Minnesotans one step closer to using coal power
Posted at 7:49 AM on March 9, 2011
by Michael Olson
Filed under: Around MN
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.
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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"?