Coal, Gas, Methane, and a Local Economy

Dave Johnston Power Plant in Glenrock, WY

Dave Johnston Power Plant in Glenrock, WY with wind turbines in the distance.

Casper, Wyoming is an energy resource-driven town and people are worried about their local economy. I was in town for work and felt the shadow of a down energy economy hovering over the town. Even though I wasn’t in town for energy-related work people wanted to bend the ear of the “environmental guy”. The topics included jobs lost due to a slow natural gas market, cutting coal mine jobs, and the impact of the new methane regulations.

You can’t miss the natural resources around Casper. There’s a prominent coal plant 20 miles east, refineries in town, and wind turbines just outside town. Wyoming is an amazing state for natural energy resources of all varieties: oil, gas, wind, geothermal, nuclear. But a decreasing demand for the non-renewable resources has a fear of more jobs lost and work leaving town. The younger guys were talking about the old timer’s stories of a ghost-town like economy. There are stories of new housing developments that were abandoned after foundations were poured.

Casper has been expanding over the past 6-8 years based on the growth of the natural gas economy. A new commercial area popped up east of town in the past 5 years. Will Kohls, Qdoba, Five Guys, and the other new stores still be there in 2 years? They said they won’t really know how bad it is until the start of the next school year, when the enrollment may not may not be down.

Of course, this all could change next week, month, year, and Casper will be booming again. Working in the environmental field, energy-related or not, the energy stories dominate the field: oil and gas prices, demand for solar, impacts on climate change, etc. Where you stand on renewable vs non-renewable energy often depends on where you physically stand. When you’re in Casper and your family, peers, and neighbors are losing jobs due to the changing energy climate, it can make you rethink quite a bit.

I meant for this blog to give you a look into the lifestyle of an environmental professional. This story is a good look at part of that lifestyle.

Sunrise over an oil refinery on the east side of Casper.

Sunrise over an oil refinery on the east side of Casper.