The Integrated Test Center is open for business. The Gillette-based facility is aimed at research and testing new uses for carbon dioxide, say, as a building material, common fuel, or green concrete. Many hope the center will find new, profitable uses for coal — Governor Matt Mead is one of them. In a brief conversation, the Governor discussed his expectations for the project and the risks that come with it.
Cooper McKim: Let’s start with the dedication can you talk about what it is and why it’s exciting for you?
Governor Matt Mead: Yeah, well it is really exciting and I want to share with you just a little bit of the history in 2014, I asked the Legislature for the money to get this started. That was the tune of fifteen million dollars. The idea behind it is that a real-world coal-fired plant to not only capture the CO2, the flue gas, but how we can utilize that. And so for example with X Prize, there's a competition set up and we have international teams that are competing how they can utilize it for feedstock for other chemicals, how to make greener concrete. And to me, this is really a great solution for coal to not only capture that CO2 but then to turn it into something valuable.
CM: So would you see, once the ITC gets off the ground and companies start getting attracted to the area, that there could be some positive economic reaction that’s relatively immediate?
MM: We will see a fairly immediate economic impact certainly by having the teams there. That that is helpful but I think that the greater vision is that when we are seen as sort of a Silicon Valley for energy as it relates to coal they will continue to have innovative people and teams come to that part of our state to test different products to test different ways to use all of coal rather than just part of coal.
CM: So do you see this as a puzzle piece or a bigger answer to some of the economic issues the state’s facing?
MM: Well, I think it's it's a puzzle piece. Let's hope for the best in that what we're doing now, we find a great solution for the utilization of CO2 that is economical. I still think the state needs to diversify and look at other industries as well. I don't think we solve this and say we're done. I think we have a lot of work to do in the years ahead in regard to diversifying our economy through ENDOW.
CM: So you know I know some folks are worried about making these products viable and profitable given that it's not there yet. Are you worried about that as this moves forward?
MM: I think these things are doable. When I think about what we have solved in the United States in terms of scientific problems, I mean a lot of them look not doable until they were done you know whether it's traveling to the moon or even you know 15 years ago nobody thought we'd be doing two-mile horizontal drills. And so I joke with people I have greater faith in innovation and technology and science than I sometimes do we policymakers, but we in the policy world have to give that element of our society a chance to find solutions and I think that's exactly what the integrated test center can do.
CM: So with Carbon Capture, how much of the focus is on reducing harm of carbon dioxide versus developing profitable new products.
MM: What I view this as an opportunity, is that whatever your personal beliefs may be on climate change and the causes of climate change you have to recognize if you're interested in selling coal into the future that markets are concerned about CO2, Insurance companies are worried about CO2. And so I'm not trying to convert everybody to a particular line of belief, but you should believe this. If you want to have a long-term future for coal I think we need to address CO2 and if you can address it in a way that not only captures but utilizes CO2 and provides some revenue it seems to solve multiple problems with a great solution.
CM: ITC has been a long-time coming. How are you feeling about it finally launching and becoming a reality?
MM: I'm over the moon about it, I am so happy because it not only addresses what we've talked about but I think it really, as I've traveled around the country and even internationally, it's really wonderful I think for Wyoming to be recognized as a state that's interested in innovation and technology and scientific solutions to difficult problems that face not just our state or country but the world. I think that will pay dividends in the future. And I think it's a great reputation for Wyoming to have that this is a state that wants to be on the cutting edge of science.