Governor Freudenthal: Use $600 million AML funding for UW School of Energy Resources
Wyoming has the opportunity to lead rather than follow, says Governor
by Governor Dave Freudenthal, Editorial
November 29, 2007
For decades the federal government has failed to pay Wyoming its full entitlement under the Abandoned Mine Lands program. Currently, the state is owed approximately $600 million. Thanks to congressional action, largely prompted by Senator Enzi, Wyoming should begin to receive seven annual payments of approximately $85 million each. The challenge for us now is to develop a sober, targeted plan to invest this resource.
Barring some last minute fancy roping and trick riding by the Office of Surface Mining and/or the Office of Management and Budget, Wyoming’s first payment should arrive in December 2007 or early 2008. Because these funding promises have been broken before, the only action taken to date has been to establish an account to receive the funds.
The availability of these funds offers the opportunity for Wyoming to build upon the recent formation of the University of Wyoming’s School of Energy Resources and become a leader in research and development of clean coal technologies. There are three reasons for this
1. The funds originate from an abandoned mine land tax paid on a per ton basis by the coal producers. It is entirely appropriate to use the funds to advance our energy interests.
2. The emphasis on CO2 capture and sequestration in the coal marketplace necessitates significant investment in the development and demonstration of clean coal technologies.
3. Wyoming, as the nation’s top coal producer, should also be a leader in the development of clean coal technologies. As a research and technology development leader, the University of Wyoming could attract additional federal and private investment in coal technology research.
Most importantly, it is simply the right thing to do.
Recently I attended the World Energy Congress in Rome, Italy, and was struck by how much of the discussion focused on the increasing demand for energy around the world – some say it will double in the next 30 to 35 years. Just imagine what that will mean in terms of supply and demand, and the infrastructure that will be needed to support it – the pipelines, power lines and the raw materials to make enough boilers to generate power for electricity.
While countries and companies around the globe have invested heavily in the development of wind power, solar power, nuclear power and other alternative sources of energy, the bulk of the energy that turns the lights on around the world continues to come from coal-fired power plants.
Wyoming has world class wind resources and in the next few years, we will see more projects come online as the transmission lines are built to bring that power to market. But in the times when the wind doesn’t blow, the world still needs energy. That baseload power will, for many years into the future, be provided by coal. I firmly believe that Wyoming can play a critical role in developing the technology to make coal a far more clean-burning fuel with a far more acceptable environmental footprint.
Whether you like or dislike coal and whether you do or do not believe in the link between carbon emissions and global warming, two policy realities will be part of our lives going forward. First, coal, which accounts for 50 percent of the electricity now generated in America, will continue to be part of the energy mix. In fact, worldwide coal utilization continues to increase and it remains a critical fuel for developing countries because of its abundance and its low cost. Second, the capture and management of CO2 will be part of our lives going forward. We can either be ahead of the train or under it.
There are numerous and diverse suggestions afoot for the utilization of AML funds. And I am not suggesting these proposals are without merit. I simply argue the funds should be treated as an opportunity to advance and build a focused economic future for Wyoming.
Wyoming has the opportunity to lead rather than follow.
The question is, do we have the discipline to commit?
– Gov. Dave Freudenthal