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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

North Dakota Doubles Down On Dirty Energy

Category: Environment
Posted: 10/23/14 12:25

by Dave Mindeman

I grew up in North Dakota. I graduated from North Dakota State - go Bison! So I have some deep roots there. I have deep philosophical and political differences with my home state - but you learn to accept things the way they are.

But North Dakota is jeopardizing its future in a way that will be difficult to extricate itself. It is a state heavily dependent on energy resources. The oil and gas fracking industry is now deeply embedded into North Dakota's financial structure. And that is part of their future problem.

However, they are doubling down. A recent news release shows that North Dakota is going to begin a return to coal mining. The Coyote Creek Mine will occupy over 8,000 acres near Beulah, North Dakota. It is an extremely rural area - low population. That part of North Dakota can probably withstand a mining operation for the present. But it is the future I worry about.

Despite what you hear there is no viable method of clean coal. And North Dakota is predominantly lignite coal.....

Lignite coal has a low carbon content (25-35%) but a high percentage of water (30-40%) making it uneconomical to ship. All the power plants in ND are near the coal mining fields where the coal can be burned on site rather than ship as is done with the harder more efficient coals of the Powder River Basin (Wyoming) or Appalachia (WV, KY). Lignite has abundant impurities. Among the impurities is particularly high emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Because of that high CO2 content, there have been attempts to some valiant attempts to sequester that carbon in the ground at North Dakota coal plants. But what they have done so far is a blip on the radar and the fact that they are using lignite makes the CO2 release much to high to get any real benefit from the small sequestering efforts.

North Dakota has not had a new coal plant since the 1970's. But if this new permit is any indication of a renewed commitment by North Dakota to coal, then we all will pay a price.

Coal is not the future source of energy production. We need to gradually eliminate coal from the mix and we can actually do that if we get more production from renewables. We are actually almost to that point. North Dakota relies on coal for a lot its electricity. And that may work in a low population state where people have plenty of available space to steer clear of the production sites. But the pollution released affects everyone.

New coal plants are not necessary. And the more you build the harder they become to get rid of. Because of the jobs and because of the areas that become dependent on the power production. It becomes a local political football and we already have squeamish politicians when it comes to shutting down dirty coal plants.

North Dakota was, for a time, the home of Teddy Roosevelt. He came there to let the wide open, clean spaces heal his soul. He loved his time here and talked of it often, but he would be saddened by the danger his pristine Badlands is in because of the ever growing tentacles of big oil, gas, and coal in the wide open spaces of North Dakota.

It is hard enough to deal with the fracking in the Bakken Fields. There are unknown future problems there. But to reposition coal in an already very dirty mix is just not very smart in terms of looking to the future.

The permit has been approved and there is no going back now. But I hope that, at some point, North Dakota will reexamine what it is doing. They may look back on this time and have a future conversation that looks at the big mistake they made right here, right now.

Coal is NOT the future.
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Elect McFadden & Westrom? You Lose Your Health Care

Category: Al Franken
Posted: 10/23/14 01:54, Edited: 10/23/14 06:47

by Dave Mindeman

So Mike McFadden's health care ideas don't hold up.

Huh - there's a shocker.

In advocating for a replacement for the federal health care law, McFadden opposes a national solution. He would leave most of the decisions up to states, including whether to require people to buy health insurance.

But McFadden would force states to keep some of the most popular benefits of the heath care law. Their plans would be prohibited from placing lifetime caps on insurance payouts and they would have to allow parents to keep adult children on their insurance up to age 26.

Republicans are caught in their own fiscal trap. They don't PAY FOR IT. Sure these aspects of Obamacare are universally appealing; the public has asked for them for years. But that is why Obamacare has to be taken as a whole - not some of its parts. Obamacare needed an intricate mechanism of fiscal balance to find a way to PAY FOR THESE BENEFITS.

You know, being fiscally responsible. Remember GOP? Remember that?

And it's not just McFadden. Torrey Westrom in the 7th District uttered the same nonsense on At Issue with Tom Hauser. He wanted to keep the "good" parts but repeal the rest.

Absolute foolishness.

Same goes for Mitch McConnell. He's stuck with a promise to repeal Obamacare, while the Kentucky Obamacare exchange KYNECT is wildly popular. He even put forward the crazy idea of repealing Obamacare but letting Kentucky keep its exchange.

You would think the Minority Leader of the US Senate would at least know that without Obamacare, Kentucky can't keep kids on their parents insurance up to 26, that pre-existing conditions would still disqualify people from insurance, that lifetime caps won't go away, and that Medicaid expansion has no monetary support.

The Federal dollars go away and Kentucky has to pay for it - all by themselves - which, as McConnell full well knows, is impossible.

Republicans are simply lying about health care. There is no other way to characterize it. They have to know that Obamacare is never going away, so they believe that, at least for now, they can say any tin foil hat thing they want and no one will ever remember it once the election is over.

Experts .... say much of what McFadden proposes has been tried before and left millions of Americans without health insurance.

There it is my friends - elect the Republicans that espouse this fantasy and you lose your healthcare.

It's that simple.
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Politics and The Exploitation of The Innocent- It's All Just Sad

Category: Mark Dayton
Posted: 10/22/14 23:54, Edited: 10/23/14 16:30

by Dave Mindeman

I feel sad tonight.

I feel sad for our political process. I feel sad that politicians feel that exploitation of families for political gain is within the boundaries of common decency.

Mostly, I feel sad for the family of 4 year old Eric Dean.

Eric Dean suffered repeated abuse and finally died at the hands of his stepmother....and yes, Child Protection failed him. The circumstances were awful and the whole situation makes you sick to your stomach.

It was a total system failure, especially in Pope County....

In all, between 2010 and 2012, Pope County had 15 chances to intervene, and perhaps save Eric Dean.

All of that is truly bad enough, but...


This 30 second ad was paid for by the Republican Party of Minnesota. It is an independent expenditure and is being run outside of GOP Candidate Jeff Johnson's control. But Jeff Johnson needs to address this. He needs to say something. He has no personal control over its use, but he can condemn it - and he must. If he believes that the Republican Party of Minnesota can be allowed to use the horrible death of a 4 year old boy as a political proxy for a stupid political point, then shame on him. Shame on them all.

Obviously, there was a huge problem in child protection. Dayton can't control the levers of every county government, but there is no question this little boy needed someone to blow a loud whistle. And I am fully confident that if Dayton had an inkling of what was happening he would have intervened.

He will now. He is going to fix this immediately in the next session.

That doesn't help Eric Dean. That doesn't bring him back to us.

But neither does the ridiculous exploitation of this tragedy for a stupid 30 second commercial.

The family spoke....

The grandmother of 4-year-old Eric Dean, who was murdered by his stepmother in 2013, called on the Republican Party of Minnesota to immediately stop airing a new television advertisement which blames Governor Mark Dayton for the death of her grandson.....

In an emotional phone interview this evening, Yvonne Dean, the mother of Eric's father David, said Governor Mark Dayton was not to blame for Eric's death and was highly critical of the advertisement, calling it "unfair." Dean said the "system failed Eric at the county level...how could that be Governor Dayton's fault?"

Those quotes come from an article by Michael Brodkorb of all people....

When is the stupidity and vitriol going to stop? When are politicians going to learn that human tragedy is not an opportunity for exploitation?

When are we going to stop insulting the voters with commercials about hair, about candidates walking in the woods with thought bubbles regarding taxes dancing in the wind, about Congressman that age during their tenure as if its a bad thing, about how you duck hunt, about grainy, dark caricatures of opponents who get their records twisted by creepy voiceovers.....

When is it all going to stop?

But the Republican Party has stooped to the newest of lows - and we are at a pretty mossy bottom right now. They think their desperation justifies the ultimate risk - and the exploitation of a little boy.

Yes, I am sad. Sad for what we have become. Sad that no one had the guts to say, "this is a bad idea."

Sad that I even have to talk about this.

UPDATE: The Republican Party has now removed all references to Eric Dean from the ad.
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