CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Gov. Matt Mead said Friday that he returned from China this week confident that Wyoming should continue exploring how to export coal to meet that nation's growing demand.
Mead and other Wyoming officials represented the state at the 2012 International Advanced Coal Technologies Conference in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, the nation's largest coal-producing region.
Officials from China and representatives from Australia's national science agency also attended.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Mead said China is clearly ahead of the United States in employing advanced coal technologies, such as building gasification plants that convert coal to gas fuels.
"I think that the next step is that we want to continue to observe what they're doing in regard to gasification and how those gasification projects evolve," Mead said. "The gasification of coal is not a one-size-fits-all. Each one is a little bit different."
Mead said development in China gives Wyoming an opportunity to learn from efforts there.
"As a continent, I think there are opportunities for Asia to accept imports of Wyoming coal," Mead said. He acknowledged that the state faces some challenges in getting that done.
Many in the Northwestern United States have voiced opposition to the prospect of being on the receiving end of countless Wyoming coal trains servicing ships bound for China. Opponents say they're concerned about dust, noise and other environmental concerns.
Wyoming, the leader in coal production in the United States, is particularly keen to find new markets for its coal in the face of a national slump in demand brought about by cheaper natural gas prices. Tax revenues from coal production are a cornerstone of the economy of the state, which imposes no personal or corporate income tax.
Clearly Wyoming has reason to worry about the future of coal.