Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn., said in an Associated Press interview that getting more states to limit greenhouse gases is a priority among clean energy issues for the group. Others include spurring energy conservation and broadening use of renewable fuels such as ethanol.
"We have a federal government that doesn't seem to want to move as fast or as bold as many would like" on these issues, Pawlenty said.
If enough states act to curtail greenhouse gases, "it becomes a de facto national policy," he said.
A dozen states have adopted plans to require a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from motor vehicles and three other states are considering similar action. Auto companies complain that the limits would require increases in average mile-per-gallon standards that may not be achievable.
In a ruling Wednesday, a federal judge in Vermont said states have the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles and rejected arguments that only the federal government could do so.
Pawlenty said limits by California, Oregon, Washington and most states in the Northeast "could be the basis for what happens across the rest of the country." That includes the Midwest, where states have been more reluctant to take steps against global warming.
"One of our objectives in the coming year is to either regionally or nationally expand those approaches" and "put a marker out there" with regional groups "or even a national compact" aimed at curtailing greenhouse gases, he said.
Later, at a news conference with Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, Pawlenty discussed how states can promote conservation and alternative fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel, and accelerate development of clean energy technologies.
The association announced a task force, headed by eight governors, to advance clean energy development at the state level and potentially "alter the landscape of clean energy policy in the United States." The Energy Department said it will provide $610,000 to support the association's effort.
Many governors already are at work in these issues, said Sebelius, who is helping lead the association's clean energy program. "This initiative broadens that commitment." Pawlenty said governors are ready "to lead the way in crafting a sensible, sustainable clean energy future."
But some environmentalists said Pawlenty was sending a mixed message on clean energy in his own state. He is embracing renewable fuels, conservation and a requirement to cut global warming emissions by 80 percent by mid-century, they said, but also endorsing construction of a large new coal-burning power plant right across the border in South Dakota.
Because Minnesota would use half the power from the plant, the state has had a say in allowing construction to move forward.
That plant will emit 4.7 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental advocacy group.
Pawlenty, in the interview, said he disagrees with the argument by some "that the future involves no coal."
He said he favors development of clean coal technology and coal-burning power plants where carbon is captured and sequestered. But, he added, "there's probably an awkward five-year transition in between and in the meantime the world goes on."
By H. Josef Hebert