Growth & Justice helped coordinate the publication of a counterpoint op-ed in the Star Tribune last week that showed how renewable energy increasingly makes business sense for Minnesota utilities, consumers and workers. The article responded to misleading information in an op-ed by a national conservative academic and activist, Steven Hayward, who actually called for abandoning Minnesota policies that encourage conversion to renewable energy sources. The counterpoint was co-authored by Will Kaul, a consultant who recently retired from Great River Energy, where he was vice president and chief transmission officer, and Beth Soholt, executive director of the St. Paul-based Wind on the Wires, which works to advance renewable energy in the Midwest. Their op-ed notes that visionary renewable energy goals were set more than a decade ago by an overwhelmingly bipartisan group of lawmakers and Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty. “Now, on the 10th anniversary of that historic vote, Minnesota’s energy system is thriving. Greenhouse-gas emissions from electricity generation have fallen steadily across the U.S. since then, but in Minnesota, emissions rates have fallen even faster, dropping 24 percent from 2007 to 2015. This advantage likely will increase moving forward, thanks to bold leadership from utilities such as Xcel Energy, which will get one-third of its electricity from wind power by 2021 and which aims to get 60 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2030.”
Persuasive personal testimony from Greater Minnesota residents who have changed their minds on climate change are the focus of an outstanding Sierra magazine feature article and YouTube video. The Sierra article describes the outcomes from the Rural Climate Dialogues project and report, conducted in Minnesota by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and many partnering organizations. The project involved lengthy group conversations with local folks in Grand Rapids, Winona and Morris. From the report: “The inclusion and engagement of rural America on climate change is critical for our country’s future. Rural America encompasses nearly 75 percent of the land area in the United States. It is home to nearly all of the nation’s energy production, including oil drilling, fracking for natural gas, coal power plants, wind turbines, and solar farms…Despite this significance, rural communities have often been overlooked in climate conversations. Political debate and policy changes have tended to emphasize urban and suburban perspectives. In many rural communities, incomplete information and limited public participation have prevented sound, publicly supported policy from emerging.”
Our e-news over the past year has drawn attention frequently to some of the best efforts in rural Minnesota to build a more equitable and sustainable economy. The latest such example is the First Annual Frozen Farm Forum, scheduled for Jan. 11-12 in Lac Qui Parle County, on our border with South Dakota. Attendees will learn how to expand rural business opportunities in clean energy industries and by growing or processing industrial hemp. The event is sponsored by the Lac Qui Parle Economic Development Association, led by Pam (P.J.) Ellison, who first learned about hemp working with former Governor Jesse Ventura. Ellison says: “Since his administration, federal and state legislation has opened the door allowing innovative farmers and small businesses to gain early market advantage in the industry. There are similar advantages to clean energy and we’ll learn about both at the Forum as a way to keep Lac Qui Parle County thriving into the future.”
"I went in thinking that I was going to be the rebel of the group…I came out of it a total winner as far as believing in global warming," Harvey Krage, retired truck-driver from southeastern Minnesota, cited above in Sierra magazine article and Rural Climate Dialogues project.