Figure 1. Midsummer Sunrise in Rural Wyoming.
SUNRISE FOR GND
Guest Post by KEVIN KILTY
Back in April this year Anthony posted an essay entitled ” Is the Climate Change Movement a Cult?” One group highlighted in that essay was Sunrise Movement. Anthony noted the group recruits children, and its website admits it does. It actually targets persons from age 13 to 35–children through young adults. By the way, if you are above 35 years of age, you can still participate, says the website. You can donate!
People send me stuff. Recently an e-mail circulated on our campus from a training fellow at Sunrise Movement that was aimed mainly at graduate students and was an invitation to attend a climate summit scheduled soon. One interesting tab on the Sunrise Movements website promotes their connection to the New Green Deal (NGD).
Sunrise joined Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Markey to launch the Green New Deal resolution with 64 co-sponsors. There are now 104 cosponsors and rising. Make your reps the next to join.
There is no mention that all the supporters of NGD voted “no” or “present”. However, the passage and promotion of the NGD appears to be a major organization objective, as the training fellow repeats it in the invitation letter.
We know that to win a Green New Deal, young people need to be rising up in every state, especially in states heavily dependent on the fossil fuel industry. Being born and raised in Wyoming, I know it‘s impossible to do this work alone. Join me in Laramie on September 16th to meet other young people concerned about the climate crisis and get ready to step up and take action. Together, we can usher in a brighter future for our country and our beloved hometowns.
Freedom of speech, freedom of association, and pursuit of happiness mean that people can say what they want, join what they like and spend their money how they choose (within some legal limits, of course). However, it will be very interesting to see what enthusiasm there is for this climate summit. Things like it tend to fizzle around here. At the same time, accountability and transparency are important too. Let’s look at the brighter future the NGD promises for our beloved rural hometowns in states dependent on fossil fuels.
Figure 1 shows a pie chart of state GDP by sector in 2018 . Minerals and Mining contribute 29%. That is substantial by any measure. Wyoming produces mainly coal, petroleum, natural gas, helium, trona (sodium sesquicarbonate), bentonite, and uranium. Only the first three of these, plus perhaps uranium, are under direct threat from the NGD. However, without natural gas and markets for the co-produced CO2, there won’t likely be much reason to produce helium. Oil and gas drilling is a major market for bentonite. Even if one were inclined to continue mining trona in Wyoming after the major energy sources are abandoned, successful passage of the NGD would make continuing to mine trona difficult. Environmentalists have complained about the industrialization of southwest Wyoming since I started college 49 years ago. And, don’t even contemplate keeping uranium mines.
Figure 2. Pie chart of sources of GDP in Wyoming.
Figure 1 includes other sectors of the state economy which have an immediate connection to mines and minerals. Construction, for example, amounts to a higher percentage of state GDP at 4.1% than it does for the nation as a whole (3% or so) simply because so much construction is tied to minerals extraction. The same is true of professional services (lawyers, consulting engineers and land surveyors are 4.3% of GDP ), wholesale commerce (3.7%), transportation (7.3%), and utilities (2.4%). Approximately 75% of the states manufactured goods (5.6% of GDP) are products derived directly from oil and natural gas.
I have also labeled the contribution from agriculture, forestry, hunting and fisheries for comparison. It is only 2.2% of state GDP, which dispels a common misconception that rural areas could depend on traditional agriculture or tourism ( less than 4% of state GDP) to replace income from extractive industries.
|Sector||Percentage of GDP|
|Minerals and Mining||28.5|
|Total of GDP||46.3|
|Total of Private Sector GDP||53.7|
Table 1. Estimated reduction to state GDP from elimination of all minerals production.
Finally, nearly one-fourth of Wyoming tax revenue derives from severance and royalties on mineral production. An income tax to replace these revenues would amount to $4,400 per capita, which would be the highest state income tax in the country. Wyoming schools, K-12 through the University draw large amounts of their budgets from minerals on state trust lands, and property taxes on petroleum facilities and mines.
Table 1 shows my estimated direct hits to state GDP that would result from the elimination of minerals extraction in Wyoming. Other sectors of the economy would suffer declines as well, but what Table 1 by itself shows should suffice to drive home a sobering lesson.
Without a replacement economy for minerals extraction Wyoming would slip from 7th place among U.S. states for per capita income (Approx. $59,000), and an admirable 4th best Gini coefficient of about 0.43, to 50th place in income, well behind Mississippi, and a perfect Gini coefficient approaching zero point zero[4,5]. By the time the NGD was finished making our rural areas brighter, we would have been happier for the Seven Plagues of Egypt instead.
To be fair, both Sunrise Movement and the NGD contingent of Congress say that new, and better jobs will take the place of the ones lost. Yet, there is no specific plan about how this would happen, or when; and anyone with a modicum of sense knows that no such plan is possible. There are serious constraints of raw materials, labor, transportation, management, and savings that prevent implementing a replacement economy in a decade or two, or three; and there are limitations posed by physics to overcome first. Pie in the sky does not guarantee a better life.
(2) From the organization website, www.sunrisemovement.org, accessed Sept., 10, 2019.
(3) Wyoming state GDP data, http://eadiv.state.wy.us/i&e/wyoRealGDP97_ 18.htm Accessed Sept. 10, 2019.
(4) Wyoming per capita GDP, Gini coefficient, and rankings from Wikipedia, Accessed Sept. 11, 2019.
(5) I don’t think the Gini coefficient is meaningful at all.