Minnesotans one step closer to using coal power

Minnesota House and Senate committees have approved bills that would allow state utilities to purchase power created by coal. The current law, which was passed four years ago, was intended to grow renewable energy production and improve the state’s environment. The bills would allow the construction of new coal power plants. A more immediate change would be the purchase of coal power from North Dakota, something the neighboring state is threatening to sue Minnesota over.

The 2009 North Dakota Legislature set aside $500,000 to pay legal bills to challenge the Minnesota law. About $100,000 has been spent, mainly to pay private attorneys for legal research.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem argues that Minnesota’s law violates the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause, which bars states from interfering in other states’ commerce

Current Minnesota law basically places a moratorium on new use of electricity produced by coal. North Dakota is most affected because much of the power it produces is sold in Minnesota. Most is produced by lignite coal mined in the western half of the state. Several power plants produce electricity near the coal fields (Grand Forks Herald).

Gov. Mark Dayton has not yet indicated if he supports the current moratorium.

Also clicking on MN Today:

E-mails reveal possible Walker concessions on union bill

Gov. Scott Walker’s office released documents Tuesday showing he’s willing to give on some points of his union bargaining bill to break the Capitol standoff and bring Senate Democrats back from Illinois (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).

Wisconsin senator says he was betrayed by Governor

A day after Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said the idea of meeting with the Wisconsin 14 is ridiculous, the absent Democrats, say the Governor is showing his true colors (Northland News Center).

Jobless rate on Range spikes

Unemployment rates in Northeastern Minnesota went up again in January, by more than one percentage point each at three Range cities, after months of declining rates in 2010 (Mesabi Daily News).

Nurses picket in Hibbing

An informational picket was held this afternoon in the parking lot of Fairview University Medical Center Mesabi.

Chanting, and waving, friends and family of Hibbing nurses took to the streets for an informational picket Tuesday afternoon (Northland News Center).

Suspects in custody for Cromwell double homicide

In a press conference at the Carlton County Transportation Building Wednesday morning, Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake said the two suspects were apprehended as the result of investigation based on a tip from the public (Pine Journal).

Minnesota’s former leaders call for a new redistricting system

Minnesota’s former political leaders want to take the blood sport out of that most political process — redistricting. The leaders say a panel of retired judges, not self-interested lawmakers, should draw the lines that determine political boundaries (Star Tribune).

Rep. Keith Ellison: Radicalization an issue across religions

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said the “Muslim radicalization” hearing planned for Thursday unfairly targets Muslim Americans living in this country (CBS).

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) says criticism of his approach to Muslim radicalization is a sign he’s doing the right thing.

INSIGHT NOW

Is the hybrid just making us drive more?

@Ken_Paulman writes the most excellent blog for the website, Midwest Energy News. And this week he posed a very simple question: Does efficiency matter?. Ken writes about the so-called rebound effect. What’s that?

My wife, who works as a dietitian, has talked to me about the limited benefit of low-calorie cookies or pop. People who buy these products to lose weight tell themselves, well, since that’s a low-calorie Oreo, I might as well have four instead of three. Or they sneak in a few extra cookies later because, after all, they are lower in calories, right? Or they have a small scoop of ice cream later because they had low-cal cookies earlier.

So the “rebound effect”, as Ken writes, means that if you buy an energy efficient bulb, do you just keep the lights on longer? If you drive a Prius, are you apt to travel far more in that car. Does the reduced consumption take the guilt off your shoulders? Ken points to a number of articles on the topic, like one recently done in the New York Times. It describes another wrinkle of the phenomenon:

“There’s also an indirect rebound effect as drivers use the money they save on gasoline (with their fuel efficient cars) to buy other things that produce greenhouse emissions, like new electronic gadgets or vacation trips on fuel-burning planes.”

Paulman worries that this “rebound effect” will be used as an argument against efficiency.

Let’s ponder that here. How much does energy efficiency matter in the overall goal of reducing carbon emissions? What do you make of the “rebound effect”?

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