Duluth is a community built with abundant resources. Thanks to our civic leaders, businesses, faith partners, environmental leaders, and educators, we have been building bridges to a more sustainable future.
While pondering the costs of our liberties, two elements have drawn attention this summer. The first is the huge heat wave sweeping the South from New Mexico across the plains to the northeastern states. It has been breaking records with heat, humidity, floods, and damage, affecting more than 200 million Americans. The second is that Minnesota Power has not yet submitted its integrated resource plan to the state’s public utilities commission (“Minnesota Power requests extension for energy plan, coal plant study; environmental groups push back,” July 4).
These two events offer Duluth a huge opportunity.
Thanks to the fossil-fuel industry, the American public is largely unaware of the dangers we confront. These fossil-fuel friends spent hundreds of millions of dollars over the last 40 years to help Republicans secure offices that promote climate distraction and distortion.
We have taken a national economic pause due to the pandemic, and the pause is helping us assess a wiser path forward. Drs. Anthony Fauci and Scott Gottlieb assure us a vaccine will be available, but the interval gives us time to focus on our best resources. This should shape Minnesota Power’s integrated resource plan.
The concentration of carbon in our atmosphere today is 412 parts per million and rising, according to NASA and NOAA. If it approaches 430 ppm by 2030, we may trigger any one of the nine hidden tipping points in the earth’s lithosphere. That triggering may initiate a process similar to what happened in Venus’s atmosphere, which has become too hot for life. Our pause and policy need to understand the rising risks associated with carbon markets.
Minnesota Power customers have a role play in this adventure. As citizens and customers, we can encourage Minnesota Power to learn from other utilities in the U.S. and in Europe with regard to how we can reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. The pandemic has helped this effort, but today’s capital markets have not sensed of the unseen catastrophes that may be emerging. We need prudent civic and business leaders who see more than profits on earth.
If we do not want to break more heat records in Duluth and on the Iron Range, it would be prudent to push Minnesota Power to submit a 10-year integrated resource plan that invests aggressively in renewable energies. All the “smart geniuses” in other nations have done this already, including in Duluth’s sister cities.
One of Minnesota Power’s most profitable business customers is Allete Clean Energy, which harnesses wind sources, new technologies, and experience. Stakeholders and stockholders need to turn their technology to a bright and sustainable future.
President Donald Trump and his Republican administration have been destroying the environmental research and management of our air, water, land, and life, dramatizing their ignorance of the ecological services we receive each day. This is an assault on our communities, economy, and health. The monster heat wave offers us a turning point.
Minnesota Power’s new integrated resource plan can unify and focus teamwork in our region as we learn to protect ecological services. It would begin with more aggressive energy savings for residents, businesses, mines, and mills. Lowering demand for energy is the smartest move. It also could include a strategy for adding more wind and solar, with support from new storage technologies. This process could be tied to the drawdown and closure of the Boswell Energy Center, a coal plant.
Minnesota Power has demonstrated capacity for managing change manifested in its Energy Forward program. Its new integrated resource plan should include education to help the community understand the threats from fossil-fuel emissions.
It also can include a tax on carbon fuels that add carbon to the atmosphere; educating utility businesses, institutions, and partners about our climate emergency; institutional partners who can help build a sustainable teamwork; soliciting media partners to describe our emergency and necessary response; limiting wasted electrical and heat energies (at home, work, and play); more local wind, solar, biomass, hydro, and other low-carbon or no-carbon energy sources; increased energy storage for utility partners who invest in local clean energies; celebrating efficiencies, innovations, and partnerships that are succeeding; and the sharing of stories of successful energy transition to begin the second U.S. Industrial Revolution.
Bill Mittlefehldt of Duluth retired from teaching economics and civics to work with communities interested in a more sustainable future.