(Casper Star Tribune, May 23) –
A bipartisan group of Wyoming legislators will travel to China next month to talk to policymakers there about clean-coal technology.
The 10-day tour, set to embark June 7, will take the lawmakers to three Chinese coal-producing provinces, including Shanxi province, the country’s largest coal producer, Shaanxi province and the autonomous region of Ningxia.
The Wyoming delegation will include House Speaker Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette, state Rep. Tim Stubson, R-Casper, state Rep. Mary Throne, D-Cheyenne, and state. Rep. John Freeman, D-Rock Springs.
“I’ve always heard, but not received firsthand information, that China is being more innovative with their coal resources than we have been,” Throne said. “I think I’m primarily going to learn from them.”
The legislators’ travel expenses will be paid for through funds raised by the Jackson Hole Center for Global Affairs, a bipartisan public policy institute that has sought to foster American-Chinese cooperation on clean-coal technologies.
“Both Wyoming and these three provinces recognize they have significant challenges as far as carbon emissions from coal combustion,” said David Wendt, the center’s president. “We have significant experience on both sides grappling with those challenges, so the purpose of these discussions is to share lessons learned: what has worked, what hasn’t, what can we share with each other along those lines.”
The delegation will depart five days after President Barack Obama is expected to announce new curbs on carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants and amid ongoing debate about American coal exports to Asia.
Wyoming coal companies and policymakers have long sought to tap the Asian market but have faced resistance in the Pacific Northwest from environmentalists opposed to the construction of export docks there.
In China, state lawmakers, accompanied by representatives of the University of Wyoming and private citizens, will meet with provincial governors and each province’s economic development council, known officially as development reform commissions.
“Having a dialogue over ways they can responsibly generate energy, particularly coal-fired energy, benefits the Wyoming economy and the Chinese economy,” Lubnau said.
The Chinese have installed 60 gigawatts of solar power in the past five years and 40 gigawatts of nuclear power, but the country still remains heavily reliant on coal, Wendt said. Today, about 70 percent of China’s electricity is generated by coal.
But the Chinese have recognized the challenge created by carbon emissions from coal power, he said. The country’s carbon emissions from coal stand at around 4 billion to 5 billion tons a year, Wendt said. The U.S., by contrast, has about 2 billion tons of carbon emissions from coal.
To that end, the Chinese have been leaders in developing carbon capture and gasification technologies aimed at reducing carbon emissions, Wendt said.
Wyoming has a lot to learn from the Chinese on that front, while the state can share knowledge about geological assessments for carbon storage.
“My own personal feeling is that if we’re going to be sending coal to China, it is our responsibility to do everything possible to make sure they burn it in an environmentally responsible way,” Wendt said.