Dayton addresses greenhouse gases, energy issues

Rocky Thompson

Most students probably don’t think their daily routines impact the spread of disease, rising ocean levels or climate temperatures.

But the energy everyone uses during the course of the day contributes to the production of greenhouse gases and global warming, said Charles Dayton, an attorney with Leonard, Street and Deinard.

Dayton, who has been lauded for his pro bono work in environmental issues, said it is essential to educate people about the consequences of global warming.

The first employee of Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, Dayton spoke to 20 students at Anderson Hall on Wednesday.

“Future generations will curse us. We are the generation on watch when the climate began to spike. We can do something about it; they will only be able to adjust,” Dayton said.

The eventual goal, Dayton said, is to pass far-reaching legislation to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.

If carbon dioxide continues to accumulate in the atmosphere, the Earth’s average temperature will continue to rise above normal levels, he said.

The result will be catastrophic, Dayton said.

The soaring temperatures will spawn a hospitable environment for disease-carrying insects and a crop loss of 40 percent to 50 percent, Dayton said.

Burning coal for energy produces about half of the carbon dioxide, a natural occurring greenhouse gas, in the Earth’s atmosphere, Dayton said.

Xcel Energy, which has two coal-fire plants near the University, provides about half of its energy from coal plants, said Paul Adelmann, media relations consultant at Xcel Energy.

He said Xcel is also concerned about providing environmentally sound energy to the people of Minnesota.

Adelmann stressed a balance between coal and other methods of energy production and said Xcel Energy is looking into natural gas instead of coal. He said a shift would be substantially expensive and increase customers’ rates.

Xcel Energy provides approximately 11 percent of its energy from wind turbines, 12 percent from hydro-electric power and 30 percent from nuclear power, Adelmann said.

While Dayton applauds the use of wind power in Minnesota, he also said there could never be enough windmills to provide energy to everyone.

Dayton said new technology is the greatest long-term hope. He suggested the United States run a Manhattan Project-like attempt to create a new energy source.

“This is a moral and ethical issue,” he said. “People need to see this like the racism of the ’60s and ’70s.”

Rocky Thompson welcomes comments at [email protected]