BILLINGS – Former U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson was in Billings on Friday to talk about the future of coal.
Richardson, who served during the Clinton administration, said he is not ready to write off coal all together. He said despite declines in mining and production, coal has a future among other energy sources.
He said he believes producers need to start planning for the future and adapting to the changing energy landscape. His message to the panel on Friday was that technology will likely be the answer.
"I’ve always been an advocate of clean coal technology,” said Richardson. “I think our technology, as it revived natural gas with shale, maybe can happen with coal, and I think the university here, Montana State and others at this panel, can lead the way. Don’t give up on coal but recognize that things are changing."
Hundreds of high-paying jobs are at stake in the state of Montana alone, and Richardson said he thinks the state and federal government both have an obligation to help coal communities in the midst of a transitioning market.
“You gotta help communities. You can’t just say you’re on your own,” said Richardson. “You can’t go to a coal miner and say, ‘OK you gotta become a computer operator.’ I think you have to plan a lot better than that, and we owe it to our coal miners and our coal companies."
Richardson said he believes Montana is in a good position, because the state has diverse options besides coal, such as wind, solar and natural gas.