Thursday, February 5, 2009

Minnesota is Making Progress on Climate

I read January’s report, Progress in Addressing Climate Change, (See:
the biennial greenhouse gas emissions reduction report to the Minnesota Legislature prepared by the Department of Commerce and Pollution Control Agency. It’s an impressive report, telling a very positive and informative story.

It is good that the Senate will be holding a hearing on the report next week since the report documents what the state’s progress reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the status of the state’s GHGs today, and lays a path for achieving the state’s reduction goals.

In 2005, the baseline year, Minnesota emitted 154 million tons of GHGs. The statutory goal is to reduce GHG emissions by 15% below 2005 by 2015 or down to 130.9 GHG emissions. This means a reduction of 23.1 million GHGs from the 2005 level is needed.

First, and most importantly, the report says that “between 2005 and 2006, greenhouse gas emissions from Minnesota sources declined by about 2 million CO2-equivalent short tons,” (page 4). Said another way: in 2006 Minnesota emitted 152.2 million GHGs or 2 million GHGs less than in 2005.

The second thing the report says is that, “Minnesota is roughly on track to meet the 2015 GHG reduction goal” (page 7) established in the 2007 law largely because of the actions the state has already taken. The actions include:
• The enhanced energy efficiency program which will effectively double the amount of energy savings achieved from 2006 levels yielding about 6 million tons of GHG savings by 2015 according to Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group (MCCAG; see;
• The dramatic increase in electricity from renewables from the state’s renewable energy standard will result in about 7.72 million GHG savings by 2015 according to the MCCAG;
• Xcel’s $1Billion Metropolitan Emissions Reduction Projects that converts a couple old coal plants to natural gas will reduce GHG emissions 4.52 million tons per year in 2015; and
• Increases in ethanol and biodiesel usage resulting from our E10 to E20 and B2 to B5 and beyond requirements, which will result in savings of 1.4 million tons of GHGs by 2015.

The aggregate GHG reductions from these four actions will be about 19.65 million tons by 2015. So, to meet the statutory goal of 15% below 2005 levels by 2015 or reduce our annual emissions by 23.1 million tons, we need to make sure we implement the actions already underway and add actions that will achieve 3.45 million tons of reductions….and this does not give us credit for the 2 million tons of reduction achieved so far.

On pages 24-5 of the OES/PCA report there are some very good suggestions for the how to do this. For example they recommend repealing Minnesota’s nuclear moratorium and adopting more energy efficient appliance standards, which the MCCAG says would save 0.8 million tons of GHGs by 2015. But as one digs deeper into the report, the big GHG savings come from two activities recommended by the MCCAG that Minnesota is already working on:
• Improving recycling programs which could result in almost 3 million tons of annual GHG savings in 2015, and
• Better managing of the state’s forests through improved forestation, restocking and reducing the amount of forest lands that are lost to other uses. This could save almost 6 million tons of GHGs by 2015.

These two activities far exceed all the other ideas offered by the MCCAG…yet they are not getting the attention they deserve.

Thus, to summarize: Minnesota’s GHG emissions are already going down; the efforts to meet and exceed the 15% by 2015 reduction goals are already underway through the enhanced energy efficiency program, the renewable energy standard, converting coal to natural gas and increasing the use of biofuels and that the next best opportunities to reduce GHG emissions are by improving recycling and forestry. These are the places that the Legislature needs to focus on.

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