Inside Energy

Coverage of energy that moves beyond polarized arguments and emotional debate to explore the points of tension, the tradeoffs and opportunities, and the very human consequences of energy policy, production, use and innovation.

Inside Energy is a collaboration of seven public media outlets in the nation's energy epicenter: Colorado, Wyoming and North Dakota.



Wed May 27, 2015

Since The Electrical Grid Isn't Sexy, It Has A NIMBY Problem

Casey Lemieux and Chelsey Crittendon are fighting a proposed Xcel Energy substation near their Thornton, Colo., subdivision.
Credit Dan Boyce / Inside Energy

Every year Bill LeBanc, a senior adviser with Colorado-based E Source, hits the streets with a video camera to chat with average Americans about energy. He usually starts with the basics like, "what exactly is electricity?"

Through those videos he finds that most utilities customers don't really understand electricity or most of them don't really care to. That's a challenge though for the nation's aging electrical grid. Public knowledge will likely play a bigger role in finding solutions to challenges like reliability, expansion and efficiency.

There are occasions though when greater knowledge actually leads to extra roadblocks for utilities.

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Tue May 26, 2015

We Never Think That Much About The Electrical Grid - Until It Fails

The huge, steel transmission towers carrying power to the North Country of New York collapsed under the weight of the ice during the Ice Storm of 1998.
courtesy of Hydro Quebec

If you peer behind an electrical plug in your house, you'll find a massive network of transmission lines, power plants and a whole army of people bringing power to the socket in real-time, 24 hours a day.

The power grid is the largest machine in the world. Most of the time it operates invisibly, in the background, but when it fails, it often does so memorably. To most people, those outages seem like isolated events, but when you look at the trend, they're not.

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Mon May 18, 2015
Sage Grouse

Wyoming Working To Balance Both Sage Grouse And Industry

A sage grouse lek during mating season in northwest Colorado. Nearby in Wyoming, the state is working to proactively protect important sage brush habitat.
Dan Boyce Inside Energy

A listing of the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act could deeply affect the industries making up the backbone of the Western economy like agriculture, oil and gas and mining. Stakeholders across 11 states are working to save the bird's population before the federal government steps in.

"Nobody likes the red tape, you know, the federal government bureaucracy stuff," said Wes McStay, a northwest Colorado rancher who allows conservation groups to host sage grouse lek tours on his ranch.

That's a sentiment they can agree with in nearby Wyoming, where nearly 40 percent of the entire sage grouse population lives and where the state is working to save sage brush land.

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Wed May 13, 2015
Energy Nation

Wyoming's Oil Rush Sparked A Different Boom, One Of Diversity

Ivan Pettigrew (left) helped his stepson, Ray Stewart (right), get his first job when he moved to Wyoming from Louisiana in 2010.
Leigh Paterson Inside Energy

Over the last few years, Wyoming's African-American population has grown fast. According to U.S. Census data, between 2010 and 2013, the number of black residents more than doubled – from 4,389 to 9,182. In some counties, especially those with a lot of energy development or tourism, that increase was big, anywhere from 300-800 percent. Other rural Western states, all with unemployment rates well below the national average, are experiencing a similar trend.

"Wyoming's population growth and decline, it is mostly driven by employment," said Wenlin Liu, principal economist with Wyoming's Economic Analysis Division. "We are different from Arizona or Florida. People go there to retire. Most people really come to Wyoming for employment purposes. That's why during the boom, they move here."

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Tue May 5, 2015
Oil Industry Taxes

North Dakota Streamlines Industry Taxes Amid Low Oil Prices

A Bakken drill site near Williston, North Dakota. The state has a made a change to their severance tax system for the industry, changing the rates for both a boom and and a downturn.
Courtesy of Ecoflight

The oil and gas industry pays a ton of money in severance taxes to energy producing states like Colorado, Wyoming and especially North Dakota. When oil prices were high, North Dakota took in about $10.5 million a day. But as prices have fallen, so has revenue. In the midst of this, North Dakota lawmakers have passed a bill to stabilize and lower the state's oil and gas tax rate.

Very few people in the state capitol of Bismarck support the state's current tax system.

"It was once explained to me that our tax policy is kinda like being on the Wheel of Fortune," Representative Al Carlson, the House Majority Leader said. "Because sometimes you can hit the big trip to Hawaii and the next spot can be bankruptcy."

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