Wyoming: America’s coal hopper?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the urban-rural divide in energy production. That is, one of the reasons that people in rural areas oppose big energy projects is they feel they’re being asked to sacrifice disproportionately compared to the city-dwellers who will enjoy the benefits of the project.

There’s a flip side to this, however. In rural (and urban) communities, particularly where the local economy is largely dependent on one or two major industries, there is a great deal of pride and identity associated with that commerce (in my experience, it’s often a love-hate relationship).

Take, for example, our March interview with Jennifer Bower, a mom in Muscatine, Iowa, who spoke with reporter Adam Burke about how her town’s air pollution is affecting her family:

Bower wants stricter regulation of smokestack emissions, but makes it clear that she doesn’t blame the local industry for the problem. She knows that it would be devastating for her town’s economy if these factories went away.

So within that context, consider this video released today by Basic Electric from the dedication of their new Dry Fork station coal plant near Gillette, Wyoming. During the event, Gillette mayor Tom Murphy explained that “coal makes this country great,” and unveiled a new t-shirt, designed by two local high school students, that ties coal production to the state’s identity:

The shirt confronts five misconceptions about Wyoming, with one final jab implying that the prosperity of the rest of the United States depends heavily on the state that the rest of us are supposedly mocking for being so isolated.

“We supply 12 percent of this nation’s energy needs,” Murphy says in the video. “Without electricity, folks, our life the way we enjoy it just does not exist.”

Just a reminder, as if it were needed, that there’s a lot more to the politics of energy that statistics and studies.

If you want to order one of the shirts, by the way, you can contact the City of Gillette directly.

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