- Associated Press - Sunday, June 8, 2014

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) - Conversations about coal and carbon often turn into conversations about climate change.

Mark Northam, University of Wyoming School of Energy Resources director, and Carl Bauer, Bauer Consulting Group president and member of the UW Energy Resources Council, are trying to change the conversation. They think it should be less about politics and more about carbon.

“We’re creating a safe environment for discussion,” Bauer said. “Too many times, it’s an ‘us versus them’ situation. We need to have conversations that talk about how we get to a reasonable solution. It should be a framework to discuss issues factually.”

Bauer is the interim director of the Carbon Management Institute, a grant-funded program that works closely with the School of Energy Resources investigating underground carbon storage and other geological processes. It was founded in 2009.

As the School of Energy Resources begins evaluating cleaner technologies and multiple sources of renewable energy, Northam said the Carbon Management Institute needed to reflect that. UW is also part of a joint coal research and clean energy project with Northwestern University and the Yanchang Petroleum Group in China.

“When it was formed, a lot of focus in the state and region was on carbon capture and storage, particularly carbon storage,” Northam told the Laramie Boomerang (http://bit.ly/1utN8R6). “People are starting to recognize carbon storage is at the tail end of a value chain and figuring what else to do with it besides stick it in the ground. How do we evolve the mission of the Carbon Management Institute to maintain its relevance?”

At the UW Energy Resources Council in May, Northam and Bauer suggested changing the name to the Institute for Carbon Management, to “recognize that we’re still in that business, but changing our focus to move beyond geologic storage,” Northam said.

The institute is also considering adding a modifier, such as the Center for Low-Carbon Solutions or the Center for Energy Future. An exact name has yet to be chosen.

Other possible uses for carbon discussed at the meeting include evaluating sealing carbon in the ground long-term for oil recovery and converting carbon to use in petroleum products. Bauer said part of the issue is understanding carbon as a commodity and one component of a big-picture energy solution.

A main part of the institute’s plans include working with economists, environmental groups, legislators and lobbyists to understand and create viable options, Northam said.

While presenting institute plans to the Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy, Northam said many of the members said their biggest concern was having only economists at the table. Engineers and scientists should be informing the policy to make better decisions about technology, Northam said.

“This is a way for us to start integrating engineering and economics,” Northam said. “They want to understand the technologies, what it’s going to take to deliver them, how they will be implemented, and start integrating with the technology development piece to have better input for their models and how things will work in the real world.”

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Information from: Laramie Boomerang, http://www.laramieboomerang.com

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