxes to prevent wind energy and marketing plans to find suckers to sell coal to must be jettisoned. There has been enough mainlining of coal. It is time to embrace a clean energy future.
Wyoming has no time to waste. Every day that it pursues its coal addiction is one more day that it falls behind the developments that others embracing.
Throw away the needles, ladies and gentlemen. Before you bring this great state to ruin.
D. Reed Eckhardt is the former editor of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.