Let’s start investing in clean energy sourcesPublished 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.