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Statewide View Column: Closing Down Coal Gives China’s, India’s Iron Industries An Edge

The following article was written by me, and it originally appeared in the Duluth News Tribune. Xcel Energy recently made headlines by announcing it wished to close down its coal-fired power plants 10 years before they were previously scheduled to retire. However, it would be nothing short of a disaster for Minnesota’s mining industry, both present and future, if Minnesota Power pursued a similar path by closing the coal-fired Boswell Energy Center at a time when China and India are greatly expanding their use of coal. Mining requires an enormous amount of energy. In fact, the MinnTac mine in Mountain Iron reportedly...

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Mortenson Construction to Use Robotic Equipment On “Primarily Renewable Energy Projects”

Mortenson Construction is one of the largest renewable-energy construction firms in the country, but it appears the firm will be dolling out less "green" to their laborers. A recent story in the Star Tribune discusses how Mortenson will be employing remote-controlled bulldozers to prepare sites for wind turbines instead of hiring laborers to man the machines. The remote-controlled bulldozers will be first be employed on remote projects in Wyoming where worker housing and other logistical difficulties make automation  economically attractive, but there's no reason to think it would be impossible for the company to begin using automated equipment in other areas...

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Great News! PolyMet Wins First Round of Court Challenges!

Minnesota is one step closer to opening its first copper-nickel mine, as the State Court of Appeals has rejected a lawsuit from anti-mining groups who had hoped to force PolyMet to conduct a new environmental review. This suit is the first of several court challenges that are making their way through the courts. The PolyMet project would bring a massive boost to the economy of Northeastern Minnesota. The company expects to create 360 direct jobs in mining and for business professionals ranging from engineers, mechanics, shovel operators, accountants, technicians and information technology specialists, and 600 more jobs will be supported by...

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Most Solar Jobs Are Construction Jobs and Most Jobs Are In Hennepin County

Solar energy is often touted as a way to spur jobs growth throughout the entire state of Minnesota, but a recent jobs report from the solar industry shows the vast majority of solar jobs are temporary construction jobs, and most of these jobs are in the metro area, not Greater Minnesota. Plenty of organizations crow about the solar industry creating jobs, but few people ever ask, "what kind of jobs?" Once you look, you'll see that 68 percent of the solar jobs in Minnesota were installation/temporary construction jobs. Now, I want to by crystal clear. I think temporary construction jobs are terrific,...

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Minnesota Now Fifth-Largest Mining State, It Could Have Been Number Two

According to the United States Geological Survey, Minnesota mined $4.05 billion in non-fuel minerals in 2018, making it the fifth-largest state for mining, in terms of the value of minerals sold (excluding coal, oil, natural gas, and uranium). This is after Minnesota was in sixth place last year. Few people in the Twin Cities metro realize just how important mining is to Minnesota's economy, and to the nation's security. In 2018, mines in Minnesota and Michigan shipped 98% of the usable iron ore products in the United States with an estimated value of $4.1 billion. Minnesota has traditionally accounted for approximately...

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The Dirty Little Secret Behind Clean Energy Jobs

The Clean Energy Economy Minnesota jobs report will likely draw favorable media coverage, but a deeper look at the numbers exposes the fact that these numbers are artificially inflated by including workers who are only tangentially related to energy efficiency, and that only 2.2 percent of the wind and solar jobs are non-temporary construction jobs....

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Isaac Orr: Lower Electricity Costs From Going Carbon-Free? Wanna Bet, Gov. Walz?

The following article originally appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press: Gov. Tim Walz recently announced his plan to make Minnesota’s electricity 100 percent carbon-free by 2050, and while the governor claims his plan will reduce energy costs for Minnesota families due to improvements in energy efficiency, I could not disagree more with his assessment. Therefore, I am willing to bet the governor a month’s salary that his claim is incorrect and that electricity costs will skyrocket under his plan. Increasing quantities of renewable energy result in increasing electricity prices because they are more expensive than conventional sources of electricity, like coal....

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Would You Like Some Child Labor with That Electric Car?

Governor Walz has made expanding electric vehicle (EV) usage in Minnesota a high priority for his administration. In February, the Department of Transportation announced that transit officials want 20 percent of all cars, SUV's, and light-duty trucks to be electric by 2030, an increase of nearly 194,000 new electric vehicles on the road. We all know that EV's have serious shortcomings in the cold, losing up to 40 percent of their power output when it is 20 degrees above zero, but what will Walz's push for EVs do to the environment? It's a question that is worth examining, because despite the clean...

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Statewide View: Skyrocketing Electricity Prices Threaten Minnesota Mining

Renewable-energy advocates often cite increasing demand for steel, copper, nickel, and cobalt as a reason why Minnesotans on the Iron Range should support more renewable-energy mandates. There is no doubt that doubling the renewable-energy mandate would increase Minnesota's demand for these metals, but we won't be able to afford to mine them here....

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