Gov. Matt Mead seeks to recast debate on climate change

Says country should work toward solutions
2014-05-15T07:00:00Z 2014-08-19T21:17:38Z Gov. Matt Mead seeks to recast debate on climate changeBy BENJAMIN STORROW Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

CHEYENNE -- Gov. Matt Mead sought to recast the debate on climate change in a speech to the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority on Wednesday, saying the country needs to focus its attention on solutions rather than fighting over whether the planet is warming. 

The change in the governor's position was subtle.

Much of his speech, delivered at the infrastructure authority's spring energy conference, was devoted to repeating his long-standing views. He reaffirmed his skepticism of climate science. He touted the economic importance of the state's coal industry.  At one point, the governor spoke of "energy poverty" in the developing world, or the lack of access to adequate health care, technology and other services requiring electricity. The term is being used by Peabody Energy, one of the world's largest coal companies, in its latest public relations campaign, "Advanced Energy for Life."

And he warned of dire economic consequences if, as he predicted, new regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shutter coal plants around the country.

Then he added a twist to his old narrative.

"I'm not a scientist. I could be wrong on this," Mead said. "So let's just assume for today, that I am wrong. Let's assume that, in fact, coal-fired generation is the cause of global warming. Then the question is: What is being done and what should be done?"

Coal companies' weak earnings reports suggest the markets believe in climate change and are moving toward lower carbon options, Mead said. Whether one believes in climate change, Wyoming needs to respond to that shift, the governor argued.

"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. "You're not going to find solutions by putting unreasonable rules and regulations that will prevent coal-fired power plants from being produced. ... To me, they (the federal government) are not trying to find a way forward, how to use coal. They are trying to find a way to stop coal." 

The government should focus its energy on developing clean coal technologies, not regulating the industry out of business, Mead said. 

He touted the state's $15 million investment in an Integrated Test Center, which will explore commercial uses of carbon dioxide, and its partnership with General Electric on the High Plains Gasification plant. The facility would have served as a test site for turning coal into gas, but GE and the University of Wyoming announced in 2011 they were suspending the $100 million venture, which was be funded equally by company and state, because of the nation's uncertain energy policy and weak electrical demand. 

The U.S. Department of Energy invested $334 million in American Electric Power’s Mountaineer Plant in West Virginia. The facility successfully demonstrated carbon from coal-fired generation could be captured but was taken down following the collapse of congressional negotiations over cap and trade legislation. 

DOE also contributed $300 million toward the Kemper County Power Plant in Mississippi. The $5.2 billion plant, expected to go into operation later this year, will capture its carbon dioxide emissions and ship them to oil fields in other states, where it will be used in enhanced oil recovery. 

Mead, asked about these federal investments in an interview, said federal and state investments show that such technology can work. The question is whether such facilities are commercially viable. EPA has used facilities like Kemper to establish its regulations on new coal plants, which essentially require coal plants to be as efficient as natural gas ones. 

The governor said the agency is driving coal from the market by requiring the industry to meet a standard it cannot commercially afford to comply with. 

"That is, I think, what EPA is required by law to follow, whether this is commercially viable," the governor said. 

Reach energy reporter Benjamin Storrow at 307-335-5344 or Follow him on Twitter @bstorrow

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(13) Comments

  1. StupidCitizen
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    StupidCitizen - May 16, 2014 8:34 am
    "We all know that overtime many scientists work at fudging temperature related data showing global warming"

    Nice irrational and unprovable over-generalization. Too bad it's complete malarkey. You head-in-the-sand skeptics are ignoring irrefutable proof that climate change is real. The only question is how large a role humans play and, from the date, it's pretty significant.

    Mead's "doubt" has nothing to do with science and everything to do with economics. He's willing to risk our future for short-term financial benefits. A childish and immature course of action.
  2. Todd
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    Todd - May 16, 2014 6:39 am
    Interestingly, the most dramatic "climate change" we see is between winter and summer....every single year. Trying to change the weather would be like trying to change the hours of daylight to fit somebody's idea of what is "normal", it can't be done no matter how much money they blow.
  3. Pigdog
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    Pigdog - May 16, 2014 5:15 am
    You can't polish a poop, Guv.
  4. Chris Christian
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    Chris Christian - May 15, 2014 3:07 pm
    " To me, they (the federal government) are not trying to find a way forward, how to use coal. They are trying to find a way to stop coal."

    Wait! Whoa! Stop! Hold On! We don't take any Federal Money in Wyoming! We don't think the government should do research and then hand us the results! We think the Coal Industry should be totally Free Enterprise, supported by it's investors who invest their money in order to get a return on their research and development monies by paying their employees a pittance to steal industrial technology from other countries so we can sell our dirty coal back to them!!!

    O, wait I'm quoting Double-speak Mead who doesn't know anything about clean energy technology or the research science from his own Political Science - which is trying to stay ahead of the Break the voters will give him in November. Mead is die for a long vacation from both science and politics - let's get this Block Head Out!
  5. position
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    position - May 15, 2014 11:50 am
    The warming and cooling of the earth, is it a natural or un-natural occurrence?
  6. wyotruth
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    wyotruth - May 15, 2014 11:13 am
    pogo - you understand incorrectly.
  7. ChesterIII
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    ChesterIII - May 15, 2014 10:21 am
    "The government should focus its energy on developing clean coal technologies, not regulating the industry out of business, Mead said." If Mead really believes that developing pollution control technology is the government's role, he should recognize that he is in charge of the only government organization anywhere that has an incentive to undertake that research and development. Get to it!
  8. thehousemouse
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    thehousemouse - May 15, 2014 10:17 am
  9. Pogo
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    Pogo - May 15, 2014 9:59 am
    Mead is right to be cautious on this matter. My understanding is that atmosphere transmission measurements taken in the 1950s demonstrate conclusively that increasing CO2 concentratin in the atmosphere cannot be the cause of global warming if global warming even exists. A basic principle of science is that correlation does not prove causation. We all know that overtime many scientists work at fudging temperature related data showing global warming over many decades that in their mind somehow equates to the industrial revolution and increasing use of carbon-based fuels. The bold assertions that this correlation proves global warming is caused by increased CO2 in the athmosphere. Wouldn't we all like to know the physics of how increased CO2 in the atmosphere causes global warming? Wouldn't we all like to know any real physics behind this unsupported assertion? We in Wyoming are particularly in seeing the facts (not theories) on how bovine flatulence increases the measured absorption in the CO2 band above the 100% level. My understanding is that you cannot get more than 100% absorption. It is not physically possible. And yet that appears to be the basis of the theory of "man made" global warming.
  10. position
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    position - May 15, 2014 9:43 am
    Another exciting excursion into the septic tank of social, control complements of Dewage. Huge government, huge taxes for you and me while others,,” ahem” collect government money, also from you and me.
  11. Dewd
    Report Abuse
    Dewd - May 15, 2014 9:08 am
    Perhaps the singlemost effective thing we Americans could do to realign the climate change debate on its proper axis, and reform the wrongheaded thinking of the conservative Know Nothings , is adopt a Carbon Tax. Once Americans start paying the true cost of energy . Not just pump price or meter rate or coal-per-ton wholeslae, then we can have a meaningful round of policy setting for the future. At the very least the subsidies given to oil and gas need to go away. Then we can talk about the $ 50 billion per year we are spending to protect Middle East oil resources with our military so the sheiks can sell oil back to us at exorbitant price and use that sovereign wealth towards things we do not like much.

    Americans like their cheap energy. They are addicted to it. They are Energy Pigs, gluttons for gasoline. We have a hydrocarbon obesity epidemic. On top of it all, Americans pay a heavily subsidized price for their carbon energy , but are demanding we tax those upstart wind and solar energy providers. No other nation taxes wind power by the watt.

    So to Matt Mead and his Medieval comrades I would say your denial of man's role in climate change is insulting to my intelligence; your beating the petrified drum of King Coal and Big Oil and Fat Gas is out of synch with reality. The era of fossil fuels is drawing to a close and neither Guv Matt nor the state Legislature are doing an earnest job or prepping Wyomin g for a future without them as revenue.

    When it comes to carbon based energy , Wyoming is definitely a big part of the problem , and Matt Mead is on the wrong side of nearly all the arguments.

    Sorry , but we need to start taxing carbon or trading carbon credits as a tangible commodity, because carbon is real, and it is not our friend.
  12. thehousemouse
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    thehousemouse - May 15, 2014 7:57 am
    correct. and yes we are getting refugees, mead likes common core, and that is enough for me to vote no for re-election.
  13. Kool Kat
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    Kool Kat - May 15, 2014 7:48 am
    In accordance to your story Ben, it sounds like Gov Mead is being forced or coerced into the Obama climate change. Obama's EPA is forcing so many new changes in coal that Governor Mead is forced to accept some of these changes in lieu of the EPA lightening up with Wyoming coal.
    Sad day in reality that Obama is making good his threat that he will put coal out of business unless coal abides by the environmental psychos of this nation. Or better put, "get along by going along" to continue business.
    This is why Conservatives need to take the US Senate and the Oval Office.
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