In today's election cycles, people typically focus on relatively short-term concerns that most affect them as individuals. We must remember that it is imperative that we have long-term strategic plans if we are to avoid two significant problems looming over society. Those two problems are obvious concerns to us in the science and engineering fields, and their solutions are related.
The problems are energy supply and climate change. Modern society depends on energy. Both America and the world are rapidly exhausting energy reserves, which nature is not replenishing. In particular, oil is being used at a rate that guarantees a future energy crisis.
The huge amount of coal that is burned in America is also a significant contributor to global warming.
Our society will soon have to decide how to develop new, clean energy sources if we want to maintain our high standards of living and avoid long-term climate damage.
Some energy plans are comprehensive and excellent. They include significant conservation efforts and a rapid expansion of wind, solar and nuclear power supplies. These solutions simultaneously address energy supply and they greatly reduce or eliminate greenhouse gas emissions, which are causing both global warming and ocean acidification.
These technologies also have the advantage of bringing highly skilled and well-paid industries to Minnesota. Everyone wins: the consumer, the producers and the environment.
Other plans are foolhardy, like extraction of tars locked away in shale and sands, which wastes tremendous amounts of energy and water and poisons the local environment.
Alberta has already experienced incredible amounts of water pollution because it is utilizing tar-sand extraction. Furthermore, the use of tar sands and shale oil will make the global warming problem worse because of the poor quality of the oil and the expensive extraction techniques. Finally, use of unconventional oil and tar will not help the Minnesota economy; these fuels are extracted outside of Minnesota.
We encourage the candidates for office to give strong consideration to a comprehensive energy plan that promotes clean, renewable production of energy using techniques that reduce the threat of climate change. These two threats are far greater than the short-term economic downturn we are currently experiencing.
We need representatives who understand energy and the environment and are prepared to make long-term decisions to deal with these coming problems.
JOHN ABRAHAM, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING
Greg Mowry, associate professor, University of St. Thomas School of Engineering
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If you want a cleaner energy future, the choice for governor is clear.
GOP endorsee Tom Emmer would repeal Minnesota's Renewable Energy Standard, which requires at least 25 percent of our electricity to come from wind and solar by 2020. He wants to help build more coal plants in Minnesota. Emmer calls climate change science "Al Gore's climate porn." He will take our state backwards to more coal and more polluting fossil fuels.
Independence Party endorsee Tom Horner's website talks about "fair, safe, and reliable" energy, but the only specific energy source he mentions is nuclear power. Although he won't disclose his public relations clients, his former firm recently represented Partners for Affordable Energy, which is the front group supporting the coal industry and fighting clean energy legislation.
Mark Dayton has a strong vision for creating jobs through clean energy and energy efficiency. His Energy Savings Fund would retrofit Minnesota public and university buildings to save money, save energy, and put Minnesotans to work in the hard-hit construction and building trades. He believes if we fully develop our Minnesota-based clean energy sources like wind, solar and biomass, we can move toward jobs and energy independence for our state.
As the former commissioner of Energy and Economic Development, Dayton knows smart energy solutions can be among our best jobs strategies.
The choice is clear: Vote for Mark Dayton to move our state forward for clean energy, good jobs and energy independence.
SEN. ELLEN ANDERSON, DFL-ST. PAUL
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In 2007 the Minnesota House voted on making alternative energy production a law due to concerns over global warming. The bill passed 123-10.
Rep. Tom Emmer, now the GOP gubernatorial endorsed candidate, was one of those 10 who did not jump on the populist green bandwagon, but instead stood for sound science and personal liberty and freedom. Since that vote, it has been found that multiple sources of the "Earth is warming" movement have been involved in junk science. His vote that day demonstrates his sound public policy instincts, a quality we need to have in a governor going into an uncertain future.
JIM HALONEN, Delano
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I'm amazed to learn that in this economic climate, Congress is considering legislation that would fill the pockets of the ethanol industry to the tune of $30 billion over the next five years, and extend the 54 cents per gallon tariff on imported ethanol.
The U.S. ethanol industry is already the world's largest, producing more than 12 billion gallons of corn ethanol per year. It benefits from generous government mandates that guarantee profits for years.
Americans have spent $45 billion since 1980 to grow this industry. Does it really need more of our hard-earned money?
Experts, including the Congressional Budget Office, leading agricultural economists, anti-hunger activists, taxpayer organizations and food producers agree that it's time to end our current policies.
Congress should let our current ethanol policies expire on Dec. 31, 2010, saving taxpayers $30 billion over the next five years when we need it most.
GREG KLAVE, MINNEAPOLIS