Never mind the economic consequences of climate change or Xcel Energy's recent announcement that wind projects in the upper Midwest will reduce customer costs by $220 million over the life of the project.
Republican gubernatorial hopefuls Kurt Zellers and Dave Thompson want more coal and natural gas burnt, and they were not at all shy in speaking up about the issue at last night's Central Minnesota Tea Party meeting.
St. Cloud Times enterprise reporter Mark Sommerhauser reports in Central Minnesota Tea Party welcomes 2 gubernatorial hopefuls:
Both said . . . limiting government support for renewable energy should be priorities for the state’s next governor. . . .Energy issues also were part of the event. Both candidates said greater use of carbon-emitting fuels such as coal and natural gas should be encouraged, in lieu of state support for renewable sources such as wind or solar power.
“It might make us feel good to pass windmill legislation, even though it’s killing bald eagles,” Zellers said.
Thompson said he doesn’t believe that global warming is occurring.
An overwhelming majority of published climate scientists and researchers disagree[link added]/ They say global warming is happening and that man-made carbon emissions almost certainly are contributing to it.
But Thompson said he’s not convinced.
“Global warming is a political movement, not a scientific one,” Thompson said.
The climate change denial movement is most certainly a political one. Biologist and Programs and Policy Director at the National Center for Science Education Josh Rosenau notes in Will Climate Change Denial Inherit the Wind?:
The climate change denial movement has its organizational roots in the tobacco industry’s campaign to obscure the scientific evidence that its product causes cancer. Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway have shown how the major organizations and leaders of the climate denial movement were assembled through their work on tobacco-funded campaigns, bringing rhetoric and tactics with them from battles over tobacco to resistance against efforts aimed at acid rain, the ozone hole, and ultimately global warming. Historian Spencer Weart has chronicled how the opposition to climate change shifted from a scientific discourse in peer-reviewed venues to a pattern of denial. Weart writes:
the small group of scientists who opposed the consensus on warming proceeded in the manner of lawyers, considering nothing that would not bolster their case, and publishing mostly in pamphlets, books, and newspapers supported by conservative interests. At some point they were no longer skeptics — people who would try to see every side of a case — but deniers, that is, people whose only interest was in casting doubt upon what other scientists agreed was true.
He adds: “Deniers of the scientific consensus avoided normal scientific discourse and resorted to ad hominem attacks that cast doubt on the entire scientific community — while disrupting the lives of some researchers.”
The emergence of a self-sustaining climate change denial movement requires a deeper explanation, though. Deep pockets and corporate backing alone cannot create a social movement. Nor can financial motive alone explain how vicious the attacks on climate scientists have become. Rather, like creationism, climate change denial has spread and established itself in the political discourse by creating a perception of conflict. Instead of the religious conflict alleged by creationists, however, climate change deniers allege a conflict of economic and political ideologies. Historians and public opinion researchers like Aaron McCright and Riley Dunlap have found this conflict is perceived to exist between free market capitalism and a science supposedly subverted by a communist, and even fascist, ideology disguised as environmentalism. This framing is entwined deeply in the rhetoric and psychology of movement conservatism.
Lawyer and radio talker Dave Thompson was first elected in 2010, the year in which Republicans began shifting toward climate change denial. Rosenau cites the example of Senator Lindsey Graham and former Governor Tim Pawlenty among others:
. . .Through the 2000s, leading conservatives like Governors Romney and Pawlenty and former Speaker Gingrich recognized the threat posed by climate change, proposing or enacting policies to limit that danger. In the early years of the Obama administration, conservative Senators McCain, Graham, and Lieberman joined liberal Senators Kerry and Boxer in crafting cap-and-trade legislation that would fight climate change.
But by the summer of 2010, a shift in elite conservative opinion was apparent. In October 2009, Senator Graham had co-authored a New York Times op-ed with Senator Kerry, declaring, “we agree that climate change is real and threatens our economy and national security … many scientists warn that failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will lead to global instability and poverty that could put our nation at risk.” By June 2010, however, he abandoned the cap-and-trade plan, explaining to reporters: “The science about global warming has changed. … I think they’ve oversold this stuff, quite frankly. I think they’ve been alarmist and the science is in question. … The whole movement has taken a giant step backward.”The 2012 Republican nomination battle saw Romney, Gingrich, and Pawlenty all disavow their past support for climate science and climate protection. In one debate, Pawlenty was challenged on his climate change efforts as head of the National Governors Association and governor of Minnesota, and replied: “It was a mistake, and I’m sorry … You’re going to have a few clunkers on your record, and we all do, and that’s one of mine. … I made a mistake.” . . .
Zellers' political shift on clean energy
Zellers appears to be in this category of unwavering principled politicians. His coal love is relatively new. In a January 11, 2008 op-ed column archived on his official Minnesota House legislator's page, OP/ED COLUMN LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: ENERGY, Zellers wrote:
Renewable Energy Standards
Minnesota has been a national leader for many years in the area of renewable energy, and this year the legislature passed, and the Governor signed into law, the highest renewable energy standards in the nation.
These New renewable energy objectives set standards for electric utilities to supply a certain percentage of their energy from renewable sources such as wind, biomass, landfill gas, anaerobic digesters, solar and others. All electric utilities will be required to achieve a standard of 25% by 2025. Xcel Energy must achieve 30% by 2020 with 25% wind energy and 5% coming from other renewable sources. . . .
Another source of renewable energy the state is putting money into is wind energy. The legislature did this by establishing then Rural Wind Development Revolving Loan fund to enhance wind energy development in Minnesota. You can already see some of the progress of this in southern and western Minnesota. If you drive on I-90 you can see wind farms being built. Also many school districts around the state are looking into building wind mills to power the school building and provide extra revenue by selling the extra energy to the power companies. . . .
These are just a few of the major programs and bills that were passed during this last legislative session to help make Minnesota energy independent. Looking at these options will assist Minnesota in being a leader and spur economic growth across the state by bringing in new business opportunities. . . .
That is so 2008.
Crocodile tears for wildlife
No longer. Bluestem hopes Zellers' new concern for wildlife will provoke renewed scrutiny of all "takings" permits that allow for destruction of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants. Surely this concern isn't only restricted to the wind industry.
After all, the only Republican to support HF 425, Rick Hansen's bill to fund scientific and natural area and wellhead easement protection area acquisition near frac sand mines, withdrew his name after four days.
Apparently, not all animals are equal for this bunch. The Bald Eagle was delisted as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 2007. Endangered or threatened species of plants or animals near silica sand deposits? Drop dead.
Photo: Xcel's Sherco coal-fired plant,via Fresh Energy.
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