Is it Time for Bold Action in the Cowboy State?

by Bill Sniffin

Even though the idea of Wyoming spending a billion dollars on a gigantic swath of land had some of us scratching our heads about one year ago – well, at least you had to give the project (and Gov. Mark Gordon) high marks for bold imagination.

That deal went away when a company outbid Wyoming. 

But thinking back about that, it makes me wonder if Wyoming should be just a little brash.  Be a little bold. Just a bit?

Our leaders sometimes act like the proverbial guy who was up to his waist in alligators and forgot all about draining the swamp. 

We are so consumed with worries about our faltering economy and where to cut, cut, and cut some more  — well, there is no inclination to think about bold plans. 

So, what would be an example of a bold plan?

Now I do not claim to be the author if these ideas. These are just ideas people have mentioned to me over the years. For example:

Should Wyoming take control of the coal-fired power plants before they are finally closed?  Could they be more converted to natural gas?  We have lots of gas in Wyoming.  And if you believe electric car maker  Elon Musk, no less, there is no way the future can provide enough electricity for the needs he is envisioning.

If Musk is to be believed, this big rush to shut down coal and natural gas plants and replace them with wind and solar projects just does not provide enough juice to power the future.         

My friend Dan Brophy of Wilson says Musk is right. “I have a friend with a utility who tells me coal plant power is 95% available, wind power 30%. Plus, when you account for end to end costs, wind energy is massively more expensive and massively more destructive environmentally. The industry exists because of subsidies. Until cheap energy (battery) storage technology is developed, wind and solar will remain uncompetitive.”

Or, should we be bold and implement a huge statewide plan for more wind and solar? Obviously private companies like Power Company of Wyoming and Rocky Mountain Power are shooting for the stars with their gigantic wind projects. Can it be even bigger?  We have the best wind in the country and maybe in the world. Is there even more we can do to promote it? 

For a long time, Wyoming was the country’s largest producer of uranium.  What about a commitment to putting in some nuclear plants?  I am not talking about those massive Three Mile Island-type plants. We have had nuclear powered submarines and aircraft carriers for over 50 years using small nukes.  Should we be pushing for small nuclear installations using these super-safe small nuclear plants so Wyoming can continue to provide energy to the rest of the country?  Providing power to the country has been our bread and butter. Should we continue to try to fill that position, using nukes this time around? 

We are a perfect location for massive computer server centers. Cheyenne already has several.  We also could serve as a great location for super computers.  They require cool weather. Cool wind is good. And Wyoming, especially around Cheyenne, has huge trunks of internet fiber. These will not employ so many people but cold provide tax monies.

It is hard for Wyoming to attract big 500-employee plants.  But it is easy for Cowboy State to attract 500 people who each individually work for their individual companies and bring their big salaries with them? 

We need reliable internet service, good airline service, and nice small towns that are safe and forward- thinking. I think most Wyoming towns fit this description like Evanston, Afton, Cody, Powell, Lander, Riverton, Douglas, Buffalo, Sheridan, Newcastle, Gillette, and the bigger towns like Rock Springs, Laramie, Casper, and Cheyenne plus other places.  Our cities and towns are wonderful places with low taxes, good medical care, and wonderful places to eat.     

Again, my friend Dan chimes in: “I think private capital and private innovators will see Wyoming for the advantages which fit into their plans and interests. It’s important to create and continue an environment of low regulation and low to zero taxes.” 

“The federal tax burden will soon increase gigantically, making no state income tax more important than ever and low regulations the same. Too many people fail to understand the importance of low regulations – it is a giant influence in decisions where to locate businesses.” These are just some musings from me and my friends.  What bold  ideas do you think would work for Wyoming?

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ray olson
1 month ago

How about an unbold and easy one. As you point out, to professionals looking to relocate health care access is a major concern. Passing Medicaid expansion would go a long way toward stabilizing availability of health care in rural communities.

Mitch Smith
1 month ago
Reply to  ray olson

Ask Margaret Thatcher who is going to pay for it…………

Harriet Oleson
1 month ago
Reply to  Mitch Smith

You know Mitch, you are right. The UK has a very fine government sponsored medical system, as does most of Europe. Can’t argue with success.

Clark Guelde
1 month ago
Reply to  ray olson

Exactly how many “professionals” do you think qualify for Medicaid? Sounds to me like a lot of employers who don’t provide much in wages or benefits would stand to benefit a lot more than skilled workers would.

ray olson
1 month ago
Reply to  Clark Guelde

Talking about the viability of medical providers in rural areas. Several clinics around the state would still be open if Medicaid income had been available to them

Harriett Oleson
1 month ago

Bill – It is very nice to read this column when you are not tooting your incessant TRUMPet. Yes the future is going to require some bold action to keep Wyoming solvent. Perhaps if we would elect a fresh batch of legislators that could think deeper than a birdbath. Legislators that are not mired in the Coal past, nor hampered by the “No New Taxes” minority. This column brings some Very important thoughts to finance the future of this wonderful Wyoming. Face It Folks!!!! There is a future without the out-competed world of Coal. Living in the past only holds you in the past…