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Biden's Climate Pledge May Speed Mountain West's Energy Transition

Wind turbines in Colorado spinning.
Dennis Schroeder
National Renewable Energy Lab
Wind turbines in the west.

President Biden is meeting with world leaders on Thursday to talk about climate change. The summit comes as he readies an aggressive greenhouse gas emissions pledge – a 50% reduction by 2030.

It's an ambitious goal with real consequences for the Mountain West.

Robert Godby is an energy expert at the University of Wyoming. He says the path towards that reduction is unclear and complicated. But it will involve removing most fossil fuels from the power grid and quickly electrifying cars and trucks, among other shifts.

"The bottom line is, this could significantly reduce demand for fossil fuels across the Rocky Mountain states," Godby said.

But it could also create new opportunities for renewable energy in states with ample sun and wind, of which the West has a lot.

"It probably wouldn't offset the loss in fossil fuels, but it certainly could offer at least some substitution for one activity for another, which, in some cases, could provide at least some relief," Godby said.

Biden plans to release details about this climate plan on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Interior Department officials said Wednesday that the agency's canceling oil and gas leases on public lands through June as it reviews how leases contribute to climate change. Emissions from fossil fuels extracted from public lands account for about 24% of the nation's greenhouse gases, according to a USGS study published in 2018.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Nate Hegyi is a roving regional reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, based at Nevada Public Radio. You can reach him at natehegyi@protonmail.com.

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