Wyoming, West Virginia come together on coal

Wyoming, West Virginia come together on coal

Wyoming and West Virginia are the only two states that can meet the nation’s increasing hunger for coal, the chairman of one of the nation’s largest coal companies said Friday.

Steve Leer, chairman of Arch Coal, spoke to reporters along with Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal and West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin in Gillette before the governors took a tour of Arch’s Black Thunder mine, southeast of Wright.

Both governors say they see coal as playing a critical role in meeting the nation’s future energy needs. Freudenthal invited Manchin to tour Wyoming’s coal country in an effort to have the states increasingly work together on coal issues.

Leer said his company has been looking at the nation’s likely electrical generation needs over the next 10 to 25 years.

“The Energy Information Agency forecasts that coal generation not only will maintain a 50 to 51 percent share of the nation’s electricity, it will actually grow to a 57 percent share,” Leer said.

In production terms, Leer said the United States uses about 1 billion tons a day of coal in coal-fired generation plants. He said that will likely increase to about 1.7 billion tons a day by the year 2030.

“Frankly, there are only two states that can step into the breach, and supply the bulk of that growing need, and their governors are both sitting here,” Leer said.

Manchin said Wyoming has overtaken West Virginia’s traditional role as the nation’s largest coal-producing state, while his state remains the largest producer of bituminous coal.

“As Americans, we’re sending about $315 billion a year, it’s coming close to $1 billion a day, buying foreign oil,” Manchin said. “By 2020, our gross domestic product will be $4.6 trillion that will be dependent on foreign oil. Something has to be done for the future of our nation, the future of our children and our grandchildren.”

Freudenthal said eastern and western coal-producing states worked together in the 1970s and 1980s on common issues, but drifted apart over environmental issues and discussions of eastern versus western coal.

Freudenthal said it’s now time that the eastern and western coal states start working together again.

“No matter how optimistic you are about gas and oil, it does not fill the gap between the energy needs of this country,” Freudenthal said. “And it’s going to have to be filled by a significant participation of coal, at least over the next 50 to 60 years. And we’re here to encourage that.”

Manchin is scheduled to be Freudenthal’s guest at the One Shot Antelope Hunt near Lander today.

Copyright © 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved

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