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Thursday University Delves into Low-Carbon Future for Campbell County

Depending on where a person falls along the spectrum, they might either view the current coal market as a crisis in action or an opportunity for creative innovation, or a mixture of both. Last night, Feb. 21, speaking to a packed house at Campbell County Public Library, three University of Wyoming professors gave interlocking presentations on the future of Wyoming’s fossil fuels.

Speaking first, Kipp Coddington, director of energy policy and economics at UW’s School of Energy Resources, talked about some of the mitigating factors driving future of coal. A lawyer by trade, Coddington had spent the greater part of his career litigating energy policy in the nation’s capital and brings first-hand insight to the unrelenting governmental and private sector pressures to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

“It’s baked into the cake,” he said of much of the current state and federal governmental regulations, explaining that though the Trump Administration is trying to loosen some of the policy, many of it was already put in place by prior administrations and can’t simply be undone with a signature.

As the largest coal-fired utility provider in the nation, Wyoming exports the bulk of its products to states where regulation is typically tighter and varies widely from state to state. In this regard, science takes a backseat to policy over which there is little to no control.

On the plus side, Wyoming currently leads the pack when it comes to carbon capture storage (CCS) and carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) science.

Speaking about the science of CCS and CCUS, geologist Scott Quillman next provided an overview of the science and current research projects at the Wyoming Integrated Test Center (ITC) north of Gillette and some of the technical challenges associated with the process of storage and utilization.

Finally, Dr. Jessica Western, senior research scientist at UW, wrapped up the discussion with an overview of the concept of “social license” and the acceptance of a company or industry’s business and operating procedures and potential impact on local communities, from the economic impact to health and the environment, inviting the audience to participate in the conversation.