Minnesota’s Energy Future

The other night I went up to see a forum on Minnesota’s Energy Future hosted by Think Again Minnesota.  The forum was Moderated by former Sen. John Doll who represented Bloomington and was Vice-Chair of the Senate Energy Committee.

 The speakers were Ellen Anderson, Dean Abrahamson and Barbara Freese:

Ellen Anderson – Chair, Public Utilities Commission. Her dedication to clean energy for Minnesota resulted in the passage of the Clean Energy Bill of 2007 when she was a MN Senator.?Her topic:

The History of Minnesota’s Clean Energy Laws:  How the Public Utilities Commission Can Lead the Way to a Clean Energy Future?

“I believe this will be the most transformational  decade in the energy world since rural electrification, possibly even longer than that. . .   If Alexander Graham Bell came back from the dead and looked at our telecommunications world, he would be stunned and amazed.  But if Thomas Edison came back and looked at our electricity system, he’d say, ‘It looks just like it did when I left.’  We have an old fashioned grid, an analogue grid.  It’s not in the digital world.  We need to move to a smart grid.”

Dean Abrahamson – Professor Emeritus, Energy and Environment Policy, University of Minnesota.  Professor Abrahamson was the first head of environmental studies programs in the Institute of Technology and the School of Public Affairs at the U of M and has published several books on climate change and energy including The Challenge of Global Warming.??

Energy Options in a Greenhouse World??

“In the U.S., the average carbon emissions per year is about 24 tons per person.   That’s 2 1/2 times as much as in Europe. . .   Keeping global warming to less than 2 degrees celsius requires reducing greenhouse gas emissions 60 to 80% by mid century. . .  You can feed a person for a year or give one fill to an SUV.  Are we going to use our precious farm land to grow food or use it to make motor fuel? . . .  The capital cost of new nuclear plant is $10,000 per kilowatt. . .  The cost of increasing efficiency is $300 per kilowatt, and it provides a lot of jobs.”

Barbara Freese – Author, Coal: a Human History; Climate and Energy Policy Analyst and Environmental Attorney; former MN Assistant Attorney General

Making Room for Clean Energy in a Shifting Political Landscape:  The Opportunities and Challenges for Replacing Environmentally Destructive Coal Plants with Clean Energy?

“U.S. coal plants are old and uncontrolled.  They contribute to thousands of deaths, affect the brain development of children, and are our greatest source of mercury. . .  The National Academy of Sciences said the need for urgent action to address climate change is now indisputable.

 I was lucky to run in to my old friend Jonathan Larson who blogged about the event and included some more information about Dean Abrahamson including a great article.

Dean Abrahamson taught a two-quarter graduate-level sequence entitled Energy and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota.  He was a consummate generalist.  After getting his undergraduate degree in mathematics, he got a Ph.D. in Physics.  He then worked for the nuclear power industry before becoming concerned by the various exotic emissions those plants throw off.  But before condemning them, he decided he needed to understand their effects on humans and so wrangled a spot in the medical school — becoming a doctor.  But soon he discovered that the real action when it came to understanding and mitigating the effects of nuclear power was not in physics or medicine, it was in public policy.  So it was back to school and soon he had another degree in public policy. (read more)

Overall the forum left me feeling we have stepped backwards from facing the difficult challenges of Peak Oil and Climate Change.  This is a very sad state of affairs.  Dr. Abrahamson and Ms Freese both said we need to move quickly to bring about systemic change if we are going to have any hope of addressing the problem.  I agree, which is why I am pressing for a constitutional amendment to address this and the many other issues that threaten our well being.

Watch the Video by Bill Sorem of the Uptake

From the forum for Tuesday, November 1 ?Bloomington City Council Chambers

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