‘Future of coal’ conference set for Billings in April


Photo courtesy of the Burton K. Wheeler Center

The “Future of Coal” will be the subject of a conference at the Northern Hotel in Billings next month.

The “Future of Coal” will be the subject of a conference hosted by the Burton K. Wheeler Center on Friday, April 6, at the Northern Hotel in Billings.

The daylong event will bring together leading experts and the best available information on the topic as participants examine and consider the future of coal and, more broadly, energy development in the state of Montana. 

In 2016, the state of Montana received $54 million in severance taxes from coal production, and that year the Montana Coal Trust Fund contributed $10 million to infrastructure and development budgets in the state. According to Eric Austin, a Montana State University political science professor and director of the Wheeler Center, the economic impact of energy production on Montana is undeniable.

“The evolving employment and economic impacts of energy in Montana are not so clear, and the difficulty is compounded further by changes nationally in demand and regulatory climate,” Austin said.

The conference will examine the historical, economic and social background of coal and its use in Montana and the West. It will also explore the more complex concerns about the future of coal beyond the debate of jobs versus environment.

Robert Lifset, an energy historian, author and professor at Oklahoma University, will be the keynote speaker during the conference’s luncheon. Lifset’s remarks will focus on energy and history, especially the energy crisis of the 1970s. In the afternoon, speakers will focus on navigating the future of coal, examining how Montana, its communities and its citizens might respond to current and future changes. More information about the conference can be found at: www.wheelercenter.org.

Conference registration is $65 for general admission until March 15 and is required. After that date, registration will be $80. There are also special prices for students. The registration fee includes lunch, keynote presentation and refreshments, as well as a ticket to the lecture with former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson on April 5.

To register visit:  eventbrite.com/e/the-future-of-coal-tickets-39874826680. Registration is also available by sending a check to the Burton K. Wheeler Center at Montana State University, P.O. Box 170590, Bozeman, MT 59715.

For nearly 40 years, the Burton K. Wheeler Center at MSU has worked to provide opportunities for Montanans to explore and engage in nonpartisan discussions of important policy topics. More information on the Wheeler Center is available at wheelercenter.org or by emailing  wheelercenter@montana.edu.

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