Taking a stand for a secure energy future in Minnesota

Posted December 23, 2014

Our very own Jason Bohrer wrote Monday in the Minnesota Star Tribune about the community and economic benefits coal, as part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy provides the Upper Midwest.

Read the article at the Star Tribune’s website here.


Taking a stand for a secure energy future in Minnesota

The household electricity bill makes up a large portion of monthly expenses for many hardworking Minnesotans. Fortunately, over the past several decades, Minnesota families and businesses have benefited from access to affordable and reliable energy that includes electricity from coal. Not long ago, state policymakers, business leaders and citizens made necessary tough decisions to ensure Minnesotans will continue reaping the rewards of an all-of-the-above energy strategy.

Those rewards are now in danger.

Some people choose to ignore the benefits of coal-fired electricity. They won’t tell you coal-fired electricity is available in large volumes on demand to customers 24 hours a day. They won’t tell you a balance of fossil fuels (including coal) and renewable energy sources can help protect the environment and provide affordable energy. Nor will they tell you that without a balanced, reliable and affordable energy supply, the quality of life enjoyed by Minnesotans today will surely decrease.

That weekly big family dinner you’re familiar with could be more expensive because the costs of goods and services will increase. The family budget will be stretched tighter because monthly energy bills will increase, and going to the movies or having a child play hockey will be more of a hardship. Also, a cold snap or a winter storm will become more of a worry as an overtaxed electrical grid struggles without reliable power.

What detractors of coal won’t tell you is that the Upper Midwest’s air quality is among the cleanest in the nation. That’s due in large part to the $2 billion investment in clean coal technologies at North Dakota’s power plants.

Coal mining companies are also focused on environmental stewardship. These companies have reclaimed more than 27,000 acres of mined land — about 42 square miles — in North Dakota since 1970. Reclamation is a highly regulated, carefully planned and managed process that takes years to successfully complete. Mining companies must prove the reclaimed land performs as well or better than before it was mined. Recently, Coal Lake Wildlife Management Area, near Underwood, N.D., opened to local families, students and visitors to show off a brand-new park created as part of the reclamation of mined land.

North Dakota is one of only seven states to meet all federal ambient air quality standards. The American Lung Association has given the state straight A’s for ozone and particulates, and ranks cities such as Fargo and Bismarck as places with the cleanest air. Minnesota’s air quality is also high even as coal generation provides more than 40 percent of the state’s electricity.

The fact is, coal-fired electricity plays an essential role in keeping Minnesota families secure, schools affordable and businesses competitive because it is the foundation for the 24/7, cost-effective power that is too often taken for granted. Minnesotans have thoughtfully chosen to augment this baseload power with alternative sources of energy like wind and solar.

EPA rules risky

Yet, new proposals from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon dioxide emissions at existing power plants jeopardize the longevity of coal-fired electricity, risking the reliability and affordability of our overall energy supply without any meaningful corresponding environmental gain. While renewable energy has become more available and has a role in an all-of-the-above policy, its intermittent nature is incapable of providing the on-demand, round-the-clock volume of electricity modern society has come to expect.

Although it is difficult to quantify with certainty, a recent report by the Heritage Foundation projected that a typical household of four could see its disposable income drop by $1,200 a year due to the EPA’s proposals. That means less money in your pocket to pay for everyday necessities like clothing, groceries, gasoline and child care.

Most Minnesotans agree that an all-of-the-above energy policy using a variety of energy resources will keep prices low and maintain energy security, while protecting the environment.

Traditional energy sources, such as coal, are critical to our region’s way of life. That’s why business leaders and policy stakeholders have launched a new organization, the Coalition for a Secure Energy Future.

This new coalition will advocate for a regional energy strategy that enhances, preserves and protects the use of a diverse set of established energy sources, including coal, to ensure families and businesses have affordable, reliable energy for today and the future. Keeping coal-fired electricity in the energy mix is essential.

More information is available at www.secureenergy­future.org.