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Wyoming governor argues for developing clean coal technology

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CASPER, Wyo. (AP) -

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, a climate-science skeptic from the nation's top coal-producing state, said he could be wrong about the causes of global warming but argued for developing cleaner technology to burn coal rather than trying to eliminate its use.

In a speech May 14, the Republican governor reaffirmed he has doubts about research showing humans are causing climate change.

But he added, "I'm not a scientist. I could be wrong on this," the Casper Star-Tribune reported.

He said weak coal industry earnings suggest that investors have accepted evidence of human-caused climate change and are looking for lower-carbon options.

"So let's just assume for today that I am wrong," and coal-fired power plants are causing global warming, Mead said. "Then the question is: What is being done and what should be done?"

The government should look for ways to keep burning coal while reducing its pollution, he said.

Mead noted that Wyoming invested $15 million in a test center to explore commercial uses of carbon dioxide.

He also cited the state's partnership with General Electric in a gasification plant — currently on hold — that would have tested technology for turning coal into gas. GE and the University of Wyoming announced in 2011 they were suspending the venture because of uncertainty about national energy policy and weak electrical demand.

"My point is this: Whatever your views are, shouldn't we all say, 'Listen, coal is a valuable resource that we want to use today, and for the next (300 to 400) years or whatever it may be, so let's find solutions'?" Mead said.

Mead accused the Environmental Protection Agency of trying to shut down coal-fired plants.

"To me, (the federal government is) not trying to find a way forward, how to use coal. They are trying to find a way to stop coal," he said.

Last week, Mead asked the EPA to withdraw a proposal to require new coal-fired power plants to use carbon-capture technology. New plants would have to install equipment to intercept emissions at the smokestack and store them underground.

In a May 9 letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, Mead said the new standards are a threat to Wyoming's economy. He said the state produces about 40 percent of the nation's coal and that the state's coal industry employs nearly 7,000 people with a $560 million payroll.

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