BISMARCK-U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry toured North Dakota coal facilities Monday, Aug. 14, and applauded the state for its role in advancing America's energy security.
"This renaissance of the energy industry in America, North Dakota is right at the tip of the spear," Perry said following a roundtable discussion with energy industry leaders. "You all are playing a very, very important role in a resurgence of America on the global stage."
Perry, former Republican governor of Texas, the only state that produces more oil than North Dakota, toured North American Coal's Falkirk Mine and Great River Energy's Coal Creek Station near Underwood.
He later met at the University of Mary in Bismarck with industry executives representing fossil fuels and renewable forms of energy.
"People sometimes think you have to pick between fossil fuels and renewables," Perry said. "North Dakota and Texas prove clearly that we're all-of-the above energy producers. We need the fossil fuels, we need the nuclear energy, we need the renewables that wind and solar bring to the table, and how we manage that in our grid is really important."
Perry was hosted by Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Gov. Doug Burgum.
"We hope that what you've seen today you're able to take back and use as a template for other places," Cramer said.
Perry said he was impressed with the synergy between agriculture and energy he saw during his tour, such as the steam from Coal Creek Station that is sold to the neighboring Blue Flint Ethanol Plant.
Perry said the most interesting thing from the tour was hearing about the research underway about the potential for the coal-fired power plant to use excess heat and carbon dioxide for a greenhouse to grow tomatoes.
"This was, for me, a really fascinating and interesting trip," Perry said.
Participants in the energy industry roundtable thanked Perry for the Department of Energy's support of research into carbon capture technology, such as Project Tundra, which would retrofit Minnkota Power Cooperative's Milton R. Young Station to capture emissions. Research also is ongoing to study the potential for using the captured carbon dioxide for enhanced oil recovery in the Bakken.
"It's a real wonderful opportunity here in North Dakota," said Stacey Dahl, senior manager of external affairs for Minnkota Power Cooperative. "It's not only additional jobs, but it's increased oil production and it's a stability for a resource that has been challenged."
At least half of the University of North Dakota Energy and Environmental Research Center's budget comes from the Department of Energy, said John Harju, vice president for strategic partnerships.
Some participants urged Perry to support even more research and development funds for North Dakota. Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said he'd like the department to restore funds for broad, general research.
"There could be ground-breaking technology that comes forth," Ness said.
Perry's trip is the sixth visit to North Dakota by a White House Cabinet official this year.
"We greatly appreciate Secretary Perry coming to see first-hand what makes North Dakota an energy powerhouse and a top 10 coal-producing state," Burgum said in a statement.
During the roundtable, Hoeven also highlighted the recent proposal by Andeavor to convert the oil refinery near Dickinson to process vegetable oil instead of crude oil.
"Suffice it to say, we are really committed to innovating in the energy world," Hoeven said.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., was not invited to participate in the roundtable discussion.
"Today Secretary Perry got to see the true all-of-the-above energy strategy North Dakota knows so well and I hope it helps inform his policies in Washington," Heitkamp said in a statement.