Wyoming governor: Carbon capture technology can help coal

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CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — Climate change is a man-made problem, but the solution doesn't have to come at the expense of fossil fuels, said Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon.

Gordon, who spoke Friday at the Wyoming Press Association's banquet in Casper, said developing carbon capture technology could be the solution.

“This is a climate crisis we really need to address,” said the first-term Republican governor. “But we can only address it if we are serious about what the solutions are.”

Wyoming is setting the stage for being part of the solution, Gordon said.

The School of Energy Resources at the University of Wyoming has been researching carbon capture technologies that could reduce pollution from burning coal to make electricity in an effort to sustain the demand for Wyoming coal. Wyoming has passed legislation to govern carbon sequestration and have received grants to study the feasibility of carbon capture and sequestration and different ways of burning coal, Gordon said.

“I've been very disappointed in the fact we have this expectation that fossil fuels are inherently bad — that there's no way of bringing them back and that our only solution for climate change is to shift everything to renewables,” said Gordon, a former chairman of the Wyoming chapter of the Sierra Club.

Wyoming is the nation's top coal-producing state and is one of 13 states with no voluntary or mandatory renewable energy requirements for electric utilities. Just 0.34% of Wyoming's energy is produced from renewable resources, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Gordon said he does not support “portfolio standards” that force utilities to obtain a certain percentage of their electricity from solar, wind or other renewable power sources, but he said he does favor a “net negative standard” that would require a percentage of all new electricity generation to be “carbon negative.”

Such technologies, which would sequester carbon dioxide absorbed by vegetation, are still being developed. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has identified them as a potential tool to help stem future warming.

Gordon suggested areas of the state that have lost fossil fuel energy jobs could help develop innovative technologies that could remove heat-trapping gasses from the atmosphere.

Gordon declined to comment when asked about President Donald Trump's stance that climate change is not caused by human activity.

“I'm just saying that Wyoming has an opportunity to solve this issue,” the governor said. “And it's critical. It's critical for us. It's critical for our world.”

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