August 25, 2008

Kaine Urges Joint Approach / Says Southern States Should Start Talking Energy, Climate Shift

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine yesterday proposed that Southern states develop a regional approach to energy and climate-change policy. "The issue of energy and how we will we provide power for homes, businesses, transportation has gone from a back-burner issue to a front-burner issue - thank goodness," Kaine told a meeting of the Southern Governors' Association on the final day of its annual conference, held at The Greenbrier resort. "There is no doubt that the science shows that climate change is happening."

Kaine, the incoming chairman of the 16-state SGA, said regional consensus on a policy is necessary to wield more clout in Washington.

"We shouldn't be absent at the table as the federal framework is being hammered out."

Kaine said a Southern strategy should focus on energy independence, conservation and efficiency and clean technology to mitigate risks to the climate.

But in an acknowledgement of the political climate and the difficulties in building consensus, Kaine's initiative did not take the bigger step of proposing timetables and goals for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, or phasing in new technology or conservation regulation in the energy industry.

"I don't think you start with a goal," the governor said in an interview. "I think you start with a process in which you come up with goals and strategies to meet the goals.

"I would very much hope that goals would emerge, measurable goals, targets that we're going to try to hit," Kaine said.

Kaine's presentation was a more modest call to simply start the conversation.

"There are four regional governors' associations right now and each of them have a regional climate initiative - except the South," said Kaine, who envisions quarterly meetings over the next year to craft a policy.

Last year, Kaine announced the formation of a Virginia commission on climate change. It chiefly is charged with preparing a plan to fully implement a goal of reducing Virginia's greenhouse-gas emissions 30 percent by 2025. That was one of four goals in the Virginia Energy Plan that Kaine announced in September.

Kaine said yesterday that the South generates more energy than any other region in the country - and produces more pollution.

Southern states provide 57 percent of the nation's fossil fuels, 56 percent of its natural gas and one-third of its coal. They also refine 53 percent of the petroleum consumed in the country.

"We produce the nation's energy overwhelmingly," Kaine said.

But as of 2004, Southern states also generated 2,747 million metric tons of greenhouse gas - trailing only the European Union (3,115), China (5,010) and the United States (6,049).

Kaine said the South is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, citing the coastal areas of Louisiana and Hampton Roads, home to 1.6 million people, which could be endangered by a rise in sea level resulting from climate change.

Temperature and precipitation changes could also affect the agriculture and forestry industries, he said.

Fellow governors who attended Kaine's presentation were cautiously supportive of moving forward to at least discuss the issue.

"The National Governors Association made an attempt this year to do some significant things and found it to be very difficult," said Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat.

"The difference between Democrats and Republicans may pale in comparison to the differences between energy-producing and consuming states," he added. "What Governor Kaine is doing is a very smart approach to this thing, which is to ease along a little bit here to try and find if there are some places where we can find some common ground."

Said Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican: "I think everybody is committed to a practical approach and all the pragmatic strategies that help improve the environment, but also secure a prosperous future for people in all of our states,"

Kaine said the challenge in Virginia is to maintain what he called its relatively low cost of energy to consumers while encouraging greater conservation and efficiency. Part of Kaine's plan for the state includes a goal to conserve 400,000 acres of open space by the end of his term.

Kaine also said the state needs to invest more in alternative forms of energy, such as biodiesel. The governor said the political climate is right to do something on energy and the environment.

Kaine noted that energy and climate change is an issue that is on a "hot burner" in the presidential race.

"Both candidates are making this an issue," he said.

"This is really about a Southern strategy we can work on over time to make sure we can come up with the best possible ideas and use them to do the right thing."

Contact Jim Nolan at (804) 649-6061 or [email protected]


MEMO: BREAKING NEWS 08/11/08 12:05 PM on

Originally published by NOLAN; Times-Dispatch Staff Writer.

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