A family-owned daily newspaper serving Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming since 1949

Ingenuity, politics and glossy photographs

Jun 14, 2017 - By Steven R. Peck, Publisher

Our 62nd mining and energy edition bridges generations.

What's the most important story in this year's Mining and Energy Edition? There's no empirical way to prove it, but strong considerate goes to the two-page spread on the Carbon XPrize, which is putting big money on the line trying to fund a useful, safe, economical use for carbon dioxide emitted from coal-fired power plants and other carbon burners.

See in Section B, pages 7 and 8.

If coal, Wyoming and otherwise, is going to prosper through the new century, then a breakthrough of the type being sought in the XPrize contest will be the key.

Don't count out coal. The technological breakthrough might still come, but it may well arise from outside the industry. No industry in Wyoming can equal the amount of problem-solving innovation that coal has pulled off in the past 50 years, but the endeavors that could preserve it is an accepted energy source a generation from now, involve lots of people who've never worn a hard hat.

The world -- not just Wyoming, but the world -- should hope one or more of them can pull this off. If they can, then the still-plentiful, accessible supply of this powerful energy source could continue to fuel a big part of the world. Ingenuity, not politics, is coal's best bet for the long term.

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In the many years in which I've spent an exhausting portion of each spring working on our annual mining and energy edition, one part of the job stands above the others: sorting through the mining edition print and photo archives for the material in our "Through the Years" sections.

In those bound volumes, envelopes and filing cabinets is the history of our state's modern minerals industry. Today's edition adds to it.

A big part of my affection for the archives is the sense of permanence there. When I go to an envelope from 1958 mining edition, there is the glossy photo I seek, ready to be revisited all these years later.

I'm writing this column on my iPad, with the help of a wireless Bluetooth keyboard. I will e-mail it to a person one desk away from me, who will place it on a pages via another computer program. I'll take a quick digital picture of the photo you see here on my iPhone, then e-mail it as well.

We'll send the finished page to another computer, which will place it in the proper order with the other pages, then send it on to a laser-drive device that will etch a flexible metal plate that we'll put on the printing press.

Every one of the things I've described represent a newer generation of technology than we had just 10 years ago (even the press has been updated). The computers, and the software to run them, are considered obsolete virtually from the moment they are purchased. Other than the press, five years from now (three? two?) not one of the piece of tech I've written about will be used here. I guarantee it.

But that old glossy photograph, shot on a camera built in the 1940s, processed in the darkroom in a chemical bath, hung to dry on a string with a clothespin to hold it, engraved by a primitive piece of technology that's now 45 years out of use, then slipped into a manilla envelope in the basement -- that crisp, clear, photograph is still good as new. It's never "crashed" even once.

And when we make it to our 100th Mining and energy Edition (yes, that's the plan), it and its 100,000 companion pictures will still be there, waiting in the cool darkness, to live again.

My father and my uncle, bob and Roy Peck, founded the Wyoming Mining Association in 1956. Their smart idea envisioned the likely growth of Wyoming's segmented mineral industry and came up with a way to unite them for information, public national and political purposes under the umbrellas of a single association.
 

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