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Cats are part of the Wyoming economy

Jun 27, 2014 - By Chris Peck

Lessons of economic interconnectedness are everywhere

Until The Ranger's Mining and Energy edition hit the coffee table, I hadn't thought about the role my cat plays in national energy policy.

The 59th annual Ranger mining edition filled in that blank space of my mind.

The headline read, `"Drilling fluid, cat litter keeping state bentonite mines steady.''

Who knew?

Cats around the country are helping Wyoming stay No. 1 in bentonite. With great regularity, in fact.

By the millions, cats head to bentonite-filled litter boxes every day to dig around, deposit, cover up, etc.

That's a big reason Wyoming's two dozen bentonite mines continue to prosper.

There is a lesson buried here.

A reminder of how everything in the economy and our lives is interconnected.

Your cat is, in fact, is part of the Wyoming economy.

The invention of clumping-quality bentonite is a reason that many households in cities ended up with cats -- because clumping litter allowed cats to live indoors.

And clumping litter, although a naturally produced product, may contain silica dust, which in some states is considered carcinogenic.

That means some environmentally-concerned citizens, who often live in cities with indoor cats who use clumping bentonite litter boxes, will fret and frown and organize campaigns to save the planet.

See what I mean?

It's just plain impossible to separate out your cat, from the economy, national energy policy, and environmental debates.

And this doesn't even get into the question of whether cats kill too many birds, or whether cats or dogs better your spiritual health and welfare.

It's all connected in this world.

That's what made this year's mining edition such a fascinating read.

Of course the edition is focused on the powerful, enduring economic importance of mineral extraction and related industries to the state economy.

But read the edition closely, and you begin to see how complex, how intertwined, and how important mining is to all variety of other aspects of American life.

Take the space program.

You don't think of the giant rockets being launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida as having a Wyoming connection. But they do.

L & H Industrial of Gillette fabricates huge steel parts and pieces to support coal mining equipment in the state. When business slowed down a bit, L & H went looking for other specialized steel fabrication work. It found NASA.

Recently, L & H wrapped up a two-year rebuilding project on the massive 142-foot long, 6 million-pound rocket mover that hauls spacecraft to the Kennedy center launch pad. The company essentially rebuilt the rocket hauler so America's space program can continue to lift off.

Or how about Middle Eastern politics?

A Saudi Arabian prince, speaking for the richest family in the world thanks to the massive oil deposits in the Arabian Desert, wrote a letter recently to his country's oil minister. The prince warned that the Saudi economy is vulnerable to the threat posed by America's surging shale oil and natural gas boom.

That boom in domestic energy production includes Wyoming. And if the boom continues, the Saudi royal family's river of revenue could be in peril.

All of which reminds us that we need to look beyond the obvious, self-interested perspective that so often dominates our thoughts. To truly begin to understand the world we live in requires the ability to connect the dots between our lives and the rest what is happening around us.

Those dots make for the whole picture -- and it's right there before our very eyes, clear down to the family cat.

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