ND Governor's Carbon Goals Met With Mixed Response

Mike Moen

BISMARCK-- Gov. Doug Burgum wants North Dakota to be carbon-neutral by the end of the decade, and while environmentalists applaud his desire to reduce emissions, they asserted the rest of his climate plans need rethinking.

Burgum recently announced his goal at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference. He stressed fossil-fuel plants still could play a role with methods such as carbon sequestration.

Curt Stofferahn, board chairman for the Dakota Resource Council, said it took courage from Burgum to tell oil executives that climate change is a threat, but he wished the governor would have taken a different route in how the state should minimize that threat.

"He's using an untested, unproven, very expensive technology, that by the time it is, if it is feasible to use, we will have lost significant ground in accomplishing what he wants to accomplish," Stofferahn contended.

Backers of fitting coal-fired plants with carbon-capture technology said it could help with emissions goals while rescuing the troubled industry. But skeptics pointed to the only commercially operating plant in the U.S. being forced to shut down recently.

Environmental groups argued investment in clean energy sources such as wind and solar would be more effective. Stofferahn hopes Burgum's innovative side will prompt the governor to hear more arguments about boosting renewables.

The different opinions being floated in North Dakota come as the International Energy Agency said in a new report in order for the world to achieve broader emission targets, countries can no longer invest in new fossil-fuel projects.

Stofferahn emphasized it's important for state and local policymakers to not establish barriers for renewable energy.

"We kind of see this odd thing, where if a growth industry is providing good-paying jobs, they're training workers for the future," Stofferahn remarked. "But yet our Legislature and our elected leaders are doubling down on existing fossil-fuel technologies."

He's referring to legislation that surfaced this year that was viewed as a tightening of regulations for wind power.

At the same time, lawmakers advanced proposals designed to provide a financial lifeline to the coal industry, while investing in carbon capturing ventures such as Project Tundra.

K. William Boyer is the Managing Editor of the Devils Lake News Journal. He can be reached at kboyer@gannett.com, or by phone at (701) 662-2127.  

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