But others want evidence carbon can be captured
Governors pushing alternative energy development are not shying from coal, a major culprit in global warming but also a homegrown energy source and an economic lifeline for many states.
Leaders of coal-rich states say clean-coal technology is a must. Governors from states without coal want more evidence the technology works.
"There's no doubt there's a tension and there's no doubt there is very rapidly growing public opposition to coal," said Gov. Jim Doyle, D-Wis. His state relies heavily on coal for power although Wisconsin does not produce coal.
Energy tops the agenda at the governors' annual winter meeting. The group's new clean energy initiative seeks to promote renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"Next-generation coal is going to need to continue to be part of our energy future for this country," said GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, chairman of the National Governors' Association, on Saturday.
"It is abundant, it is available, it is Americanized in the sense that we control the supply. We would be incomplete and doing a disservice to the debate and the ultimate policy direction that we're going to take if we don't envision coal being part of that."
Next-generation coal typically refers to capturing and somehow sequestering or storing the carbon that coal produces. It also envisions reducing or eliminating emissions as coal is burned.
Pawlenty has embraced renewable fuels such as corn-based ethanol and conservation, but he also promotes clean-coal technology.
Such technology is a rallying cry for many coal-producing states. They say it is possible to continue relying on the fossil fuel while minimizing its impact on the environment.
Gov. Ed Rendell, D-Pa., envisions an economic turnaround if clean-coal technology takes off.
"Coal states would be back in business big time, and the economies would flourish," said Rendell, the association's vice chairman.
Gov. John Baldacci, D-Maine, needs to hear more before he would include clean-coal technology among the promising energy ideas for the country. His state promotes renewable energy produced through wind, solar and even tides.
"You have to deal with the coal states, but I don't think you want them doing more of what they're doing until they change what they're doing and make it truly the next generation," he said. "Not just say clean-coal technology, but really do clean-coal technology."