Wyoming Gambles State Money on Carbon Sequestration and Hydrogen Schemes to Keep Fossil Fuels Flowing

Last month, the Wyoming Energy Authority, the state agency Gov. Mark Gordon tasked with distributing $150 million from the newly created Energy Matching Funds program for “projects related to Wyoming energy needs,” awarded the [Cowboy Clean Fuels] project $7.79 million dollars. So far, the Energy Matching Funds have paid out $57.6 million to projects that would creatively generate fossil fuels, capture or sequester carbon or explore hydrogen fuel generation.

The Energy Matching Funds appear to be Wyoming’s largest bet on its energy future, and as more of those funds get tied up in industries that could extend the Cowboy state’s dependency on fossil fuels, some who follow the state’s energy sector have wondered how wisely Wyoming is spending its own taxpayer dollars, of which there are few to begin with.

Compounding the need to spend wisely is the state’s apparent lack of interest in the millions of dollars in clean energy funding available to Wyoming through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which have gained little traction in the state. Last November, Gordon rejected IRA grants to tamp down pollution, in part due to his desire to preserve “Wyoming’s ‘all-of-the-above’ energy development.” Wyoming school districts are the only ones in the country yet to utilize IIJA funds to purchase electric school buses.

Environmental organizations in Wyoming have been working to ensure local municipalities and residents are ready to take advantage of federal dollars if and when they become available. But there is little those organizations can do to speed up the state’s pursuit of federal funding and even less that can be done without access to the money itself.

The federal clean energy money the state has applied for and received is mainly focused on grid updates and energy efficiency improvements for existing infrastructure, said Patrick Millin, the Energy Authority’s state energy program manager, in a statement to Inside Climate News.

Going forward, the Energy Authority, created in 2020 when the state legislature voted to merge Wyoming’s Infrastructure Authority, the Wyoming Pipeline Authority and the State Energy Program, “will pursue those programs that are beneficial to Wyoming,” Millin said.

Rob Creager, the agency’s director, added that “projects seeking federal funds from the IIJA and the IRA are eligible for EMF funding.”

That pursuit, to the extent that it is aimed at clean energy, can be complicated in a sparsely populated state with very few public resources.

“Wyoming really lacks capacity” to aggressively pursue the large sums of money up for grabs in the IRA and IIJA, said Monika Leininger, director of external affairs and climate policy at the Nature Conservancy. “We have a lean state budget. Local governments lack expertise and capacity to compete for these funds.”

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In other news from Wyoming…

Wyoming Hits the Rare-Earth Mother Lode
https://www.wsj.com/articles/wyoming-hits-the-rare-earth-mother-lode-natural-resources-policy-china-mining-8e559cec?st=lk6na150nohgf2w&reflink=desktopwebshare_permalink
The discovery of 2.34 billion metric tons of rare-earth elements near Wheatland, Wyo., signals the beginning of a new era in the competition for the raw materials that power the global economy. If wisely exploited, this find—estimated to be the richest in the world—will give the U.S. an unparalleled economic and geopolitical edge against China and Russia for the foreseeable future.

The lode at Halleck Creek has the potential to make the U.S. the world’s largest processor of the minerals used to make computer chips, smartphones and aircraft engines. Rare earths are fundamental to advanced economic manufacturing. They are also critical in all military technologies, and thus have become central to national security.

Yet traditionally they also were “dirty” to mine. Production tended to leave water pollution, toxic sludge and radioactive elements in its wake. Environmental concerns led U.S. companies to curtail domestic extraction, and as a result China became the world’s largest refiner of rare earths, accounting for as much as 95% of global production and supply in 2023. Despite a recent increase in refining outside China, the U.S., along with other leading manufacturing countries, relies on Chinese rare-earth exports. And reliance has meant vulnerability, as Beijing has used its near monopoly to bolster its own industries and put pressure on competitors. The Halleck Creek find is reportedly high in two of the most in-demand rare earths, neodymium and praseodymium oxides, both of which are also low in radioactive byproducts.

DB2

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My understanding is that there has never really been a shortage of the raw materials for so-called “rare earths.” It’s the refining process which is dirty, expensive, and environmentally destructive.

So yeah, I suggest Montana or Idaho as home base for it, seeing that we need to have that industry for all sorts of things (including military) and China, with the wave of a hand, could become an extremely unreliable place to get it. (Think Japan, oil, and 1941.)

If Montana and Idaho don’t volunteer, I nominate Mexico. They’ll do anything.

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Being a Tesla cultist I thought I’d bring up Tesla’s lithium refining facility that is being built ahead of schedule (complete mid-2024) and will be the first in the US. The facility is claimed to be much more efficient than conventional plants and much less toxic, using a new chemical process. The facility is also designed to recycle lithium from old batteries. Perhaps Elon can be persuaded to refine rare earths as well.

Musk says a lot of stupid stuff, but what he does is very useful.

I anticipate this will be a profitable venture while also providing a dependable cheap source of lithium for Tesla. Another competitive advantage for Tesla products in the US. One wonders why GM didn’t do the same.

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All of this is miraculously shifting.

Who’d a thunk it?