By West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin III

As chairman of the Natural Resources Committee for the National Governors Association (NGA), I recently had the opportunity to review a proposal to make this year's NGA platform "A Clean Energy Future."

West Virginia is one of the nation's leading energy producers, so the topic of energy, as you can imagine, is one that is of great interest to me and our state.

NGA Chairman and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has proposed that clean energy be a principal theme for the association's goals this year.

Our nation's energy future is of great concern to all governors with whom I've spoken, and it was a major topic at this month's NGA winter meeting in Washington.

As responsible citizens we all should be closely observing policy changes on the state and national level, and participating in discussions about how our state and our country are going to deal with ever-increasing energy demands and what seems to be a shrinking supply of oil, which is driving energy costs through the roof. And, as an energy state, West Virginia should take the lead in discovering ways to draw on our vast reserves of coal to meet our energy needs.

In the last few years as I've traveled across the state and across the country, I've spoken about West Virginia's role in the nation's energy future, with the tremendous possibility that clean coal technology, carbon sequestration and coal liquefaction bring. I've set the year 2030 as our state's individual goal to reach independence from foreign oil sources.

This week, oil prices reached record highs, closing at more than $104 a barrel. Just one year ago, when many of us thought prices were sky high, they were hovering around $60 a barrel. Oil prices will continue to see-saw out of our control if we don't take action now. A reliance on foreign energy sources means we're subject to dramatic fluctuations in price due to natural disasters, terrorist attacks or other political conflicts that interrupt our supply. As we saw with Hurricane Katrina, these interruptions can have catastrophic economic impacts that trigger inflation or even recession.

While we have the attention of the nation's governors and Congress, West Virginia must step up and take the lead for domestic energy development. I have asked our state leaders in education and research to channel their attention toward improving the outlook and use of energy. The state Legislature has also been very supportive in our efforts to raise West Virginia's energy platform.

West Virginia energy has historically answered the call to help build this great country's industrial might and sustain our defense during times of war. We will not allow today's lingering energy perils to prevent us from responding to our country's needs in the future.

The above content reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily the policies of the National Governors Association.