Missouri misses chance to save the planet

Saturday, November 24, 2007 | 10:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:54 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Kennedy is a professor emeritus at the MU School of Journalism.

Don’t feel guilty if, in the football furor and turkey trauma that have occupied most of us these past couple of weeks, you missed the news about the unprecedented agreement to combat global warming that was signed Nov. 14 in Milwaukee by Midwestern governors and the premier of Manitoba province.

I’d have missed it myself if I hadn’t spotted a reference in the middle of another New York Times story and then looked further at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. As far as I can tell, the agreement, important as it is, hasn’t attracted much attention in Missouri. Here, as a public service, is what I learned:

Six governors and the premier agreed to what the Milwaukee paper described as “a broad set of goals to boost supply of renewable energy and biofuels and to tap energy efficiency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” This regional pact follows similar commitments made earlier by governors in the Northeast and on the West Coast.

What makes this agreement special, governors told the Journal Sentinel, is that the Midwest is heavily dependent on coal, which is terrible for the environment, but rich in potential for both biofuels and — especially in Manitoba — hydroelectric power.

This “climate and energy summit” had as its co-chairs the Democratic governor of Wisconsin and the Republican governor of Minnesota.

Gov. Jim Doyle of Wisconsin summed up for the newspaper: “We can’t drill our way out of this crisis. We have got to invent and innovate our way to a cleaner, safer energy future.”

The six states that signed onto this historic, bi-partisan agreement are Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan. Three others attended as observers: Indiana, Ohio and South Dakota. The three Midwestern states not participating were Nebraska, North Dakota and Missouri.

You might ask what our boy governor was doing while his gubernatorial colleagues were trying to save the planet. He was occupied with higher-priority tasks.

For one thing, after days of dodging the issue of whether his administration is violating the state’s open records law by failing to file its e-mails, he announced a new policy of e-mail retention. That’s another way of saying he’s going to start following the law. (By sheerest coincidence, Attorney General Jay Nixon, who thinks he should be governor, announced that very day the appointment of special investigators to look into the Blunt administration’s handling of electronic correspondence.)

That wasn’t all our lad accomplished on Nov. 14. He also filed an ethics complaint against the former legal adviser who warned about those questionable

e-mail policies and got fired for his trouble. The governor is alleging “breach of confidentiality.” You may remember that it was the governor’s staff that released to the press Scott Eckersley’s e-mails. Never mind.

Saving the planet versus saving the e-mails. That must have been a tough choice to make. Too bad the law requires only the latter.

As a proud Missourian, I’m used to seeing our state trailing our neighbors to the north. I hate to see us outdone in anything by Kansas, of course. But Manitoba? Now that’s embarrassing.

George Kennedy is a former managing editor for the Missourian.

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