Isaac Orr, a policy fellow for the pro-fossil-fuel Center of the American Experiment, suggests that we slow our statewide efforts to replace fossil fuels with alternatives such as wind and solar (“Cold snap shows reliable energy sources are critical,” Feb. 1). He notes that a large number of Minnesotans needed to curtail their use of natural gas, a fossil fuel, so that we wouldn’t run out in the middle of the cold crisis.
Pro tip for Mr. Orr: Next time he writes a hit piece against clean energy, he might consider leaving that sort of thing out.
Orr catalogs the types of energy that were used over the cold snap to provide electricity to homes. Most of that electricity was, of course, not used for heating, but never mind that. His point seemed to be that since we use a lot of coal and natural gas, and have not yet installed very much in the way of clean fuel infrastructure, we should therefore not install very much clean fuel infrastructure. This sort of is-ought argument is not helpful or, really, meaningful.
We are moving toward the use of clean energy slowly — probably too slowly — but also carefully. At this time, it is clear that future solar and wind will be much cheaper than present-day coal and methane. When we make our own energy, 100 percent of the contribution of that industry to the statewide or national economy is realized. When we buy methane, coal and oil from other states or countries, Minnesota (or America) loses out.
There have been no instances of which I’m aware in which deploying wind or solar power in Minnesota has caused an energy company to tell customers to stop using fuel. As we deploy more and more clean energy, the energy suppliers, under appropriate regulation, will produce that energy in a way that is reliable, clean and reasonably priced. We know this is possible, is being done increasingly across the world and, for the sake of our children’s future, is necessary.
There is an irony in Orr’s commentary: Most climate experts agree that the likelihood of a polar air mass excursion of the type we experienced in the last week of January is increased by changes in global jet stream patterns that are now undeniably linked to warming caused by the human use of fossil fuels. We have ignored this problem for too long. We need to act now.
Greg Laden, Plymouth
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Irony of ironies. In the Feb. 1 Star Tribune, Xcel Energy is mentioned twice. First, for its mismanagement of natural gas supplies, forcing 100 households to lose their gas supply and others to be asked to turn down their thermostats to 63 degrees during the recent frigid days. Second, for the announcement of fourth-quarter earnings, exceeding expectations. And how did Xcel achieve these record profits? By not properly planning for weather extremes. The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission shares the blame through its ineffective regulation of Xcel. It is time for the MPUC to stand up for its obligation to protect consumers’ rights against the utilities.
Janet Shark Frisch, Golden Valley
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Blaming solar and wind power for the outages makes as much sense as blaming them for your car not starting when it was 30 degrees below zero. There is no shortage of energy sources. It was a delivery problem in an extreme weather event that caused the outages. Xcel is looking at its system to remedy that issue, but renewable energy is anything but the problem. In fact, Xcel is seeing record profits while investing heavily in renewable energy.
Brian Layer, Becker, Minn.
For an example of her merits, watch her speech on Kavanaugh
Thank you for printing George F. Will’s column regarding U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s suitability and electability for president in 2020 (Opinion Exchange, Jan. 31). Klobuchar’s character, intellect and dedication to good government process are all displayed in the 18-minute speech she delivered in opposition to the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. She accurately warns us of the danger of government by and only for “the ruling party” in not giving Judge Merrick Garland a hearing. Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah lowers his eyes in shame. I consider it the best Senate speech in the last 50 years. It’s on her website. I urge fellow readers to watch it (tinyurl.com/klob-kav) and high school classes to teach from it.
Alan R. Nettles, Wayzata
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Amy. Don’t do it. Don’t run. If you do, you’ll spend the next year doing nothing else but dialing for dollars 24-7. Too many of your colleagues on Capitol Hill are already prepared to run the gantlet. Let them do it. Someone needs to stay behind to take care of the business of the Senate on your side of the aisle. That someone should be you.
Iric Nathanson, Minneapolis
Minnesota, so often a model among states, has another opportunity here
I was delighted to read Lori Sturdevant’s excellent analysis “Districting reforms can’t wait, backers say” (Opinion Exchange, Jan. 27). It was good to hear that it’s getting a big push from so many groups and legislators. Having a fair and impartial method to form legislative districts after the coming 2020 census is crucial. We have only to look to our east to see the disastrous results of gerrymandering.
Minnesota was a national leader in voting percentage once again this last election. Why? Part of it is civic pride — we value voting! Also, we make voting as easy as possible, with same-day registration and early voting. Hopefully, the Legislature will continue on this path by implementing the driver’s license law that automatically registers a person to vote when they move and change their address on their license, as well as passing a law granting felons the right to vote as soon as they are released from prison, rather than when they get off probation.
Minnesota also gives other states a clear example of the best way to ensure that elections are fair and not tampered with, via our backup paper ballots. Now we can be a leader in the nation by establishing the first fair, impartial redistricting commission, made up of retired judges and citizens from around the state. Common Cause has created an excellent method for choosing and seating the citizens from applicants, as well as the retired judges. Minnesota can, and must, become the national leader in voting, the core of democracy. Let us create The Minnesota Model for Best Election Practices, which all states will want to emulate, thus strengthening our American democracy!
Deb Ellsworth, St. Louis Park
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I liked Sturdevant’s column on redistricting after the 2020 census. Before my retirement, I was in charge of one of the technical groups in the United Nations. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the expansion of the European Union, we were in great demand as country after country had to create representational districts where none had ever existed, or were woefully out of date.
The model we always showed them is the way Australia has gone about it. Following a long tradition that was much like our own, they decided to use districts based on ease of voting and in addition, interestingly, made voting mandatory. The new districts were set up around polling places. The algorithm used GIS data (Geographic Information Systems), then calculated the closest approximation of 50,000 citizens. In addition, there are routines that ensure that there are no barriers to getting to the polls, such as rivers, busy highways and so forth. There is absolutely no consideration of past voting or party affiliation, just ease of voting.
As we have seen, Australian politics is just as lively as our own, but without the ambiguity of where to vote and the crazy-quilt pattern of representation.
Jim Riddell, Edina