As a Wyoming delegation visits central China next week, it’ll spend time in Shaanxi province, a place with many similarities to Wyoming.
It’s not the food: Wyoming has top-notch steak, Shaanxi has gourmet noodles and dumplings.
Shaanxi is home to 37 million and is run by a centralized, socialist government. But, like Wyoming, Shaanxi is in its nation’s interior and is a major producer of fossil fuels — home to some of China’s biggest coal reserves and reservoirs of oil and natural gas.
Wyoming and Shaanxi find themselves working hard to find ways to limit or store greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal.
For Wyoming, such research is a chance to make sure the state’s coal will have buyers even amid stricter environmental regulations. For Shaanxi, similar research could open ways to limit the devastating levels of pollution in the province and in China from use of its natural resources.
Two very different places, but two coal-producing regions with some closely aligned goals.
“It’s so striking how similar they are with natural resources issues,” said Lynne Boomgaarden, a Cheyenne-based attorney on energy issues and a speaker at an international forum on coal.
Wyoming’s coal is pulled from the ground with few injuries and lives lost and shipped by rail. Shaanxi province isn’t so lucky. Coal is mined in sometimes deadly conditions by hand and trucked to China’s power-hungry industrial zones and growing urban areas. It’s an inefficient method that belches a lot of additional pollution into Shaanxi’s skies.
The province, which could produce 370 million tons of coal this year, is seeking a more environmentally friendly use of its coal resource, said a scientist from a university in Xi’an, Shaanxi’s capital, in a paper published this year in a Canadian scientific journal.
Shaanxi’s provincial government has said it’s seeking “wealthy people, graceful environment.” The Wyoming delegation will arrive in Xi’an for a coal forum aimed at the second half of that goal: cutting down pollution from coal and oil development, use and transportation in the province.
Shaanxi’s industrial users of coal must be asked to adopt “clean coal” technology to limit emissions, said Li Gou, of Xi’an University of Science and Technology’s Energy Economy and Management Research Center. Coal mines should adopt better production methods and the province should seek new uses for coal.
Only by doing all those things can Shaanxi “guarantee the sustainable development of economy,” Li wrote in the Jan. 1 edition of the Journal of Sustainable Development.
It’s a theme familiar in Wyoming, where state leaders and coal industry officials are also seeking new ways to cut emissions from burning coal and new ways to use Wyoming’s coal, boosting its value within the state.
The province government’s next five-year master plan, announced earlier this year, trumpeted the province’s success in cutting energy demand and called for more conservation of electricity, as well as cuts in pollutants including sulfur dioxide, holding the line in nitrogen oxide and strengthening monitoring of particulate matter.
The success of Shaanxi and Wyoming to limit pollution from the use of coal is something members of the Wyoming delegation recognize, even if they do it begrudgingly.
“At this point, they don’t probably care what anybody thinks,” said state Rep. Ed Buchanan, R-Torrington, speaker of the state House and a conference delegate. “But the more palatable you make burning coal to the international community, the more accepting they’ll be and the more you’ll be able to meet the demands of your population and industrial complex.”
Buchanan was referring to the Chinese, but it’s a thought many in Wyoming share.
- No Coal Exports Action Camp in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin; Aug 2-10 (itsgettinghotinhere.org)
- Coal trains through Washington: few benefits, much to fear (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Fights brewing over massive coal-export plans for the Northwest (miamiherald.com)
- Greens warn of a return to era of ‘dirty coal’ (junkscience.com)