WASHINGTON — Governors pushing alternative energy development are not shying from coal, a major culprit in global warming but also a homegrown energy source and an economic lifeline for many states.
Leaders of coal-rich states say clean-coal technology is a must. Governors from states without coal want more evidence the technology works.
“There’s no doubt there’s a tension and there’s no doubt there is very rapidly growing public opposition to coal,” said Gov. Jim Doyle, D-Wis. His state relies heavily on coal for power although Wisconsin is not a coal producer.
Energy tops the agenda at the governors’ annual winter meeting. The group’s new clean energy initiative seeks to promote renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Gov. Ed Rendell, D-Pa., envisions an economic turnaround if clean-coal technology takes off.
“Coal states would be back in business big time and the economies would flourish,” said Rendell, the association’s vice chairman.
Presidents of two of the country’s biggest power companies urged governors not to dismiss coal, calling it the country’s most abundant energy resource.
“We cannot ignore coal, we cannot demonize coal,” said Thomas Farrell, chairman of Richmond, Va.-based Dominion Resources Inc.
Michael Morris, chairman of Columbus, Ohio-based American Electric Power Co., said “the whole notion of delegitimizing coal is something we should all be frightened of.”
Gov. John Baldacci, D-Maine, needs to hear more before he would include clean-coal technology among the promising energy ideas for the country. His state promotes renewable energy produced through wind, solar and even tides.
Proponents say all energy sources have their problems. The key, says Gov. Brian Schweitzer, D-Mont., is a national energy policy with many options and sources.