America’s Challenge on Energy Policy

Sep 26, 2023DMA Engineering, Steven Forrester - Principal

I love being in the outdoors, particularly in the mountains, where I feel the most comfortable. My wife and I recently had the pleasure of a trip to Montana for a wedding. She traveled a week earlier than me, so I rode my motorcycle up to meet her. We rendezvoused for a few days of rock climbing in Wyoming before heading on over to Montana. On our travels, two thoughts crossed my mind.

First, the American landscape offers vast open spaces that can be used for agriculture and energy sources. During my ride through Wyoming, I passed by massive wind farm structures near Casper and an oil and gas development near Lisite. While both ventures had an impact on the landscape, one clearly had a more extensive infrastructure.

Additionally, I couldn’t help but notice the sense of independence in rural life. As the distance from neighbors increases, so does the distance traveled for groceries and gas, and the roads become rougher. This heightened self-reliance is a defining quality of rural living.

Second, while cities unquestionably consume the lion’s share of energy, it is rural communities and their surrounding landscapes, including land, forests, lakes, and streams, that bear the brunt of the inefficiencies of large cities—causing them to respond differently to changing climates.

Furthermore, while fossil fuel energy production offers well-paying jobs during development, the long-term effects of such production become intertwined with the overall rural life cycle. Energy policy often appears lopsided, favoring urban areas where energy is consumed, despite the environmental impact being felt predominantly in rural areas where energy is mined or produced.

In America, with its dense population centers separated by vast expanses of rural landscape, the challenge lies in integrating the energy transition into the broader consciousness and policy framework.