Local View: A Habitable Future Incompatible with New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure


The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change lays out what we already knew in Northland: It is high time to put the systems and practices that harm us behind us. It is time to quickly exit the fossil fuel age and reject any proposal for new fossil energy projects.

Disappointingly, but unsurprisingly, our area’s electric utilities, Minnesota Power and Dairyland Power, would like to continue their business as usual by hanging on to their Nemadji Trail Energy Center gas-fired project in Superior. The Sierra Club conservatively estimated that this plant would add 1.7 million metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per year, including methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas released during fracking, transport and combustion of gas and is more than 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide pollution. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report specifically highlights the role methane emissions play in adding fuel to the fire. The report also makes it clear that reducing methane emissions is the fastest way to slow warming in the short term.

Now is clearly not the time to take half measures, but our utilities see the Nemadji Trail Energy Center as a “cleaner option” and a “bridge” to help us reach a future time when we can expect. to something different. But we know better.

The tools we need to move away from fossil fuels are already at our fingertips. Renewable energies, coupled with improved energy efficiency, expansion of energy storage and modernization of the electricity grid, are more than sufficient to meet our energy needs, both today and in the future. the future. These climate solutions would also improve air quality and public health, provide jobs to support families, reduce the cost of electricity, and improve the resilience of our electricity grid. Everything is connected.

More generally, a just energy transition – moving from an economy dominated by fossil fuels to renewable and equitable energy, while supporting frontline communities and repairing the damage caused – will significantly improve the quality of life of our Twin communities. Ports and across Northland.

With all of this in mind, it’s ludicrous that President Joe Biden’s administration is considering offering Rural Utilities Service loans, through a program run by the USDA, to finance the construction of new fossil-fueled infrastructure. If granted, it flies in the face of our national climate goals, as outlined in the Paris Agreement. This would run counter to Biden’s executive orders ordering federal agencies to end fossil fuel subsidies, and would run counter to the fact that the climate crisis is already affecting us all and every day we continue to burn fuel. fossils accelerate it.

Instead of giving fossil fuels a boost, the Biden administration should deny federal funding to any new fossil fuel project and hold the federal government accountable for its promise to stop subsidizing activities as usual.

Across the bridge from the proposed Nemadji Trail Energy Center site, our house in Duluth has been called a “potential climate refuge”. We know we are not immune to climate impacts, but what if Duluth could show the rest of the country what a resilient, safe and equitable city can look like in the age of climate change? What if we lean into a just transition and get rid of mining and mining? What if we could actually create a place to belong – both for those of us who grew up here and those who moved here to seek refuge – with people-centered infrastructure, affordable and energy efficient homes? , electrified public transport and jobs to support the family for everyone? This future is simply incompatible with new fossil fuel power plants like the Nemadji Trail Energy Center project. The two cannot coexist.

There is still time to take a step back. We call on Minnesota Power and Dairyland Power to abandon their plans for new fossil fuel-based energy resources, including the Nemadji Trail Center. We call on the Biden administration to stop using federal dollars to subsidize new fossil fuel projects. And we call on our Twin Ports communities to use our collective power to get rid of systems that don’t serve us and stand up for those that support us.

What future will it be?

Jenna Yeakle of Duluth is a Sierra Club organizer. Jamie Alexander from Duluth is Director of Drawdown Labs with Project Drawdown (drawdown.org/programs/drawdown-labs), a non-profit organization that works to reduce greenhouse gases. Their views expressed here are their sole responsibility.


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