The newly signed Inflation Control Act provides urgently needed, if not significantly overdue, funds to help slow climate warming, with approximately $370 billion for things like subsidies for electric vehicles (EVs) and renewable and clean energy sources, and to spur nuclear power. current. factories to increase production.
In Minnesota, the law’s “buy American” requirement will provide something else: an additional element in the long-running controversy over opening the state’s first hard rock mine to extract copper, nickel, cobalt and other “significant” minerals from an ore body. It extends across the northeast arrowhead.
Law subsidies for electric vehicles require their batteries to contain metals produced or recycled in North America, half by 2024 and all by 2028. The Duluth Complex in northeastern Minnesota contains huge stores of the required minerals, and a nickel-rich ore body lies west of Duluth.
For nearly two decades, PolyMet Mining has been entangled in the permit approval process for mining near Hoyt Lakes. All state and federal permits have been granted, but procedural challenges still get in the way.
The clearance took too long, understandably frustrating for Iron Rangers who see the PolyMet mine as providing good jobs and stability for a region that suffers from a cyclical economy largely linked to iron mining.
Environmental advocates in the Twin Cities, most of whom are DFLers, fear the effects of the toxic waste endemic to such mining, and have effectively implemented legal and other resistance to the PolyMet plan. The range has been reliably dark blue forever, but hullabaloo mining has changed that, leaving widening political fissures and an unfortunate territorial divide.
To be sure, copper mining has a dismal record worldwide of failing to prevent toxins from leaking into the environment, and there is a bad habit of closing down mines and sticking others with costly cleanups. Environmental interests have rightly sought to prevent all of this from happening in Minnesota.
But there is a dark force and tyrants pushing most other public issues to a second degree: worsening climate change with increasingly destructive wildfires, severe hurricanes and storms, floods, droughts, and rising seas. Recent actions show greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere at their highest point ever, revealing the industrial world’s sad response to the disastrous juggernaut that has been in plain sight for far too long.
Copper mining and nuclear power present challenges, of course, and I am among those who have long had serious doubts about both. But with the growing threat of climate change, it is time to think differently about some things, including making timely decisions on big energy projects; Indeed, it will require a shift to a green economy.
The new law recognizes the important advantage of carbon-free nuclear energy. Coal and natural gas plants emit tons of greenhouse gases and must be shut down sooner rather than later – and renewables cannot provide alternative base-load power without a radical expansion of infrastructure and a more reliable national electricity grid. California has just reversed course and is now supporting nuclear power specifically to reduce carbon emissions; Minnesota should do the same.
An important advantage of hard rock mines is that they produce copper, nickel, and cobalt for gas energy storage batteries needed to store energy from renewable energy sources and power electric vehicles.
The “Buy American Products” requirement in the new law is aimed directly at reducing China’s global dominance of the “vital metals” market. There is also concern about child labor in deep African cobalt mines.
While the designation of wildlife and use restrictions in the Boundary Waters Canoe area has fueled long-running feud between urban Rangers and DFLers, it hasn’t reached the breaking point as it does now. Drifting from their political anchors, angry ‘Rangers’ are moved to a neutral corner as the mining controversy continues.
It can be said that this affects the progress of the state. Although socially conservative, Ring legislators have helped shape Minnesota as a bastion of educational opportunity, outstanding health care, a renown quality of life, and a good place for those whose work is central to the state’s exceptional economy.
The Range, whose iron made America an industrial power in the 20th century, has provided livelihoods for generations and incorporated an ethnic mix into the unique Ranger culture. Rangers are a big part of the “L” in the DFL, and they will once again be a positive force for policy-making by uniting with their political kin.
The Inflation Reduction Act emphasizes the importance of hard rock mining in Minnesota. Let’s deal with it.
Ron Way, of Minneapolis, is the former legislative director of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. It’s at email@example.com.