State Rep. Kate Knuth (DFL-50B), who represents the southeast corner of Fridley, wrote a commentary article about Minnesota's energy policy that appeared in Thursday's edition of the Star Tribune:
Like many Minnesotans, I took advantage of last week's warm weather to get outside. But I couldn't shake the feeling that 80 degrees and humid in March is just plain weird.
I also spent hours in legislative hearing rooms, working to meet committee deadlines.
The two experiences dramatize the misplaced priorities and inadequate leadership of the legislative majority on climate and clean energy, issues that should be a cornerstone for Minnesota's success in a 21st-century economy.
Fortunately, the bonding bill provides an opportunity for a bipartisan down payment on Minnesota's renewable-energy future.
While no single weather event can be linked to climate change, the recent string of heat records is an example of what we can expect. Whether you are a farmer figuring out when to plant; a city manager planning for record snow, floods or drought, or a parent managing your child's asthma, Minnesota's changing climate should have you concerned.
Unfortunately, after years of bipartisan leadership from Gov. Tim Pawlenty and previous legislative leaders, the state began to fall behind in 2011. Legislators in the majority party show no shame in being openly hostile to the established body of scientific evidence demonstrating that climate change is real and that humans are contributing to it.
This outright denial of science would be laughable if it didn't compromise Minnesota's position as a place that finds practical solutions to world challenges.
Even if you don't see climate change as a problem, the rest of the world does, and it's looking to invest in solutions. Furthermore, increasing population, growing Asian economies and unrest in oil-rich regions mean energy costs are less and less controlled by American action.
You've probably experienced this at the gas pump recently. As a state with no oil, no coal, no natural gas and no uranium, Minnesota has a huge interest in developing renewable-energy technologies for its own use. We stand to benefit from developing renewable-energy technologies for export.
These realities should make Minnesota's energy future a pressing question for legislators. Unfortunately, a survey of House action on energy policy demonstrates an almost complete lack of focus on energy issues of any kind by the legislative majority. The House Energy Subcommittee has met once, total.
Perhaps we should be glad about this lack of legislative action, because bills introduced by the majority would drag Minnesota back to a 20th-century energy system.
Bills have been introduced to roll back essentially all of the state's nation-leading policies on renewable energy, energy conservation, community-based energy, net metering and greenhouse gases, as well as to open the way to potential investment in costly 20th-century energy technologies like coal and nuclear.
It's painful to write these things about energy policy at the Legislature. I ran for office to help Minnesota make progress, particularly in the energy arena. I took office in 2007, which was a banner year for policies regarding clean, renewable energy. These laws passed with strong bipartisan support. Minnesota is the better for it.
Despite the current lack of legislative leadership on building Minnesota's clean-energy future, progress is still possible this year. Bills have been introduced to promote Minnesota-made solar technology by appropriating bonding dollars for solar technology on public buildings.
The bonding bill is still pending, and I hope it will include dollars for Minnesota-made solar. Solar investment will spur clean-energy development and manufacturing jobs in our state. As important, Minnesota-made solar investments have bipartisan support.
While these provisions are not enough, a focus on energy from the sun will brighten Minnesota's climate and clean-energy prospects for years to come.