Wyoming’s strong, predictable, consistent winds are a world-class resource. Ranchers and farmers have harnessed the wind to pump water since Wyoming was first settled, and small-scale commercial wind projects started in the 1970s.
Over the last quarter century, the western states’ energy portfolio has shifted. Coal used to produce far and away the largest share of electricity, but recent advances in hydraulic fracturing and demand for low-carbon fuel have bumped natural gas to first place.
When Congress failed to enact legislation to address climate change, President Obama vowed to take action himself. “No challenge poses a greater threat to our children, our planet, and future generations,” he said.
Coal powers America. Or at least it has for the last sixty years. For most of the last century, anywhere from 45 to 55 percent of US electricity came from coal. And since the 1990s, about 40 percent of that coal came from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, home to eight of the country’s ten biggest coal mines, including the North Antelope Rochelle Mine, the largest coal mine in the world. In 2008, at the peak of production, dozens of mile-long coal trains left the Powder River Basin every day, headed for power plants in more than 30 states. Read more
Western Confluence magazine explores the western United States’ stickiest natural resource issues – drought, freshwater supply, our changing climate, wildfires, invasive species, insect outbreaks, energy development impacts, conservation finance, and more.