Gov. Gordon Agrees Climate Change is Real, Says Decarbonizing the West is Possible
On national TV and in Idaho workshop, Gordon promotes his ‘all of the above’ energy strategy
- Published In: Politics
- Last Updated: Dec 14, 2023
Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon rides horses on his family ranch outside Buffalo during a recent interview on CBS' "60 Minutes." / Screenshot via 60 Minutes on YouTube
By Carrie Haderlie
Special to the Wyoming Truth
In a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday, Gordon said Wyoming welcomes renewable, climate-friendly innovation while embracing its status as the largest coal producer in the United States.
“We want to be part of the solution,” he said. “There are some really remarkable things that, if we stop talking about what we shouldn’t do, and start talking about what we can do … that is what we are dedicated to here in Wyoming.”
Gordon reiterated his views on Wednesday when he addressed a Western Governors’ Association (WGA) meeting about his chosen initiative, Decarbonizing the West, in Boise, Idaho.
Gordon is the 2024 chairman of the nonpartisan organization, which includes 22 U.S. governors in the Western region of the nation. The two-day workshop focused primarily on carbon sequestration—the process of capturing and storing carbon dioxide before it hits the atmosphere, with the goal of reducing global climate change.
Forests and grasslands sequester about 14% of the nation’s carbon emissions and represent one of the largest opportunities for large-scale carbon removal, according to the WGA. As an energy-producing state, and one with vast open spaces and forests, Wyoming is uniquely poised to be involved in the conversation. In fact, at Gordon’s family ranch in Buffalo, improved grazing practices resulted in the sequestration of over 2,600 metric tons of carbon, he said.
“These are low hanging fruit, and that is what is so great … understanding how important natural systems are to really deal with how we sequester carbon,” Gordon said Wednesday.
Following that thread, one expert panel examined the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, which would otherwise be released from manure during livestock production, through methane capture. A resulting biogas can be used to meet on-farm energy needs or sold on the market.
The workshop included discussions on natural carbon sequestration, agriculture, forestry and land management, as well as panel discussions with carbon capture experts from around the region. Decarbonization strategies that include carbon capture utilization storage, direct air capture and natural sequestration “will put Western states at the forefront of innovation,” Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) said Tuesday in his opening remarks.
Natural resources like forest lands, soils and rangeland that are appropriately managed can sequester enormous amounts of carbon, Little said, but “when those resources are poorly managed, the opposite can be true.”
Little pointed out that Idaho’s carbon emissions from wildfires in 2022 exceeded the state’s annual full year emissions from industrial resources and transportation. Responsible land management is critical for the carbon equation and improved forest and rangeland health management practices will ultimately reduce emissions, he said.
A ‘bipartisan effort’
Each year, the WGA chair selects a specific topic to explore through workshops, discussion and research, with the ultimate goal of developing policy recommendations that will be shared across the western U.S.
Decarbonization and carbon removal, both in industrial and land management contexts, is a priority for states, the federal government and private companies, said WGA Executive Director Jack Waldorf. And while Gordon’s stance on climate change may be a surprise to some, the governor has been vocal about making Wyoming net zero for several years, saying it can be done without sacrificing the state’s coal industry.
After announcing his decarbonization initiative this fall, Gordon signed a memorandum of understanding with Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) pledging to work together to advance the capabilities of direct air capture in their respective states.
Technologies like direct air capture that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere are necessary tools to address climate change, Patrick Cummins, Senior Western Regional Policy Manager at Clean Air Task Force, said at the time.
“We applaud this bipartisan effort by Gov. Polis and Gov. Gordon to advance these technologies here in the West,” Cummins said. “Colorado and Wyoming are leading efforts on carbon removal, and this new partnership will help the industry move forward while benefiting communities in both states.”
For his part, Gordon said that while natural sequestration is an important element of carbon reduction strategies, his initiative also will explore ways to advance carbon capture.
“These are discussions that are not just part of how we decarbonize the West, but they are ways to lead the world forward,” Gordon said Wednesday.