Pursuing Smart, Efficient Energy Is The Smart Choice

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By Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News

As America and Minnesota look to increase the use of renewable fuels, particularly wind and solar, there are significant economic development opportunities for the communities that can capitalize on the building and serving the needs of these industries. Other industries will also evolve to serve the needs of renewable technology, such as battery storage.

Minnesota companies now employ more than 61,000 workers in clean energy jobs. The industry showed a growth rate approaching 5 percent between 2017 and 2018, with 2019 expected to see a more than 7 percent growth.

There is now legislation calling for Minnesota to use 100 percent clean energy by 2050 – no more fossil fuels for producing electricity. It is a legislative initiative of Democrats in the House supported by Gov. Tim Walz. While Democrats control the governorship and House, Republicans control the Senate and are not as keen on a clean energy plan.

Walz sees the gradual shift from coal plant produced electricity to wind, solar and nuclear. Removing carbon-based fuel sources from energy production is an “economic and moral” responsibility, he said.

“Climate change is an existential threat. We must take immediate action,” Walz said. “If Washington is not going to lead, Minnesota will lead.”

The industry figures come from the recent Clean Energy Economy Minnesota annual report.  It is an industry-led nonprofit organization focused on public education and influencing the development of public policy that supports the clean energy industry. It also looks to facilitate innovation in the industry.

“This report shows that Minnesota can and will pioneer the green energy economy,” Walz said in a news release last week. “I am excited by the rapid growth we’re seeing in clean energy jobs and the potential that holds for our state’s future, especially in greater Minnesota.”

Wind energy now represents 18 percent of total power generation in the state and in 2018 more than 100 new community solar gardens bloomed in Minnesota. The state now leads the nation in community solar energy output, according to the organization. At 61,000 employees, clean energy now supports more people than teaching in Minnesota.

Clean and efficient energy covers a lot of technologies, from wind to solar, but it also involves industries that work on ways to make homes and businesses more energy efficient – such as windows and doors that keep a building cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Forty percent of the jobs in clean energy are in rural Minnesota representing a new source of economic development that could help revitalize small towns in the state.

Minnesota native and New York Times columnist Tom Friedman sees clean energy and the environment as possible foundational issues in the 2020 election.  Yes, the launch of the Green New Deal was ill conceived and more than a little overboard in its initial draft. It has been toned down and must become more rational in application to have a chance to see its concepts incorporated into law. It is more about aspirations for a cleaner environment, cheaper power, and a more fair economic system in America – most would agree those are worthy goals.

Friedman asks, “What if Mother Nature is on the Ballot in 2020?”

“What if all the extreme weather (of 2018) — linked to climate change — gets even worse and more costly? What if the big 2020 issue is not left-right — but hot-cold or wet-dry? What if the big 2020 issue is not “Who lost Russia?” or “Who lost North Korea?” but “Who lost planet Earth?”

“… If you look at all the destructive extreme weather buffeting the world,” he wrote in the August 2018, “it’s as if Mother Nature were saying to us: ‘Oh, you didn’t notice me tapping on your shoulder these past few years? O.K. Well, how about a little fire, Scarecrow? How about this:

“How about I bake Europe, set the biggest wildfire California has ever seen and more active wildfires — 460 in one day — than British Columbia has ever seen, and also start the worst forest fires in decades in Sweden, even extending north of the Arctic Circle where temperatures this month reached 86 degrees. Meanwhile, I’ll subject Japan to the heaviest rainfall it’s ever recorded, and then a couple weeks later the highest temperature it’s ever recorded — 106 degrees in Kumagaya, northwest of Tokyo. And for a punctuation mark, I’ll break the heat record in Death Valley, reaching 127 degrees, and burn the worst drought in living memory into Eastern Australia....”

It is no longer speculation that these extreme weather events are tied to a warming climate. The link has been factually established.

If, as the 2020 presidential campaign goes into high gear, Mother Nature makes her presence felt in continued catastrophic weather events, she would be on the ballot. Trump, as Friedman writes, would not be able to incite his crowd’s into chants of “string her up!”

Minnesota’s leadership is on the right track on clean energy. The nation’s leadership has run off the rails.

Democrats should base their environmental message on more support wind and solar development with job-creating incentives for American companies. They should push for more electric vehicles. They should promote policies that make our homes and businesses more energy efficient.

If we don’t seize on the opportunity to put America’s considerable technological and economic prowess to work on clean energy solutions and production, China and other nations will take the lead and reap the benefits.

As Friedman points out, in a little over a decade we will add 1 billion people to the world’s population increasing it to 8.6 billion. “If even half of them get cars, have air-conditioners and eat high-protein diets like Americans now do, we will devour and burn up the planet beyond recognition,” he writes. It’s the world we are on pace to leave our children and their children.
 

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