CAMPAIGN 2008: Possible McCain running mate predicts U.S. climate law by 2009 (02/26/2008)Environment & Energy Daily
Darren Samuelsohn, E&ENews PM senior reporter
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty -- mentioned widely as a potential Republican vice presidential candidate -- predicted passage today of a law aimed at curbing U.S. greenhouse gases within the first year of the next administration.
"Each remaining candidate for president, as far as I understand it, now supports taking action on this area in the nature of some sort of cap-and-trade program," Pawlenty said in a Washington speech.
"The Congress, I think, is inclined in that direction as well," he added. "So I think there's going to come an important moment, here in the next 12 months or 18 months or so, where that moment will be realized as a national initiative. That's real exciting."
Pawlenty, 47, has been discussed as a possible running mate for the presumptive Republican nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain. Now serving his second term as governor, Pawlenty is chairman of the National Governors Association and is one of six co-chairman of McCain's presidential campaign alongside former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm and Utah Gov. John Huntsman.
Speaking with reporters before his speech at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, Pawlenty outlined energy and environmental policy items that he said should be top priorities for the next president.
Pawlenty urged the federal government to make an even stronger push to help "next stage" cellulosic ethanol reach commercial markets. He said he wants to see similar goals for carbon capture and storage. "People are hopeful about that, but candidly, it isn't ready yet in a stable and economical form," he said.
And on nuclear power, Pawlenty called for greater study of fast-burner reactions and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel rods. "The federal government has prohibitions on both," he said. "They need to get comfortable around the research of that."
Overall, Pawlenty said he agreed with the leading presidential candidates that environmental policies and private investment could create millions of "green collar" jobs.
"I think you're going to look back 20 years from now and say this was an entire new portion of our economy that was created," he said.
Climate plan must be 'reasonable'
Last year, Pawlenty signed into law a series of goals for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions in his home state, including a 15 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2015 and a long-term 80 percent cut for midcentury. Minnesota has since taken a leadership role in setting up a Midwestern regional climate plan that remains in its infant stages, but the governor said he would be open to a larger U.S. government role.
"I support a reasonable cap-and-trade system," he said. "I think it'd be good for the federal government to take that up rather than have states take it up as clusters of regions."
Asked about Republican opposition to cap-and-trade legislation, Pawlenty raised concerns about the country's international competitiveness.
"I think many in the Republican Party, not all, would feel better about it, including me, if it included India and China," he said. "A chunk of them say cap-and-trade might work or might be worth exploring, but not in isolation. We don't want to create ourselves up as a competitive island in a global market."
Pawlenty also said he sees room for the right U.S. climate policy to win industry backing. "If it's done reasonably and not overbaked, a lot of the business community will, if not support it, at least be comfortable with it," Pawlenty said. "You're seeing that already."
Under Pawlenty, Minnesota also has set up a first-in-the-nation requirement that 20 percent of its gasoline include ethanol. Here, he signaled the federal government should defer to state leadership. "It's not in effect yet because EPA won't give us permission, but we hope they will," Pawlenty said.
'Don't wreck the economy'
A task force of industry, environmental and other community leaders are working in Minnesota on a number of recommendations for how the governor and Legislature should curb rising levels of emissions. A final report from the group isn't due until the end of the week, but drafts already released convinced Pawlenty to take a moderate path.
"It would be foolish for any one state to go out on a limb and make themselves so costly and so anticompetitive in this area that they drive business out of their state, especially when the economy is reeling," he said. "I'm in favor of making progress ... but we also have to make sure we don't wreck the economy."
Ideas Pawlenty would outright dismiss? "We're not going to make everyone drive 50 miles per hour, that's not realistic," he said. "The idea here is to not get people to stop doing things. It's to get them to do it in smarter ways."