Take action to alleviate future energy shortage

Minnesota is about to face a major energy crisis, an energy shortfall of roughly 5,000 megawatts between the years of 2006, and 2009. In terms of a power deficit, this is huge. The Department of Commerce is attempting to scare us into supporting increased power generation regardless of the impact to the environment, workers and consumers.
Currently, to build a new power plant, the industry proposal must pass through a state review process, which includes public commentin order to protect consumers and the environment from irresponsible development. However, Minnesota is in a tight position with only years before a major energy crisis. And the Minnesota Department of Commerce is developing a proposal to deregulate energy production in the state. By removing state involvement, they believe “efficient” private development of energy will occur and prevent an energy crisis. But this answer is too shortsighted.
Here is why: California recently took the initiative to deregulate energy production for reasons similar to Minnesota’s. As a result, consumers in San Diego saw a 240 percent price increase in their energy bills over a 45-day period. There simply was not enough competition to provide for fair price ceilings, and energy companies chased profit at major costs to consumers. Minnesotans across the board could see similar price increases. For low-income people and students, this would be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
Energy deregulation also promotes greater dependence on cheaper, more polluting fuels such as oil and coal. These lead to higher emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Furthermore, coal power plants would not be required to meet mercury emission standards.
Minnesota’s future energy production policy should rely more on renewable sources, energy conservation initiatives and the development of efficient energy production technology. There are a series of economically viable energy alternatives to be pursued, for example, wind turbine and solar energy. However, without a reasonable level of oversight, power companies might pass up options like wind or solar power in pursuit of maximum profit and minimum production costs.
Thankfully, it seems that energy deregulation will be delayed while proposals are debated by the Legislature this upcoming session. However, now is the time to work for responsible energy policy.
Power companies need to think about the environment and consumers. But what are the incentives for them to do so? Higher energy consumption equals higher profits. We cannot rely on corporations to promote conservation. Minnesota needs energy
As an individual, there are some simple ways to conserve energy. Turn off appliances, lights or computers when not in use. Just because your energy bill might seem low or is paid for by your landlord or dorm, you are still contributing to Minnesota’s energy problem. Flipping a switch can make a noticeable difference, and if enough people are conservation minded, we can dramatically lower Minnesota’s overall energy usage!
Another simple way to make a difference is through your vote. On Nov. 7, you have the ability to voice your opinions by choosing legislators who are responsible to the public. Support legislators who believe energy conservation and renewable sources are an important part of Minnesota’s future energy policy.
If you are looking for more information on how to become involved with the energy deregulation issue or information on voter registration, check out the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group Web site at www.mpirg.org. A little effort on your part can make a big difference in keeping Minnesota clean, consumer friendly and powered for the future!
Jake Jagdfeld is a third-year student in political science and is an MPIRG member. He welcomes comments at [email protected] Send letters to the editor to [email protected]