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UW Graduate Student's Policy Model Shows Wyoming Could Benefit from Climate Bill

October 5, 2009
Three men
University of Wyoming Researcher Milt Geiger, left, discusses his economic policy model with agricultural economists Don McCleod, center, and Roger Coupal.

Research conducted by a University of Wyoming graduate student shows the Cowboy State could experience benefits from national climate change legislation and a cap-and-trade system to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.

Milton Geiger, who received a dual master's degree from UW's Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics and the Haub School of Environment and National Resources (ENR), created a policy model based on data generated by the U.S. Department of Energy that showed a global warming policy would likely increase tax revenues generated by Wyoming's fossil fuel extraction.

The climate bill would essentially require factories, utilities and refineries to pay for the right to emit carbon dioxide. While some members of Congress have argued that passage of the bill could lead to higher energy prices for consumers, Geiger believes Wyoming should consider the merits of the bill.

"Because Wyoming is a leader in energy, it could consider this legislation an opportunity to place more of an emphasis on extracting cleaner energy provided by natural gas with this added economic incentive and better position itself, from a policy standpoint, to be a leader in investing in and developing renewable wind energy," says Geiger, who presented his research at the 2009 Western Agricultural Economics Association conference in Hawaii.

Also, Geiger's research shows Wyoming would likely experience an increase in national gas production if a current Senate bill aimed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050, from 2005 levels, is passed into law.

Geiger's work also focused on aspects of clean coal technology and showed that UW research into coal gasification and carbon sequestration could provide additional benefits to the state.

"The issue that Milt's work emphasized is that state tax revenues depend on what mix of energy the policy generates, and how that energy source is effectively taxed," says Roger Coupal, Geiger's academic adviser and head of the UW Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics.

To conduct his research, Geiger received a graduate assistantship and funding support through the UW School of Energy Resources.

"Supporting graduate students such as Milt is a good example of how ENR, the School of Energy Resources and Agricultural and Applied Economics partner so effectively to increase knowledge about compelling issues," says Indy Burke, director of the Haub School and Ruckelshaus Institute of Environment and Natural Resources.

Recently, Geiger was hired as an extension educator, with an emphasis on energy, for the UW Cooperative Extension Service.

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