Solar Bike Tour in Bridge Square

The Green Bike Tour passed through Northfield last evening and shared their views and concerns about our energy and economic future on their way through South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Their goal is to educate and inform people about the importance of shifting our reliance on fossil fuel based energy to renewable energy. They use the battery-operated bikes to make their point attract attention and begin discussion about a different way of thinking about energy.

The bike equipped with solar panels over the front wheel are able to recharge while in the sun, in use or stationary.

Bruce Anderson, of ReNew Northfield provided introductions for all participants. The riders were given a few minutes to talk about their energy goals and the work they have been doing in Iowa and else where Riders with us yesterday were David Osterberg and Tom Cook from the University of Iowa, nvironmental entrepreneur Ed Woolsey of Martinsdale IA, John Dunlop of the American Wind Energy Association. Candidates from all local races, including Representative for Dist. 25B, County Commissioner, Mayoral and City Council were present. John e-mailed me later that, “The tour does get enough attention to bring out the press and policy makers and last night was a good example now the relatively small impact of environmental and economic impact of biking can be linked to huge policy opportunities such as statewide renewable energy standards, county use of environmentally friendly fuels, and city initiatives to foster the development of renewable energy businesses.”

In twenty-five years we could be out of oil, as Niel Ritchie of the League of Rural Voters, a sponsor of the project, said following the presentations. Twenty-five years is not much time, one generation, to put a plan in place that will save us from an energy catastrophe, but we can do it if we develop a serious plan for energy independence. At the Solar Bike stop, I proposed that this is just what Minnesota needs, a coherent energy plan based on renewable energy and distributed generation. We need to commit ourselves to an energy future that will secure a safe and prosperous future for generations to come. An energy plan should be based on renewables and generation that produces energy where it is used will not only be better for the environment, it would also spark economic development across the state that rural Minnesota desperately needs. I pointed out that Ray’s co-authoring of the bill promoting Mesaba Coal gasification, a 2000 megawatt project, sets the wrong course for energy development in Minnesota, and unless it can be reversed before it is operational, it would make the plan I am proposing very difficult. Why? Because a plant that size will not only make further energy development unnecessary, it also relies on huge infrastructure upgrades that sets in steel and concrete a commitment to the central station model, a large generating plant and power lines to move energy over great distances. Shipping large amounts of power long distances puts our electric grid at risk. The process of coal gasification is experimental, it is typically a 300MW design and has never been done at this magnitude. Coal gasification still produces emissions. The mercury reduction technology is unproven, and may well be overstated. CO2 emission is a huge problem unless the gas is sequestered, and there is no sequestration requirement in Mesaba’s plan or the legislation. for that.

I am impressed with plans and ideas on a national level proposed by the Apollo Project.

As George Lakoff says in Don’t Think of an Elephant:

…at the present moment there is a strategic proposal called the New Apollo Initiative. Simply put, the idea is to put thirty billion dollars a year—which is the amount that now goes in subsidies to support the coal and gas industries—into alternative energy. What makes this strategic? It is strategic because it is not just an energy issue or a sustainability issue. It is also:

– A jobs issue: It would create two to four million jobs.
– A health issue: Less air pollution means less childhood asthma.
– A clean water, clean air issue.
– A species issue, because it would clean up environments and habitats.
– A global warming issue, because we would be making a contribution to lowering greenhouse gasses without a program specifically for global warming.
– A foreign policy issue, because we would no longer be dependent on Middle Eastern oil.
– A Third World development issue, because every country, no matter how “underdeveloped,” can make its own energy if it has the appropriate alternative technologies. Such countries would not have to borrow money to buy oil and pollute their environments. And they would not have to pay interest on the money borrowed. Furthermore, every dollar invested in energy in the Third World has a multiplier effect of six.

In short, a massive investment in alternative energy has an enormous yield over many issue areas. This is not just about energy; it is about jobs, health, clean air and water, habitat, global warming, foreign policy, and Third World development. It is also about putting together new coalitions and organizing new institutions and new constituencies.

Thirty billion dollars a year for ten years put into alternative energy would have massive effects. But progressive candidates are still thinking in much smaller terms, not long-term and strategically.

Minnesota could lead the way by putting in place a plan that would set us on that path and taking the steps to get us to a renewable energy future.

As your Representative, this would be one of my highest priorities.

Recently I got an e-mail from a James in London who had found my website by searching Google and sent me a link to his website on energy news around the globe have a look. Click here.

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