CHARLESTON -- Recently, I have had the opportunity to meet with many key coal industry leaders and decision makers throughout both West Virginia and our nation.

Together, we have discussed the importance of coal to the development of a national energy policy focused on the reduction of our country's dependency upon foreign sources of oil.

As the Chairman of the Southern States Energy Board and as a Governor, I can tell you that we are working diligently across state lines and regional boundaries in finding common ground.

Last month, I traveled to Wyoming to meet with Gov. Dave Freudenthal and Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer to discuss ways that Eastern and Western coal industry leaders can partner together –- part of a national movement among states to partner and work toward the development of a national energy policy that makes sense for America.

During this past year, the Southern States Energy Board conducted "The American Energy Security Study," outlining a plan for the United States to achieve energy security and independence through the production of alternative oil and liquid transportation fuels from our domestic resources, including coal, biomass and oil shale.

This plan also highlights the importance of increased transportation fuel efficiency, sensible energy conservation, and improved domestic enhanced oil and coal bed methane recovery programs through carbon dioxide injection.

While some refer to the oil risks and challenges the nation faces as an 'energy crisis,' this is misleading. What we face is the ominous prospect of crippling oil and liquid fuel shortages and soaring, volatile prices. New oil discoveries are not keeping up with historic world increases in oil consumption, driven by the United States, China and India.

To mitigate these unprecedented risks and to provide for future economic prosperity and national security, we must reduce our growing dependence on foreign oil suppliers by producing our own liquid fuels from domestic sources.

As our major utility providers make new investments to expand generating capacity, we're asking these companies to consider constructing polygen, coal-based plants that not only produce electricity but also by-products such as highly clean and efficient diesel fuel, something that looks to become a very big part of the economy of West Virginia and the region in the near future.

As history has shown us, the federal government is not going to be the leader in developing a sound national energy policy that makes sense for America.

To protect our consumers and preserve our national defense, it is up to the leaders in all 50 states to develop individual energy policies that could be the basis for formulating a national policy, drawing on the best of each state. West Virginia has a significant role to play in the national urgency for energy independence.

I can tell you that I and my fellow Governors are working diligently across state lines and regional boundaries to find common ground, and together we will build a solid foundation from which America can secure its energy future.

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