updated 6/12/2007 4:58:39 PM ET 2007-06-12T20:58:39

The Western Governors' Association will focus on global warming, ways to produce cleaner energy and reducing the impact of climate change, the group's new chairman, Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal, said Tuesday.

The association wrapped up a three-day conference after hearing from two experts who explained some of the ways global warming will harm the environment and what can be done to reduce it. Much of the conference dealt with proposals for reducing the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

"I think it's clear to anyone who has been at this conference and other conferences that this is the issue of our time," Freudenthal said. "It makes no sense for us to ignore what is essentially a 900-pound gorilla on the public policy basis."

Freudenthal, who succeeds South Dakota's Mike Rounds as head of the association, said climate change will be emphasized during his one-year term as chairman. The group's new vice chairman, Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, is next in line to chair the association and said he also wants to focus on the subject.

The governors said the western United States has a big stake in global warming, its effects and plans to reduce climate change. Western states now produce much oil and coal, which emit carbon dioxide.

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter said state initiatives won't do much good if the federal government doesn't take action.

He said eastern Colorado is already experiencing the effects of global warming with the shutdown of farm wells.

Ritter said the United States cannot afford to wait any longer.

"It's a problem that doesn't know state borders, it doesn't know national borders, it's a global issue. It just doesn't feel that way at the national level," Ritter told the governors.

Colorado currently has only observer status in a coalition formed by five other Western states to work to reduce greenhouse gases. He said Colorado got to the talks late and is reviewing the group's memorandum of understanding before deciding whether to join.

During the annual meeting, the governors discussed ways to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants by a process known as carbon sequestration. That involves capturing the carbon at the power plant, piping it to another location and pumping it underground for long-term storage so it does not enter the atmosphere.

The group also heard experts talk about the prospects of using solar thermal power plants and wind generators to produce electricity. The West is considered a good place to locate wind and solar plants.

Freudenthal said the federal government needs to help with money for research and financing for proposed clean energy sources. Other groups also need to help as western states search for economically sensible ways to reduce the use of energy and generate clean power.

"If we're going to solve this, it's going to be all hands on deck," Freudenthal said.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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