OPINION: Wyoming is Open for Business – Let’s Keep it That Way

OPINION: Wyoming is Open for Business – Let’s Keep it That Way

J.T. Larson. Courtesy photo.

This opinion was written and submitted by Rep. J.T. Larson of House District 17.

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Serving in the Wyoming House of Representatives for just one year has opened my eyes to what the future holds for the State of Wyoming. Coupled with my role as an economic developer serving to drive robust prosperity in Sweetwater County, I can confidently say Wyoming has big opportunities ahead. Our mining and energy industries are a big reason for our optimistic outlook.

For generations Wyoming has powered the country and fueled our world’s ever growing energy needs. Wyomingites across the Cowboy State have proudly worked and leaned into supporting the shifting landscape of energy, showing the world the right way to thoughtfully develop natural resources. 

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Coal, oil and gas, nuclear, hydrogen, wind, and other forms of energy hold the key in maintaining Wyoming’s position as an energy leader now and for the long term. And despite the will of Washington, D.C., we must not abandon coal mining and coal fired electricity production for newer forms of energy. 

Serving on the Minerals, Business, and Economic Development Committee during the 2023 Interim Session has given me a wide range of knowledge on new and emerging energy industries looking to plant roots in Wyoming. We are fortunate to have Holly Krutka and her team at the University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources (SER) working to keep Wyoming at the forefront of emerging energy technologies. The Committee’s discussions with SER and energy industry leaders center around Wyoming’s challenges and opportunities; one area we can always find agreement is that our economic prosperity is incumbent upon Wyoming staying open to forward-thinking energy solutions.

Wyoming’s legacy energy sources will be a part of Wyoming’s energy portfolio for decades and decades. The Wyoming Legislature ensured its coal and oil and gas resources will continue because it paved the way for a leading-edge policy framework that promotes carbon capture, utilization and sequestration. Because of these actions, Wyoming is ahead of the game in efforts like enhanced oil recovery and geologic sequestration. 

This policy framework creates stability for private industry but keeps government out of the way. And we are seeing this prove out on the ground. Long-time companies like ExxonMobil are leveraging their knowledge of extracting oil and natural gas molecules into sequestering carbon dioxide molecules. Their recent purchase of Denbury demonstrates Exxon’s commitment to the future of this innovative energy strategy and Wyoming’s position up ahead.

Another enormous investment in Wyoming’ energy future includes the development of TerraPower’s Natrium Nuclear Reactor located outside of Kemmerer, WY. This cutting-edge power plant will be the most advanced nuclear facility in the world. TerraPower recently announced it will be working with the Uranium Energy Corp to explore using Wyoming’s rich uranium reserves to fuel the reactor. Uranium Energy Corp currently has 20 uranium sites in Wyoming, including in Campbell, Carbon, Converse, Fremont, Johnson, and Sweetwater Counties. This is a winning formula for Wyoming’s energy mix and rare earth elements sector. 

If we are not leading, we are following; and in Wyoming we like to break trail. Once again Wyoming is proving to the world, we know energy. We know that a diversity of energy sources equates to a stronger power grid, good jobs for our neighbors, future careers for our grandkids and domestic fuel sources that reduce our country’s reliance on countries like Russia or Kazakhstan.

As we look to our energy future one thing is certain: Wyoming must stay open for business. We must diversify our economy and that means not picking winners or losers. I will continue to stand by our free-market economy, encouraging entrepreneurs and innovation, all while outpacing and outwitting Washington D.C.’s regulatory impositions. Our great state’s abundance of energy is something we cannot afford to take for granted.