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The Carletonian

Minnesota bill doubles amount of energy conserved in the state

<y 25th Governor Tim Pawlenty signed into law the "Next Generation Energy Act of 2007". The Bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Bill Helty and Senator Yvonne Prettner Solon, establishes Minnesota as a national leader in climate change and energy efficiency legislation. Included in the "Next Generation Energy Act of 2007" (SF 145) are provisions to double the amount of energy saved by Minnesotan utilities and reduce greenhouse gases 80 percent by 2050. To help the state achieve such drastic energy reduction measures the law sets benchmarks; Minnesota must cut the state’s greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent by 2015, 30 percent by 2025, and finally 80 percent by 2050. The 80 percent reduction clause responds to recommendations of the scientific community stating that the only way to avert the worst effects of global warming is to reduce greenhouse gases 80 percent by 2050.

This bill also establishes an energy policy mandating that the per capita use of fossil fuel energy is reduced 15% by 2015. Even more significant is a provision that requires Minnesota to derive 25 percent of its total energy from renewable resources. Though the law does not include specific benchmarks to help Minnesota reach the 25 percent renewable energy requirement, it does prohibit construction of any large fossil-fuel power plant if it will increase carbon emissions after August 1st, 2009. Not only does the law prohibit construction of large dirty power plants, it also bans all utilities from importing electricity from out of state fossil fuel plants that were not in operation as of January 2007. Though these bans sound tough, there are exceptions and they include the unbuilt, yet highly controversial, Big Stone II Age coal plant. The Big Stone II Age coal plant’s proposed site is just over the Minnesota border in South Dakota. Even though many are keen on deleting the Big Stone II exemption, most agree that by mandating the steep reduction in greenhouse gases, Minnesota has taken the initiative to produce climate change legislation that better than some of the proposed national legislation.

Currently, the United States has no climate change legislation and the proposed Lieberman-Warner Bill requires only a 70 percent reduction by 2050. The Minnesotan Bill also outperforms the Lieberman-Warner Bill in the 25% renewable energy by 2025 requirement. If passed the Lieberman-Warner Bill will likely mandate only 15% renewable energy by 2020.

However, other U.S. senators may be taking notes from Helty and Prettner Solon. In January, Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced a piece climate change legislation supported by the scientific community. Their bill, titled “Global Warming Pollution Prevention Act” (S.309) includes an 80 percent by 2050 reduction clause with benchmarks of two percent reductions each year from 2010 to 2020, and 53 percent by 2040. Also, the Boxer, Sanders legislation includes provisions to improve technology and reduce emissions by embracing renewable energy, energy efficiency, and more fuel-efficient cars.

Opponents of the bill claim that high pollution control standards won’t get the job done, that companies will only move overseas and the economy will falter. However, environmentalists counter in stating that pollution controls improve efficiency. They also argue that investing in renewable energy, which cannot be off-shored, will create thousands of job opportunities in American. Presidential hopeful John Edwards believes that investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency technology can generate over 1 million new jobs.

Edwards is not the only one who is paying attention to this debate. Presidential hopefuls Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Chris Dodds are co-sponsoring the “Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act.” And Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on the Environment and Public Works Committee would not neglect to co-sponsor a piece of legislation that, in many ways, resembles Minnesota’s “Next Generation Future Act.”

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