Oil & Gas
The oil and gas industries have been a part of Wyoming, and its history, since the time of statehood. In 1832, when fur trader Captain Bonneville traveled to the Wind River valley, he found oil springs southeast of present Lander near Dallas Dome, where the state’s first oil well would be drilled five decades later. The first oil was found, then drilled, right here in Fremont County.
It is fair to say that our state’s economy has been tied to the oil & gas industries, and it has been an integral part of our health and wealth. 21 out of 23 counties produce oil or gas in Wyoming, and pipelines run through all 23. It is the single largest economic driver in our state. It employs around 18,000 people. The property and severance tax provided by oil and gas, and other extraction mineral industries, is the single biggest revenue generator for the State of Wyoming.
My early family ties to Wyoming start in southwestern Wyoming, in the coalmines around Kemmerer. The little town of Oakley is still there, population 49, I believe. Therefore, my family has long been attached to the coal industries.
The coal industry has been good to Wyoming. We have been the largest producer of coal in the country since 1986. Further, the coal from our mines is considered “clean coal” and is the best for the environment. The Federal Government, however, has not been good to coal. The last couple of years has actually been dubbed “the war on coal”; and the people working in the industry, our mines and our revenue have been ravaged by it.
With Wyoming’s economy being so tied to the mineral extraction industries, we may have a tough road ahead. Economic slowdown due to the COVID crisis has plunged the demand for our products even further.
“Amid today’s unparalleled health and economic crises, the plunge in demand for nearly all major fuels is staggering, especially for coal, oil and gas,” said Fatih Birol, the executive director of the International Energy Agency.
While there is certainly a recognizable interest in diversifying Wyoming’s economy, there is also a need to continue to support our energy industries, and to continue to push back against federal government regulations that make it less affordable for the consumer, and less profitable for producers. Or, in the extreme case, like coal, we must continue to fight for our valuable product to be able to get to market.