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Wyoming residents want to continue energy leadership, study says

Wyomingites want continued leadership and more information regarding energy and expanding energy industries, according to a new study from the University of Wyoming's School of Energy Resources.

School of Energy Resources / North Entrance

Founded in 2006 by a legislative statute, the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources is hoping to create alternative uses for coal and bring down the cost of carbon capture, utilization and storage through its research efforts. (Frank Ooms, UW School of Energy Resources)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — Wyomingites want continued leadership and more information regarding energy and expanding energy industries, according to a new study from the University of Wyoming’s School of Energy Resources.

The SER collaborated with the Ruckelshaus Institute of Environment and Natural Resources on the study, which is a new edition of a 2020 study. The studies each examine what Wyomingites want regarding energy development.

Jessica Western, a research associate and adjunct professor with the UW Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources, and SER associate research scientist Selena Gerace led the team with UW Haub School graduate research assistant Will Benkelman, the release said. The team surveyed Wyoming residents in fall 2022. Then, over the winter, they interviewed 22 Wyoming residents who work in the state’s energy sector. The Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership and the Intermountain West Energy Sustainability and Transitions initiative helped fund the project.

Wyoming residents indicated they support the “all-of-the-above” energy strategy. People also said an all-of-the-above energy strategy would be most effective in increasing resilience in Wyoming. Those interviewed want communities — and support of employment and revenue within communities — to be a top priority in energy-related decisions.

“Respondents were less concerned with the type of technology and, instead, favored engaging in practical deliberation over what will provide jobs and revenue while also being in alignment with climate goals,” the release said.

There was consensus that climate change is occurring.

Many people said the state’s leadership in coal, oil and natural gas has had a strong impact on the economy and culture and that they want the state to continue its leadership.

Coal, oil and natural gas received the most support in both the 2020 and 2022 surveys. Rooftop solar energy also received high levels of support on both surveys. Support for development of wind resources decreased from 65.5% in 2019 to 51% in 2022.

Uranium mining, nuclear-based electricity generation, carbon capture, utilization and storage and rare earth element and critical mineral extraction all received considerably more support in 2022. Fewer people were neutral or unsure about those sources.

Residents want more readily available and understandable information, and they want policymakers to be more proactive in policies to address new technologies.

“We can surmise, from the updated results, that more outreach and education efforts need to be conducted,” Western said. “I think what we’re seeing is that the more residents and communities learn, the more we understand the trade-offs and the more communities will be able to adapt and create value from changing energy dynamics. All of these industries have become more prominent in the Wyoming energy discourse over recent years as they have made tangible traction in the state, but there is still work to be done.”

SER Senior Director of Research Scott Quillinan said social license regarding energy development is extremely important for advancing technology.

“As we work to develop the energy technologies of tomorrow, we have this tremendous opportunity and responsibility to listen to our communities and other stakeholders regarding the costs and benefits associated with energy development,” he said. “This study and the one we conducted in 2019 have been immensely helpful in helping us gauge our next steps.”