Wyoming Attitudes About Energy Explored
The University of Wyoming wants to understand Wyomingites’ attitudes about energy.
UW’s School of Energy Resources (SER), in collaboration with the Ruckelshaus Institute of Environment and Natural Resources, focused on “social license,” the degree to which residents approve of the various kinds and amounts of energy in the state.
The study is called “Social License for Wyoming’s Energy Future: What Do Residents Want?” A similar study was done in 2019, so the results could be compared.
The findings from the 2022/2023 study suggest:
- 76% of Wyoming residents favor oil and natural gas-based electricity generation
- 73% favor oil refining
- 70% favor rooftop solar
- 69% favor coal mining
- 67% favor coal-based electricity generation
- 58% favor uranium mining
- 57% favor nuclear-based electricity generation
- Wind and utility-scale solar received the most opposition, with 30% and 22%, respectively
- Emerging energy types, such as rare earth elements/critical minerals (RER/CM), hydrogen, and CCUS, were all notable in the high levels of residents reporting that they are either neutral or not sure about them (38%, 45%, and 43%, respectively)
The trends, when compared to the previous study, show that the more Wyoming residents learn about newer energies, the more they accept them.
Uranium mining, nuclear energy, and rare earth minerals all gained support compared to the 2019 survey. The study noted that as these other energies have become more prominent in Wyoming as emerging industries, support for them has increased:
“For example, the TerraPower small modular reactor was sited in Kemmerer, Wyoming obtained Class VI primacy for permitting geologic storage injection wells, and Rare Element Resources’ critical mineral mining and processing project (the Bear Lodge Project in northeastern Wyoming) has advanced. This suggests that as residents have learned about and gained experience with emerging technologies, their support for them has increased.”
Fossil fuels still received the most support in both studies, while wind energy decreased from 65% support in 2019 to 51% support in this year’s data.
Most Wyomingites believe climate change is occurring, but have varying beliefs as to why it’s happening; some believe it’s human-caused, and others believe it’s naturally occurring.
Residents also typically support an “all-of-the-above” energy approach to utilize all forms of energy for the state to become an energy leader, and in doing so, community needs and economies are prioritized.