Asia-Montana Energy Summit Discusses Coal Exports (The Missoulian)
US, Asian, Canadian energy officials to attend Missoula summit
VIPs from five nations will join Montana’s congressional delegation and the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission next month to discuss foreign and domestic energy and what its future holds.
The Asia-Montana Energy Summit on April 29-30 includes some big names in the business, and it leans on Montana’s strong trade ties with China, Japan, South Korea and Canada.
“Our coal goes to the Asian markets, and we already have an agricultural and cultural relationship,” said Robert Seidenschwarz, board chairman for the Montana World Affairs Council. “We want to show what Montana, both resourcewise and with its human capital, has to offer. It has a direct correlation to trade.”
Hosted by the Mansfield Center at the University of Montana and the Montana World Affairs Council, the conference may be the largest of its kind to land in Missoula.
Sessions include trends in the Asian market, the international energy outlook and the future of energy on both a global and regional scale. Topics will explore regulation, emissions, distribution, geopolitics, renewable energy and fossil fuels.
“There will be no lack of controversy,” Seidenschwarz said. “There will be enough opinions and discussions to cover what should be an intelligent conversation of what this future will look like.”
According to the Institute for Energy Research, Montana claims more than 25 percent of the country’s recoverable coal reserves. But exporting that coal to global markets, including Asia, remains controversial.
Coal companies continue to eye the Pacific Northwest as the gateway for coal export terminals to China. But much of that coal would travel by rail through cities and towns along the way, and not everyone is eager to see the commodity reach its destination.
Oregon rejected one company’s plan to build a coal port for export to China. The state has expressed concerns over increased diesel fumes, pollution from coal dust, toxic mercury and climate change.
Even the city of Missoula has weighed in. It recently asked the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to hold public hearings in Missoula as state officials consider the proposed Otter Creek Mine and its accompanying railroad.
“The key is promoting dialogue,” Seidenschwarz said. “It’s the reason we’ve got so many panelists, so we have people from a number of perspectives, and being sensitive to the world we live in.”
Montana is home to more than coal, and its other offerings will have a seat at the table. The state remains one of the top hydroelectric producers in the country, and it enjoys a burgeoning renewable energy sector.
“We’re doing this to promote Montana first and foremost,” Seidenschwarz said. “There’s a lot of happening behind the scenes when you look at alternative energy and the technology that could lead to productivity gains and innovation.”
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