Slone said that technology to capture and store greenhouse emissions is needed, but that investing more money to improve that technology would be a better approach than passing regulations to require it.
In a presentation called "Coal and Water: The Cost to Comply," Alpha Natural Resources vice president Gene Kitts argued that new requirements to curb selenium discharges and limit electrical conductivity in mine effluent will be too expensive and provide little -- if any -- real environmental benefit.
Other speakers discussed the boom in natural gas drilling in the state's Marcellus Shale region and efforts to expand the use of both propane and compressed natural gas as transportation fuels. And numerous speakers touted how the potential location of a natural gas "cracker" plant in the state would revitalize the chemical and manufacturing businesses.
"We can't let our resources leave here again without value added," said Corky DeMarco, executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Gas Association. "We did it with timber. We did it with coal."
Charles Patton, president of Appalachian Power, cautioned attendees that competition from cheap natural gas makes it unlikely that any utility is going to build a new coal-fired power plant anytime soon. But, Patton said, large existing coal plants with advanced controls for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are able to compete with even new gas plants.
"The outlook for natural gas is very positive, but the death of coal is greatly exaggerated," Patton said.
Other presentations included discussions of the use of wood pellets for home heating, the benefits of energy efficient construction and the Charleston Area Alliance's groundbreaking work on energy efficiency in the city's East End neighborhood.
"Energy efficiency is not the sexy topic," said the alliance's Cullen Naumoff. "But energy efficiency is something that is very needed. It's a win-win solution."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.