For the second straight year, West Virginia University will co-host a forum on national energy issues with a member of West Virginia’s congressional delegation.

Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and Fred King, vice president of research at WVU, will moderate the second annual energy forum roundtable discussion from 10 a.m.-noon Monday (Dec. 9) at the Mountainlair Ballroom. The roundtable is open to the public and will feature lawmakers, industry leaders and energy experts.

The big picture question for the forum is “How do current and proposed energy policies impact the economic climate in the United States?”

Other WVU participants include Richard Bajura, director, National Research Center for Coal and Energy, and Wesley Burnett, assistant professor in agricultural resources economics.

“West Virginia is an energy rich state,” Burnett said, “and the coal is one of the State’s primary economic resources. Because WVU is West Virginia’s land-grant, flagship university, we can provide the perfect public forum for a discussion like this.”

Burnett describes himself as a resource economist, whose primary research focuses on energy policy and the relationship between energy and economics.

McKinley, who serves West Virignia’s 1st congressional district, hopes the forum will help steer Congress in the right direction toward the country’s energy future.

“As only one of two professional engineers in Congress, I need to see a plan,” said McKinley. “America is the same. We need an energy plan because you can’t build anything without it. That’s why this energy summit is so important.”

More specifically, participants will discuss recent developments in energy policy both regionally and nationally, the economic and technologic feasibility of proposed regulations, and whether Congress can strengthen federal investments and stimulate public-private partnerships in energy research.

WVU has made energy research a top priority in recent years. In February, WVU and The Ohio State University formed a partnership for shale energy research, outreach and education. Researchers from both universities were recently awarded a National Science Foundation grant to study microbial biodiversity found in deep underground shale formations.

Burnett said those who attend Monday’s forum can expect a healthy discussion on many issues, including recent Environmental Protection Agency regulations that may affect the economic climate.

“Hopefully, we can get a better idea of the regulations and what impacts those are likely to have on the coal industry and electricity sector,” he said.

Burnett said between now and 2035, the nation should see more developing renewable energy resources but will still likely rely on fossil fuels.

“Fossil fuels will likely supply approximately 80 percent of the U.S. energy mix in 2035,” he said. “We’re still going to be addicted to fossil fuels. Despite improvements in technology, the fact is that with renewable resources, most of them are intermittent. If we relied entirely on wind energy for our electricity, then we’d only have energy when the wind blows. Fossil fuels have a strong inherent energy content that supplies the fuels we need.”

Burnett added that the coal industry has taken a hit over the last five years as total net electricity generation has decreased. However, he believes the coal industry has endured its biggest hit.

“A lot of people are worried about the future, particularly with other proposals coming out of the EPA,” Burnett said. “If you read the popular press, it’s a dire picture. But the worst has already taken place. I don’t foresee any huge losses in the future.”

Also scheduled for Monday’s forum are: Russ Lorince, vice president of external affairs, Arch Coal, Eastern Operations; Dave Rives, senior vice president of power generation, Dominion Power; Jim Kotcon, WV Chapter, Sierra Club; Neil Stanton, vice president for refining, Ergon; Charles Patton, Appalachian Power; Randall M. Albert, chief operating officer, gas operations, CONSOL Energy; and Kateri Callahan, president, Alliance to Save Energy.

Last year’s forum, held in August 2012, featured U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.



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