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Beshear touts energy production and environmental protection


Gov.-elect Steve Beshear believes Kentucky can have it both ways – as a leader in coal production and environmental protection.

In a speech to an energy efficiency conference, Beshear said he wants to make both priorities when he takes office next month. He said he wants to capitalize on Kentucky energy sources, including coal, and fulfill an obligation to improve air quality.

“Some people might say those are mutually exclusive topics,” the governor-elect said. “I don’t believe they are. We can be a leader in the production of energy and also a leader in the protection of our environment.”

Beshear said the state can play a big role in helping the country toward greater energy self-reliance. One way to do that is for Kentucky to become a leader in clean-coal technology to curtail carbon dioxide emissions and secure long-term demand for Kentucky coal. Scientists say CO2 is a major contributor to climate change.

The governor-elect warned that without technological advances to burn coal cleanly, “our economy will suffer a great deal.”

Bill Caylor, president of the Kentucky Coal Association, said Beshear was “very practical” in trying to balance energy production and environmental protection.

“He is … trying to weigh our natural resources on one hand, and on the other hand trying to look at the impact on the environment,” Caylor said by phone.

Beshear warned that there’s a reality hovering over the global warming debate.

“Regardless of whether you believe it or not, more regulation is coming in that area,” he said. “I happen to think it should come. And we need to be ready for it.”

Beshear said the state also needs to diversify its energy sector, in part by promoting more ethanol and biodiesel plants.

Beshear touted his proposal to put $15 million a year into an energy fund to help pay for research on clean-coal technology and alternative energy sources.

This past summer, Kentucky lawmakers passed sweeping energy legislation that includes incentives to companies that build plants in the state to transform coal, grain and other products into cleaner-burning alternative fuels.

Peabody Energy and ConocoPhillips recently announced they settled on western Kentucky for a proposed $3 billion plant that would convert coal into a cleaner-burning synthetic natural gas. The plant, however, is still under review.

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