In a state where natural resources are the major economic drivers, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon on Tuesday revealed that his austere budget priorities will emphasize the reality of low- and zero-carbon energy options.

There are “valuable lessons to be learned,” said Gordon in outlining one of 17 budget priorities. They include accelerating the commercial development of “clean” coal alternatives such as carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Gordon, a Republican, is proposing $25 million to establish an Energy Commercialization Program aimed at providing a “focused, singular approach” to advancing coal and CCS research to reverse the steady ongoing decline in the nation-leading coal production state. The governor is also proposing the state contribute $1 million for a coal marketing program that would be created by the state legislature’s Joint Minerals Committee.

While still preaching overall fiscal constraint, Gordon said everyone in the state is “acutely aware” that coal production and the revenues available to the state have decreased markedly, as over the past decade coal production has dropped by 35%. “Just in 2019, production has dropped by 10%,” he said, calling for the state to slow and eventually reverse the decline.

“Forty years ago wind and solar seemed like far-fetched technologies that were not commercially viable and suffered from substantial technical challenges,” Gordon said. “Government subsidies over the past few years, including [research and development], brought on a rapid build-out of these technologies to where they are quite competitive with traditional technologies.

“The pendulum has swung and a valuable lesson has been learned; we must make investments now to speed technologies to advance zero or negative-carbon uses for coal.”

Gordon said his concept of the proposed commercialization program is a vehicle for developing advanced research in a collaborative effort with the state legislature, governor’s office and the University of Wyoming, along with counties supportive of the investments.

He said it is important for the state’s coal resources to use new technologies that can respond to new policies and a changing marketplace.