GILLETTE — Coal may be black, but that doesn't mean the coal industry wants its name blackened.
University of Wyoming's School of Energy Resources and the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy will be hosting a roundtable discussion from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Gillette College Technical Education Center that will discuss coal's many challenges and possible opportunities in the region.
The roundtable, called "Powder River Basin coal: Domestic challenges and international opportunities" will look at U.S. coal usage, coal's export potential and what issues may affect coal use in the next four years, among other topics. PRB coal companies have been looking to add value to the fossil fuel by moving it up the value chain through major conversion processes or by shipping it to Asia and Europe where coal is more highly valued. But environmentalists have decried at least the export potential because of health concerns about coal dust coming off of moving trains and other safety hazards
Meanwhile, many coal plants are being shut down because power companies have been required to update to costly new environmental standards or just build new plants
, either of which cause rates to flare at a consumer level. Also, low natural gas prices, while damaging to Wyoming's budget, have accelerated power generation's switch to natural gas. And the federal government of late has been far more supportive of renewable energy, making the fossil fuel a little bit more fossilized.
Even so, Wyoming continues to be the nation's leading producer of coal and the state economy depends on energy extraction.
"Coal is important as an abundant, low-cost energy source for the U.S. economy," UW School of Energy Resources Director Mark Northam said in a release. "The energy programs at the University of Wyoming are looking at ways that coal can continue to be used in the decades to come, because maintaining a viable coal industry is important to ensuring stable, low-cost, reliable electric power generation."
For more information and to register, visit www.uwyo.edu/ser/conferences/coal-roundtable.html
. The event is free, but registration is required because of limited seating.
After the roundtable, a white paper will be issued to state and federal policy makers to inform regulatory decisions affecting the coal industry. The Wyoming Business Report's
Kim Phagan-Hansel will be attending, and will write up a story for tomorrow's eDaily.
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