MATT GOURAS Associated Press Writer HELENA (AP)
Gov. Brian Schweitzer announced he wants state government to reduce its energy usage, but says he is not yet sure if he can support all 54 recommendations in a global warming report delivered to him Monday. The governor said he will tell state agencies to try to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent before 2010. He said it could save the government about $5 million per year. "We will lead by example," Schweitzer said. "It is time for us to take action." He made the announcement Monday while receiving a lengthy report from his Climate Change Advisory Council. The panel worked on the project for more than a year and is advocating dozens of initiatives, including higher standards for the state's utilities that call for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. It also is advocating requirements that new homes be more energy effiCient, and is asking the state to look at more stringent automobile emissions standards. Another proposal, aiming to push people toward low carbon fuels, advocates a higher gas tax. Schweitzer said he has not been able to read all of the detailed items in the report, or decided which ones he can advocate. "We will be looking at each of those individual items," he said. Industry representatives on the panel took issue with some of the recommendations, saying they need more study before they are implemented. They said the costs to consumers of reducing carbon output in the state's electricity supply could be significant. The group, in a letter to the governor, said the overall emissions goal may not be technologically or economically feasible. "We should not set targets without a solid understanding of the potential to achieve them or the consequences to the state's economy," representatives of PPL Montana, Southern Montana Electric and Nance Petroleum wrote. All three sat on the global warming committee. They also said there is no technology available to capture 90 percent of the carbon from new coal-fire power plants, as advocated by the panel. PPL's Mark Lembrecht said most of the recommendations will result in an increase in cost to consumers. "That's just a hard fact," he said. Schweitzer said he would have to weigh such opinions against those from environmentalists who say the recommendations don't go far enough. The recommendations are also the subject of an interim legislative committee. Most would require some sort of legislation to implement. The global warming committee expressed "serious concerns" about greenhouse gasses potentially created by proposed coal-to-liquid plants, a favorite of Schweitzer's. The panel said standards would need to be put in place to capture carbon and ensure the plants create less emissions than petroleum-based fuels. Schweitzer said he thinks the recommendation are consistent with his vision for the technology in the state. Schweitzer said he will also be asking the state government motor pool to buy more fuel-efficient cars as it replaces older cars. He said he wants a fleet average of 30 miles per gallon. Schweitzer said the goal is very achievable, pointing to the diesel Volkswagen and high-mileage Honda driven by his family. "We're leading by example in the Schweitzer family," he said. Some other proposals in the report: More incentives and requirements for wind power generation and transmission; programs aimed at encouraging people to use more alternative fuels; slow the conversion of farm land to developed land; reduce emissions from off-road vehicles; discourage excess use of outdoor lights; use building codes to increase new construction energy efficiency by 15 percent by 2010, and 30 percent by 2020.