CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Officials in Taiwan and South Korea are eager to buy Wyoming coal to satisfy an expected 250 percent increase in demand for the product during the next decade, Gov. Matt Mead said Wednesday.
The state, he said, first must deal with opposition from Oregon and Washington residents who object to proposed deep-water ports that would be used to export coal to the Asian countries.
Mead recently toured Taiwan and South Korea. He met with executives from utilities, power-producing companies, trade groups, a large bank and Taiwan’s largest importer of American beef.
In South Korea, he spoke at the World Energy Congress, which takes place every three years.
Mead said the Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou told him it had been 20 years since a Wyoming governor -- former Gov. Mike Sullivan -- visited his country.
Mead said his visit with the president of Taiwan reinforced his feeling that growing Wyoming's trade economy can't result from a single trip. Instead, it needs to be a long-term commitment and widespread push.
Mead also touted Wyoming's tourism and agriculture opportunities to the Asians.
Each country, he said, has a diverse energy portfolio. But the leaders are cautious about nuclear power and interested in increasing the use of coal.
Mead said that during a panel discussion in Taiwan he shared his view that coal is the fastest-growing energy source in the world.
Taiwan imports coal from Indonesia and Australia, but the Indonesian coal is of lesser quality than Wyoming's low-sulfur coal.
Mead said Wyoming-based coal company Cloud Peak Energy Inc. exports about 10 million tons of Wyoming coal to Taiwan. He added that the state can't export large amounts to the two countries until the deep ports issue is resolved.
During a news conference Wednesday, the governor reiterated his position that the debate over climate change shouldn't restrict the state's aggressive marketing of its coal.
"We have an obligation to find out how to make it cleaner, to make it as clean as possible," Mead said. "Carbon sequestration, we need to keep that on the table."
But he said that, given how much coal is used for electricity in the United States, Wyoming shouldn't tell another country it can't use coal.
Mead said he disagrees with people who say there is no debate remaining about climate change.
"I don't think we have to get bogged down in saying we believe in this or we don't believe in this to say it's a good goal to advance coal usage and clean coal technology," he said.
"I think it's very appropriate to market our coal around the globe," he added.
Mead said representatives from both counties will work with Wyoming officials to increase their imports of coal, natural gas and uranium in coming years.
"As a leading producer of those energy sources, Wyoming must continue to develop relationships with both these countries and others as well," Mead said.