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Harvesting MN Green Jobs – Rep. Kalin and Sen. Anderson

Monday, November 24th, 2008 at 9:59 am

This week, Minnesotans gather with our families around the Thanksgiving table. This is traditionally the time we celebrate the harvest bounty. But this year’s harvest feels a little bit leaner, with our state’s deep job losses, the tight economy, and families facing difficult choices every day.

Our list of thanks no doubt includes the love of family, the shelter of home, and the beauty of Minnesota’s great lands, water and clean air. As we look to the future, we should also include the great “can-do” Minnesota spirit.

Though times are tough today, we stand on the brink of one of Minnesota’s greatest economic opportunities since we opened the iron mines a century ago. The clean energy economy is the fastest growing investment opportunity is the United States, and, with a few of the right moves, our state can be the center of the green economy.

Over the past few years Minnesota has led the nation, passing five landmark environmental and energy laws. We adopted the country’s strongest Renewable Energy Standard, requiring more than 25 percent of our electricity come from wind, solar and other renewable sources by 2020. We passed the best-in-the-nation energy efficiency and conservation bill, retrofitting leaky buildings and saving money. We adopted a comprehensive carbon emissions reduction goal. We’ve moved to the next generation of biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol and advanced biodiesel. Our Clean Water Legacy Act – funded by voters this month – will finally monitor, protect and restore the health of our surface waters.

Every one of these landmark bills was passed in a bipartisan manner, with over 90 percent vote of legislators and the Governor’s signature. We’ve set aside partisan differences to put Minnesota at forefront of energy policy. We can do so again, to grow the green economy out here on the edge of the prairie.

Fulfilling our renewable energy standard requires producing thousands of new wind turbines, installing countless solar panels and geothermal heat pumps. Our energy savings goals will take hundreds of new energy auditors and system technicians, squeezing every kilowatt hour and BTU of energy to maintain our high quality of life. Minnesota’s fields and forests can provide biomass for locally-generated heat and energy.

Minnesota has been pioneers in energy policy, but other states have so far been the beneficiaries. Our wind turbines are being manufactured in northern Iowa. Colorado attracted a research and development center that we tried to draw to the University of Minnesota. A primer National Renewable Energy Laboratory was lost to Wisconsin.

We have more work to do to turn good, green policy into good, green jobs. That’s why the Legislature created the Green Jobs Task Force – a bipartisan group of lawmakers, business leaders, and energy experts devoted to giving Minnesota a competitive green advantage as we rebuild our economy to meet 21st Century standards.

Already the Green Jobs Task Force is hard at work. We’re focused on getting our economy moving again as soon as possible. Every tool is on the table – from investing in additional research and development in renewable energy to targeted incentives for green entrepreneurs. We’re traveling Minnesota to hear first-hand from business and labor leaders, educators, workers and elected officials – from Morris to Minneapolis, from St. Cloud to St. Paul. We’re seeing the need to remove barriers blocking green entrepreneurs, to build needed infrastructure for green technology, and to train Minnesota’s workforce for the green jobs of the future.

We have no time to waste. That’s why the Green Jobs Task Force needs your help, and your ideas. Our meetings are open to the public, and we invite your input. Please log onto www.mngreenjobs.com and complete our online survey, to focus and hone our legislative action plan.

In the true Minnesota spirit, we are all in this effort together. It’s time to set political differences aside and set our state on a path to economic vitality again. With a firm commitment to cooperation, we can harvest the good-paying green jobs of tomorrow – giving us all that much more to be thankful for next year.

Rep. Jeremy Kalin (DFL – Chisago County) and Sen. Ellen Anderson (DFL – St. Paul) co-chair the Green Jobs Task Force.

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