By Greg Randle
Last month, Beyond Coal Central Minnesota organized a successful forum in Clearwater to raise public awareness of the negative effects of burning coal at the Sherco coal plant in Becker, and to encourage public involvement in the push toward clean energy. Over 160 people came to hear polar explorer Will Steger and J. Drake Hamilton, science policy director at Fresh Energy, speak about climate change and the need to move beyond carbon producing power plants such as Sherco.
During the forum, Steger’s slide presentation provided vivid, first-hand observations of global warming and fossil fuel emissions’ dire and sudden effects on the polar regions. Steger said that it is no longer possible to travel to the North Pole by dog sled because of large areas of open water. Steger commented that when he first started traveling to the North Pole, he never dreamed that he would some day be traveling by canoe. Two-thirds of the Arctic Ocean is now open in the summertime, he said. Steger worries about mass extinction of animal species due to climate change and calls for an 80 percent cut in carbon emissions over the next 20 years if there is hope of saving the polar regions. “If we continue burning fossil fuels as we are today, in the very near future the ice shelf at the poles will slip into the ocean,” he said.
J. Drake Hamilton focused on clean energy solutions. Hamilton argued that more action needs to be taken to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy such as solar, wind and energy conservation. Hamilton believes that Minnesota is a leader in clean energy with the creation of thousands of wind and solar jobs, but still more needs to be done. The state, she said, is looking at options for clean energy business opportunities at a point where our older coal burning power plants no longer make economic sense. Hamilton said that carbon pollution from coal burning power plants is “the number one cause of global warming” and called on state policy makers and forum attendees to take action to reduce the threat of climate disruption for the sake of our children.
Near the end of the forum, Sierra Club handed out postcards asking attendees to get involved in the push to move beyond coal. A large number of those present signed postcards expressing their concern, and urging the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to to require Xcel Energy to plan to replace Sherco 1 & 2 with clean energy, especially wind, solar and energy efficiency.
Sierra Club and The Central Minnesota League of Women Voters were co-sponsors of the event. Between now and this fall, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission will consider public comments on the future path of Sherco 1 & 2 in Becker.
Consider getting involved at this critical juncture in the clean energy movement, and call on the PUC to require Xcel Energy to replace Sherco with clean energy options like wind and solar. Sign our petition and contact Jessica Tritsch to find out how you can get involved!
Greg Randle is a leader with Beyond Coal Central Minnesota.