Western governors to Obama: Act quickly on energy

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The governors of the nation's largest energy-producing states are encouraging President-elect Barack Obama to quickly adopt a national energy policy that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The bipartisan Western Governors' Association delivered Obama a four-page letter outlining what steps it believes his administration should take to address the issue in his first 100 days in office.

Among the recommendations are annually spending tens of billions of dollars to develop clean energy technology, establishing an "aggressive" greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal to help stop global warming and proposing a mandatory national system for reducing greenhouse gas emissions through "market-based mechanisms."

"We must not repeat the mistakes of the past," says the letter signed by the association's chairman, Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah, and vice chairman, Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer of Montana. "The future of our nation depends on it."

Huntsman said Obama's administration would be wise to listen to the WGA because its 19 states are responsible for 94 percent of the country's onshore oil reserves, 66 percent of its coal reserves and 100 percent of its installed solar generation.

"If we're going to do something, we need to do it right. We need to be big and bold," he told The Associated Press.

The association is encouraging Obama to improve mass transportation, to bring more fuel efficient and near-zero emission vehicles to the market and to develop renewable resources such as wind and solar energy.

Other proposals include establishing an oil import reduction goal, expanding the electric grid and creating technology to have nearly no greenhouse gas emissions from new coal-fired electric plants in 10 years and from existing generation by 2030.

The Utah Mining Association said that at first glance, it is supportive of WGA's efforts to focus on a national energy plan that reduces greenhouse gases.

"But as you know, the devil is in the details in how you get there," president David Litvin said. "In this country right now we have a big push for renewables and many people think we can just move off our traditional sources of energy supply, but over 50 percent of our electricity comes from coal. Renewables only count for 2 percent of electricity produced. You can't move from 2 percent to 50 percent overnight."

The WGA letter will likely find a receptive audience in the Obama administration.

Obama has pledged support for an emissions cap-and-trade system and said he would establish annual targets to reduce emissions to their 1990 levels by 2020 and reduce them an additional 80 percent by 2050.

President George W. Bush has been criticized for failing to do enough to combat climate change, an issue Obama has promised to quickly address.

On Nov. 21, Huntsman and Schweitzer met with John Podesta, co-chairman of Obama's transition team, to promote the WGA proposal.

Huntsman has said Republicans have been too unwilling to champion the environment as an important issue.

"The environment really isn't a red or a blue issue. It's an American issue. I'm trying my very best as just one Republican, and I know there are others, to remind people of that fact - and that it will take a bipartisan effort," the Utah governor said.

His outspokenness is leading some Republicans to eye him as a potential reformer within the national party as it seeks a new direction after heavy losses on Nov. 4. Huntsman, who has pledged not to seek a third term, won re-election in one of the nation's most conservative states with a record 77.7 percent of the vote.

Still, his ideas on global warming, the environment and establishing a regional cap-and-trade system are met with resistance from within his own party.

Many lawmakers don't believe global warming is caused by humans, and they're unwilling to establish a cap-and-trade system because they fear it will hurt businesses and drive up costs for consumers.

Some conservatives have scoffed that Huntsman is betraying GOP values on the issue.

He said there's no question he's acting like a Republican.

"The Republican values I'm speaking to are right out of ... Teddy Roosevelt's playbook. He taught us all to revere our land, to leave a legacy ... to the next generation," Huntsman said. "I'm also doing a very Republican thing to incentivize and develop technologies that are going to fuel our economy."

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On the Net:

Western Governors Association: http://www.westgov.org

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