Short take: Gov. Dayton on energy

  • Article by: LORI STURDEVANT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 8, 2011 - 9:17 PM

The juxtaposition of news from 3M and the governor's office was notable Friday. Maplewood-based 3M announced it would build a plant for solar energy products in central China, its ninth in the world's most populous country.

Meanwhile, Gov. Mark Dayton issued three executive orders that set a goal of a 20 percent reduction in state government's energy consumption within five years. Among the projects the orders will launch will be retrofitting state-owned buildings with energy-saving features, to be financed by the savings the improvements generate.

Dayton didn't voice regret about 3M's decision as he briefed reporters after signing the executive orders. But like any Minnesota governor, he undoubtedly would have preferred to see that new plant in Minnesota.

And like most multinational manufacturing companies, 3M undoubtedly sited its new plant to be near its best market for the products the plant will produce. (The argument that state tax levels drive such decisions is often overstated.)

A governor can only do so much to stimulate the market for a Minnesota company's products -- but what he can do, he should. Dayton's executive orders fill that bill.

Already, energy-saving measures ordered by then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2008 have cut energy consumption in the Capitol complex by 14.4 percent.

That demonstration, replicated in state and local government buildings throughout the state, could inspire the private sector and lead to a much larger Minnesota market for new energy-saving devices than exists today.

Lori Sturdevant is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist.

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