Phil Roberts at Saturday U- When Coal Died in Wyoming: A History of Energy


Phil Roberts at Saturday U – When Coal Died in Wyoming: A History of Energy Phil Roberts, professor of History, College of A&S, at University of Wyoming, presented When Coal Died in Wyoming: A History of Energy, April 22, 2017, during the Spring Saturday U program at Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs.

The decline of coal since 2015 seems to be without precedent. But it has happened twice before—both times due to technological change. In the 1920s, the huge growth in oil and natural gas production practically eliminated coal as a heating fuel throughout Wyoming. Many mines remained open only due to mechanization, although miners’ numbers diminished steadily. The mines got by through supplying coal for Wyoming’s railroad locomotives. In the 1950s, even this market dried up when diesel fuel began to power trains throughout Wyoming. Coal towns dwindled and disappeared, as did the need for locomotive repair facilities in towns like Cheyenne and Laramie. This presentation reviewed the impact of coal’s decline on Wyoming towns in the past, looking to them for lessons for today.

Saturday University is a collaborative program connecting popular University of Wyoming professors with Wyoming residents who have a desire to learn.

Saturday University is sponsored by the University of Wyoming and the Wyoming Humanities Council. The program was held at Western Wyoming Community College and is sponsored locally by WWCC.

Saturday U is free and open to the public. For more information about Saturday U, visit the website at

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