ST. CLOUD - Rep. Michele Bachmann has said she wants Minnesotans "armed and dangerous" against the climate-protection strategy known as "cap and trade." But what she and a fellow presenter encountered at a forum Thursday was a small army that engaged in a standing ovation, then some enemy fire.
About 500 people, perhaps fewer than half of them students, turned out at St. Cloud State University to hear Bachmann and author and global-warming skeptic Chris Horner elaborate on what has become a hot topic for her in recent months -- a plan to establish a market for the right to emit carbon dioxide.
But after Bachmann was greeted warmly by many in the ballroom of the Atwood Memorial Center who cheered and rose to their feet, Horner was repeatedly pestered during a PowerPoint presentation by students insisting that he "answer the question" and holding up signs reading "Lies" and "Fact Check!"
Bachmann spoke for less than 10 minutes, during which she largely read her op-ed piece that appeared in Wednesday's Star Tribune in which she criticized the cap-and-trade plan going before Congress as an "energy tax." Horner spoke and took questions for about 40 minutes.
The two critics argued that cap-and-trade, which would set carbon dioxide emission limits and let emitters buy and sell emissions allowances, would drive up the price of energy, hurting families and the U.S. economy. Horner argued further that it wouldn't reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, seen as a chief cause of global warming. He also dismissed the economic potential of wind energy, an area of alternative-energy leadership in Minnesota, prompting loud retorts from the student faction.
Afterward, Alfred Pekarek, an assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at St. Cloud State and global warming skeptic who moderated the event, said he thought the event helped energize people over "what government is trying to do to us."
But Jordan Angelle, a junior from Lindstrom, said global warming and cap-and-trade are issues "not just about money."
"It's about the environment, too," he said. "We're young. We're the future. We know [energy use] is going to take more money, but we can choose to use less."
Cap-and-trade was used in the 1990s to limit emissions of sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain. Emissions were cut in half in 10 years.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty has encouraged Minnesota's participation in a regional cap-and-trade program but is opposed to President Obama's national initiative, believing it would create an economic strain, Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung indicated Thursday. Pawlenty prefers to achieve emissions reductions through new technology, nuclear power and renewable energy sources, McClung said. David Sparby, chief executive officer of Northern States Power Co. Minnesota, an Xcel Energy company, said the company would support a market-based cap-and-trade strategy as opposed to a government mandate, and one that would be phased in over time to avoid spikes in energy costs.
Bill McAuliffe • 612-673-7646