Wyoming voters support sustainable energy, split on climate change

WYOMING — A majority of registered voters, regardless of party affiliation, strongly support increasing production of clean-energy sources such as wind and solar, according to a recent report. Researchers found considerably less consensus between Republicans and Democrats, however, on the need to address climate change.

Support for renewable energy in the U.S. cuts across party lines, according to a new Yale University report. Three in four Republicans surveyed are in favor of increased funding for clean-energy research, generating power on public lands and giving tax rebates for installing solar.

Support was even higher among Democrats. Jessica Western with the Ruckelshaus Institute says Wyoming residents recognize the support that renewables have across the country, and see clean energy as one way to diversify the state’s revenue streams.

Jessica Western, senior research scientist at the Ruckelshaus Institute at the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming, commented, “And there’s an interest in adapting our energy portfolio to meet those demands. Ultimately, what people in Wyoming are interested in is economic sustainability.”

The report found that moderate Republicans are 35 percentage points less likely to vote for a candidate that opposes action on climate change. But just one in five Republicans surveyed says climate change should be a high priority, compared with more than 80 percent of Democrats.

Wyoming has valuable wind resources. Image Wikipedia

Wind-energy production has been on the rise in Wyoming over the past decade. In 2018, wind contributed just under ten percent of the state’s electricity, compared with 86 percent produced by coal-fired power plants. Western says the state is actively pursuing additional wind and solar capacity.

“We have the largest one in the country, the Chokecherry-Sierra Madre project. Wyoming is incredibly active where wind energy is concerned, also increasingly in solar energy,” Western said.

Wyoming is considered to have some of the best wind resources in the U.S. Cool mountain air funneled down through passes and canyons produces sustained wind speeds across the plains, which allows wind turbines to consistently operate at high levels.

The state also is optimally situated for capturing solar energy, which has been slower to develop. Most of Wyoming’s solar currently comes from the Sweetwater Solar farm, which went online in 2018.

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