MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - Midwest U.S. states signed agreements on Thursday designed to cut greenhouse gases, promote energy conservation and fight global warming.
The third such pact between U.S. states means that nearly half of Americans will be living in areas covered by agreements designed to combat global warming, according to the Washington-based World Resources Institute.
The area involved in Thursday's agreement runs from Ohio west to Kansas. If the region were its own country, the World Resources group estimates, it would be the globe's fifth-biggest producer of greenhouse gas emissions behind the United States as a whole, Russia, China and India.
"We are a little smaller, more nimble than the federal government ... perhaps we can roll it up into part of a larger national policy," said Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.
President George W. Bush has declined to join other countries in implementing the 1997 Kyoto Protocol's mandatory caps on emissions, instead emphasizing voluntary approaches to tackle climate change.
States on both coasts have formed regional pacts to cut emissions. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the East seeks to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. California, which is seeking to cut greenhouse emissions 25 percent by 2020, and five other states have formed the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative.
Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin signed one agreement setting greenhouse gas reduction goals which allows companies to buy and sell pollution credits to meet the targets.
A broader agreement was signed involving nearly all states in the region calling for greater use of nonpetroleum-based energy sources such as wind power and grain-based ethanol.
Under it, 15 percent of all gasoline stations in the region would be selling ethanol mixes by 2015, and one-in-four by 2025.
The governors also agreed that wind power, water and other renewable sources should eventually provide up to 30 percent of the region's electricity.
The region could "become the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy," said Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle.
Iowa Governor Chet Culver called the move "a great opportunity for our country to come together and put partisan politics aside, and become an international leader on this issue."
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger offered his applause, saying "states and regions are making significant progress toward paving the way for a future federal program... they also provide the foundation for building a comprehensive program to combat global warming." (Editing by Michael Conlon, K.T. Arasu, and Stuart Grudgings)