This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2007, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
America's seemingly insatiable appetite for electricity and fuel, global competition for energy to feed emergent economies, and studies about global warming haven't been enough to prompt members of Congress to pass meaningful laws to control our energy future and curb greenhouse gases.
So, for the first time, the National Governors Association, which is tired of federal legislative and executive dithering, has created specific priorities for Congress to consider this session, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. announced Sunday.
At the top of the list - in fact, an "imperative" - is acting to head off the devastation of climate change, Huntsman said during opening remarks at the three-day Utah Energy Summit in downtown Salt Lake City.
The governors want expanded alternative fuels programs, vehicles with better fuel efficiency, continued renewable energy development tax credits, new clean-coal technology that will eliminate emissions of greenhouse gases, enhanced focus on conservation and energy efficiency, and a massive funding infusion for new technology.
"It's nice to think in the abstract, it's nice to argue in the abstract, but it's time to get in the concrete," Huntsman said.
But not without considering long-term effects of energy development, said Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat who salts his progressive goals with hard-nosed realism.
Schweitzer, who huddled privately with Huntsman after the two opened the summit, reminded the more than 450 attendees that American Indian tribes advocated looking ahead seven generations when considering their actions.
If the United States did this now, it would be better off, Schweitzer said. Instead, we rely on mostly unfriendly nations for 4 billion barrels of oil a year.
With a 300-year supply of coal, the nation has no energy shortage, Schweitzer said. Rather, we have a technology shortage that won't change unless Congress spends more money to develop technology that strips and disposes of greenhouse gases that coal-burning power plants generate.
Schweitzer called the federal expenditure of $200 million on developing such technology "a joke," especially when the government is spending billions of dollars importing energy.
"Coal is our future," he said, chiding those who would abandon coal or ignore nuclear power potential. "Are you willing to sit naked in trees and eat nuts?"
Reporting on what the 110th Congress is up to regarding the energy future, Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, said climate change is the dominant issue.
"The science is clear," he said. "There's now very high confidence the Earth is warming."
Matheson sits on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which he said is working on climate change legislation that will pass, but that other such bills now before Congress won't.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who in January created a Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, has said she wants a comprehensive energy bill ready by July 4. Matheson said his committee won't meet that deadline.
"This is a complex issue," he said. "Congress doesn't usually do well with really complicated issues."
Huntsman, chairman of the governors' association Natural Resources Committee, presided over the committee's field hearing that set the agenda for the rest of the summit.
Huntsman's goal is to ensure the West stands out as a national leader on energy policy, especially regarding conservation and energy efficiency. The governor already has launched an ambitious campaign to increase Utah's overall energy efficiency by 20 percent by 2015.
Some of the West's biggest names in energy, including $10,000-apiece Platinum sponsors Arch Coal, Rocky Mountain Power, Questar, Chevron and Bill Barrett Corp., are paying for the summit.
The conference is drawing elected officials and environmental advocates, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and Utah Clean Energy. But some environmental groups have criticized the summit organizer, Jim Sims, for his ties to extractive industry groups.
In 2001, Sims managed communications for Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force, a panel criticized for taking too much advice from the fossil fuel industry and doing so behind closed doors. In 2004, he gathered lawmakers - including Utah GOP Reps. Chris Cannon and Rob Bishop - on the energy industry's tab for an exclusive golf weekend in Phoenix to draft a "to-do" list for Congress and raise money for the lawmakers.
Sims told The Salt Lake Tribune the criticism was a "cheap shot" that ignores the diverse perspectives reflected in the summit's agenda.
The Utah Energy Summit continues through Tuesday. For a complete agenda and admission prices, see http://www.utahenergysummit.com.