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Governors address climate change

By John Flesher (Associated Press) - July 22, 2007

States should develop creative approaches to climate change, just as they have with challenges such as health care, despite their different economic interests, governors said Saturday.

“No individual state is going to solve the climate change problem, but we can do our part,” Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said. “In the absence of national or international consensus or progress, we have the opportunity to show the way.”

Talks on state-level climate policy were planned for the annual National Governors Association meeting this weekend at a resort on Lake Michigan, where receding water levels have touched off debate over the effects of global warming on the Great Lakes.

Stephen Johnson, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the European Union’s environmental affairs counselor joined the discussion. More than a dozen states are asking the EPA for greater authority to regulate greenhouse gases, particularly automobile exhaust emissions.

“With the states taking action, even if you don’t have 100 percent of America, you can have 40 or 50 percent or more, and that’s a good start,” Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell said. “We can’t just wait around for the federal government.”

Climate change is an international issue, Johnson said, but states can help by promoting energy-efficient versions of products such as light bulbs and building materials, along with clean energy technology.

“Technology is the key to addressing global climate change,” he said in an interview. “Without advances in technology that are cost-effective, then we all have a serious problem.”

Pawlenty, a Republican beginning a yearlong term Monday as chairman of the governors association, said states should redouble efforts to limit carbon emissions and develop renewable energy sources.

Such initiatives would benefit the environment while creating jobs and making the nation more competitive, he said.

“The false premise of some of the critics is that you’ll wreck the economy,” Pawlenty told The Associated Press. “I suggest if you do this correctly, it will be a boost to the economy.”

Aside from improving national security by reducing dependence on foreign oil, a clean-energy strategy would spur investment in ethanol and biodiesel plants, wind turbines, hydrogen fuel cells, energy-efficient construction, and other technology, he said.

States can move more quickly than Washington to experiment with policies encouraging such technology, Pawlenty said. “Hopefully we can demonstrate that they work and entice the federal government to embrace them and even make them applicable internationally,” he said.

Pawlenty acknowledged his party has “catching up to do” on climate change, but he noted that some of the most outspoken governors on the issue are fellow Republicans.

For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger of California is threatening to the sue the EPA for the right to exceed federal greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles. A dozen other states want the same authority.

The EPA plans a decision on California’s petition by the end of the year, Johnson said. The agency also is drafting nationwide auto emission standards that would be in place by the end of 2008 unless Congress acts first, he said.

While endorsing the idea of fighting climate change, several governors made clear at a news conference that statewide economic needs would influence their approaches.

Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, where the domestic auto industry is battling congressional efforts to toughen fuel economy standards, said success would come only when all countries — such as rapidly developing China — are playing by the same rules.

Joe Manchin III, the Democratic governor of West Virginia, said the nation could not afford to stop using the coal his state produces, even though it’s a leading source of greenhouse gases. Americans are on a pace to double coal consumption by 2030, he said.

“It can’t be one energy pitted against the other,” Manchin said. “Whether it’s natural gas or oil or coal or wind or solar or whatever, it’s going to take every bit of this mix to make this country energy independent.”