Archived Story

Let’s start investing in clean energy sources

Published 7:09am Monday, December 24, 2012 Updated 9:10am Monday, December 24, 2012

My friends and I spent many lazy afternoons floating down the Otter Tail River on inner tubes. Winding around the banks of the river, passing woodland and prairie, we saw the smokestack from the Hoot Lake Coal Plant shooting through the treeline and into the water-tinted sky.

It looks ominous like something out of a poor science fiction film: dark smoke floating out; rusting metal from a bygone era. As the river carried us closer to the plant, my friends and I were quick to imagine horrible scenarios of radioactive waste and green sludge leaching into the very water we floated upon.

Sure, we were impressionable. Our imaginations were wild, but not completely misguided.

We still see that decaying smokestack releasing more than 700,000 tons of carbon each year.

These tons of carbon along with other air pollutants are linked to more than 100 asthma attacks annually and contribute unforgivingly to global climate change.

As much as it sounds like it, there’s no science fiction here.

The intensity of tropical storms, the high acidity in our oceans, the mercury levels in our air, the premature ice-outs on our lakes are not imaginary.

Nor is Otter Tail Power’s continued reliance on dirty coal.

Their proposal is to spend at least $10 million in ratepayer money to continue burning coal for another eight years at the more than 50-year-old Hoot Lake coal-fired plant.

This proposal would pump more ratepayer money into fossil fuels instead of investing in clean energy, like wind, solar and energy conservation.

Otter Tail Power needs to get serious about investing in Minnesota’s clean energy future, especially in the places where the potential is vast. Minnesota’s wind resource could provide almost 25 times the state’s current electricity needs and create tons of new jobs.

Perhaps, this is where our imaginations come back into play.

Instead of seeing the old smoke stack jutting into the sky, let’s envision some wind turbines and solar arrays powering our future and sustaining good-paying jobs in our community.


Wade Underwood


  • Swede

    The people at Otter Tail talk about what nightmare it is to maintain power on the grid when the windmills sporadically provide power (wind is not constant). When the wind dies, power is made up with natural gas generators that generate a much higher level of pollutants than coal plants. I have a buddy that maintains windmills for Montana-Dakota Utilities in Montana, and cannot believe what a joke the windmills are due to the mechanical and electronic control reliability. They are expensive to maintain.

    “The intensity of tropical storms” Hahaha. Prove it.

  • Walt Henry

    Facts matter–”Compared to the average air emissions from coal-fired generation, natural gas produces half as much carbon dioxide, less than a third as much nitrogen oxides, and one percent as much sulfur oxides at the power plant.2 In addition, the process of extraction, treatment, and transport of the natural gas to the power plant generates additional emissions.”

    • Swede

      At peak efficiency, but when the natural gas plants are started and stopped, to make up for variances in wind, the average is not at that level.

  • tomdaniels

    wow, hey hold on, i want to spit out some stupid stats with no backup factual data. we should use methane gas from cows and humans to power our electrical plants. trust me, if i eat at taco johns i can power a small city on my own lol.

  • Walt Henry

    Tom, you should have explained the connection of the article and our comments to methane. Most natural gas is methane which (unburned) is 25 times more potent in trapping atmospheric heat than CO2. For this reason and the lack of pipelines to transport the natural gas from the oil fields to market, natural gas is “flared”,; burned into the atmosphere as a by-product waste of oil production. This flaring results in a carbon release into the atmosphere equal to the exhaust of 70 million cars.
    AS for sources–some of the commenters here won’t look for them anyway or if they look see incapable of reading what they find. Posting links confuses the Journal’s security program. If you wish to check my comments search the EPA and the Christian Science Monitor.

    • J Mullins

      What a farce, Larry…Search the 0bama EPA for facts? Their orders and goals are those set by 0bama, who has repeatedly stated that he will bankrupt power and utility concerns which use coal, and has a disdain for petroleum and natural gas as well. His plan is for solar/wind/hydro as the only sources of power generation. While all these sources have some merit, they are inconsistent generators of energy, and reliance on such inconsistent power sources will ultimately lower industrial and economic output, as well as drastically diminishing our collective standards of living.

      Your other source, the Christian Science Monitor, does a poor job at both Christianity and science, being populated with reporters and editors who are totally mesmerized by statist philosophies and the prospect of earthly utopias. Not a reliable source of “facts”, though a source which a dissembler such as you would promote.

      • Richard Olson

        Yeah Larry, what’s wrong with you? Don’t you know if you want facts about any form of energy you should go to the Rush “my middle name is Science” Limbaugh website? Perhaps you didn’t know but that’s where all of the greatest Scientists and Noble Winners publish their findings. Then they are scrutinized and peer reviewed by other great minds from Oral Roberts University and Bell Tower, or The Bob Jones University for Christian Dating and Sexual Sciences or maybe even the Liberty Baptist University of really really tough Scientific Inquiry.

        Thus far the consensus (from the above thinkers) is that Wind Power is untenable and inspired by Satan because the Dutch have used it for centuries and we all know what a bunch of Socialistic, Hedonistic, Devil Worshiping, Communist Atheists they are. (Plus they smoke dope)

        Besides, it’s just like Bob Dillon’s younger brother Cory said….”You don’t need a Scientist to know which way the Wind blows”.

        • mike weller

          A bit long winded are we?

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