Dem pushes coal study

Dem pushes coal study

The federal government, the University of Wyoming and the energy industry should immediately join forces in a pilot project to demonstrate that the state’s coal reserves can be converted into such products as diesel fuel and clean-burning gas to fuel power plants, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Dale Groutage said Monday.

Groutage, unopposed for his party’s nomination for Republican Sen. Craig Thomas’s seat, took note of the recent announcement of North Dakota-based Basin Electric Power Cooperative that it is considering taking part in development of a coal gasification plant in South Dakota instead of Wyoming.

In a press conference here, Groutage said Wyoming lost out on the project because it has not yet been shown that coal gasification can work at the state’s relatively high elevation.

”The federal government should step forward immediately and form a partnership with the university and private industry to demonstrate that our coal can be gasified,” Groutage said.

The Lander Democrat took issue with a statement attributed to Thomas that, ”a lot of the projects in the energy bill may have a hard time coming to Wyoming because there are no educational facilities to support that.”

Groutage, who earned a doctorate at UW after completing undergraduate study there, said, ”My education from the University of Wyoming was second to none, and UW would be my first choice for pilot projects to demonstrate the vital technology required to move our state’s coal industry forward.”

In response, Thomas’s press secretary said the senator was instrumental in including a Western coal gasification demonstration project in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

But Groutage said Thomas’s actions should have come earlier.

”When something affects every American like the current energy crisis, it is the responsibility of the federal government to step forward and take action immediately,” he said.

In addition to serving the national interest, he said, such action would be good for Wyoming because the state is ”the energy capital of North America.

”Our state has an abundance of coal,” said Groutage, who grew up in the Rock Springs area as a coal miner’s son. ”We are the nation’s largest coal producers. It only makes sense that Wyoming coal be used in gasification plans.”

Conversion of coal to products such as natural gas, gasoline and diesel fuel to be marketed elsewhere could bring about $100 a ton into the state as opposed to $7 a ton for the coal itself, he said. ”It would add billions and billions of dollars to our economy, and keep young folks in Wyoming where they would have secure, prosperous jobs.”

If elected to the Senate, he said, ”My first and foremost position will be to get those (gasification) facilities located here in Wyoming.”

Cameron Hardy, Thomas’s press secretary, said the senator recognized the need to demonstrate that Wyoming coal can be converted into gas at high altitude. That’s why he included a section in the Energy Policy Act for a Western coal gasification demonstration project.

Hardy also said that technology to convert Wyoming coal into diesel fuel does not need to be researched. He noted that several companies have plans to build coal-to-diesel plants in Wyoming. One of them, which aims to build a coal-to-diesel plant near Hanna, is seeking a loan guarantee to be provided by the federal Department of Energy as part of a provision included in the Energy Policy Act which Thomas helped write, Hardy said.

“Without Senator Thomas’s provisions for coal in the Energy Policy Act, Wyoming would not have any legislative ground, or technological ground, paved for advance coal technologies to take root in Wyoming,” Hardy said. “Wyoming is in fact the logical place for both coal-to-liquids and coal gasification technologies. Wyoming will continue to be a leader in the energy sector thanks to the work of Wyoming’s senior senator, state entities, and private companies.”

After graduating from UW, Groutage spent 34 years as a senior research scientist and design engineer for the Navy. He lives in Lander and is secretary/treasurer of the Fremont County Solid Waste Disposal District.


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