MITCH STACY Associated Press Writer TAMPA, Fla. (AP)
They came together from four different states and opposing political parties, but the governors who sat down for a discussion of cleaner energy Thursday agreed that policy and cultural changes must begin at the state level. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he hopes that states taking their own action "will provide either inspiration or shame or both" to a federal government that has been slow to act on the issues of developing alternative energy sources, reducing greenhouse gases and promoting conservation. "We believe states can play an important role, as we tend to be a little more nimble, a little smaller, a little quicker on some of these issues," he said. Pawlenty, chairman of the National Governors Association, joined Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer in Tampa for a summit on alternative fuels and cleaner vehicles. Pawlenty and Crist are Republicans; Sebelius and Schweitzer are Democrats. The governors said they hoped working together across party lines also will send a message to Congress and to their constituents that the issues are critically important. Many states have joined regional compacts to reduce emissions and greenhouse gases. Some states have also taken measures independently and through lawsuits. "Governors have an opportunity in statehouses across the country to drive a national conversation and, frankly, to make some national policy by the agreements we forge with one another," Sebelius said. Schweitzer said that the U.S. must step up its development of technology for cleaner vehicles and new forms of energy or risk being left behind as other countries beat us to it. He likened it to the space race and President John F. Kennedy's 1961 urgent challenge to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. "Today, we have the greatest challenge in the history of this country," Schweitzer said. "Simply stated, the opportunity is to create a new energy system that is clean and green that we are able to export all over the world." Crist signed orders this year that will require Florida state agencies to conserve energy and power companies to use more renewable energy. He said governors need to lead the way by "doing, acting, leading, challenging." "People want this and they're demanding it," he said. "It's the free market at work. If we as Americans don't do it, somebody else is going to." Pawlenty said the steps toward a cleaner environment will be different in each state. Some alternative forms of energy, such as wind power in Kansas, will be not be as reliable in less-windy places like Florida. A "silver bullet" to fix all the problems doesn't exist, he said. "The more realistic outlook is that there will be a number of things that will contribute to a cleaner and better energy future," he said. "And it will depend on the local geography, the local natural resources (and) the local political culture. So different things will be applied and used in different states." Schweitzer said the younger generation must be persuaded that developing alternative fuels, lessening the reliance on foreign oil and other green issues are trendy enough to be part of the pop culture. "Frankly, politicians are not cool," he said. "We need the Y Generation to drive this initiative."