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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Speaker Daudt Says The DFL Is Anti-Mining - Not True

Category: Environment
Posted: 08/14/16 12:59, Edited: 08/14/16 13:04

by Dave Mindeman

Speaker Kurt Daudt decided to weigh in on the DFL Party's internal decisions on party policy. He said, in an op-ed in the Mesabi Daily News, that...

"This past weekend at their State Central Committee meeting and earlier this year at their state convention, Democrats considered a resolution to officially oppose mining in Minnesota. Both times it had the support to pass, and both times they delayed passing it because they were afraid it may have political consequences."

Well, Mr. Speaker, I suppose that political parties never take political considerations into account when making policy....otherwise you might actually take action on a special session without making an issue of light rail. But let's consider your argument. Daudt tells us what the Republican position on mining is....

"Republicans want you to know about our position now; it's very simple and we are proud of it. We have and will continue to support the responsible mining of our natural resources, and will work in St. Paul and in Washington to promote the future of mining in our state, an industry that provides good-paying jobs with great benefits."

That may be true except for one word...responsible. The Republican Party is for mining alright, mining in the business sense of the word. Which means mining the way the mining corporations want it. Unregulated and unfettered.

The DFL supports a very heavy regulatory process in Minnesota. We expect mining to conform to a protection of the environment that is rock (excuse the pun) solid. It is not a simple yes or no position that fits neatly into a simple declaratory statement and thus the DFL has taken the time to get it right.

Republicans are NOT for that. They want to eliminate the regulation that work to protect environmental concerns. They want permits to be easy and unfettered. They want the State of Minnesota to take risks. Risks to our Boundary Waters, risks to our water shed, risks to our agricultural base.

Working for those protections allows Republicans to twist that position to make it look like Democrats are anti-mining. They are not. They support the mining industry. They support mining workers. They want all of that to be compatible with Minnesota's environment and protect the long term investment we have in our natural resources.

We have seen what happens when mining companies proceed without regulatory restrictions. We have seen how water tables get destroyed and how land can never be reclaimed. We do not want our long term future jeopardized for short term benefit.

That is not anti-mining. That is protecting the future of the mining industry.

The Iron Range has a long mining tradition. But that region needs to be less dependent on mining and follow a more diversified industry base. The mining plan that Republicans support only has a short term strategy. A 20 year plan that leaves Minnesota with more damage control in the aftermath.

As usual, the Democrats think ahead and want a plan. While Republicans continue the "I want it now" strategy and worry about consequences later.

Mining and the environment can work together. If Minnesota is to succeed, they have to work together.

Republicans have no plan that addresses that issue. Democrats do.
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Climate: If We Want More Than Incremental Change, How?

Category: Environment
Posted: 04/29/16 21:19, Edited: 04/29/16 21:19

by Dave Mindeman

There is something that I always view as a frustrating conundrum when it comes to renewable energy and climate change.

How can we act fast?

Bernie Sanders criticizes Hillary Clinton on her "incremental approach" to climate change, saying that it is an immediate crisis and needs immediate attention.

Which is true.

But at the same time, he wants a moratorium on nuclear power plants and an end to fracking. Yes, I can agree, that we, in the progressive community, are uncomfortable with those sources.

But climate change may already be past the tipping point. And we are not going to get any immediate relief from wind, solar or batter technologies. We need a bridge to the future right now. And nuclear is the cleanest energy source we have, as well as the most long lasting. In addition, fracking increases production of natural gas, which is a vast improvement over petroleum based fuels.

Yes, I have seen China Syndrome. And I am well aware of Chernobyl and Fukushima. Yes, those have been huge disasters and Fukushima is still an ongoing problem. But so are pipelines and oil spills and imported oil and coal and mining in general.

All of these things are problems in their own right, but do we really have the time to wait for the perfect? I think we all want to embrace Bernie's energy vision....and we can continue to work toward those goals. But we have a finite amount of time to reverse this damage - or more accurately limit the damage already done....and nuclear and natural gas provide a faster path to alternative clean energy.

We should proceed carefully with every safeguard we can muster. And we still have ongoing research about fracking that needs to be funded at a more appropriate level.

But if we need more than incremental change - we have to move on what is available to us right now.
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The Democrats Debate Fossil Fuel Money

Category: Environment
Posted: 04/02/16 00:17, Edited: 04/02/16 08:15

by Dave Mindeman

Looks like we are entering a new phase of the Democratic campaign. Although it certainly doesn't have the makings of Republican chaos, it looks like we will be going through a bumpy period. The conversations are going to get a little more personal. Guess it has to be expected. It has been a close contest.

But let's examine this controversy about contributions from the fossil fuel industry. Greenpeace, an organization I deeply respect, has been calling out the Clinton campaign on fossil fuel contributions. And the Sanders campaign is using their data to follow up with similar charges.

There are 3 basic elements to the Greenpeace evidence:

1) Individual donors that work in the industry. This seems a bit of a stretch on influence, but let's examine it. The Clinton campaign has received $307,561 from employees of the industry. That is 0.2% of her total contributions. Bernie Sanders has also received such contributions. His number is smaller, in the neighborhood of $50,000. In the scheme of things, those are hardly the "influence peddling" type figures. Not to belabor the point, but Bernie did sign the pledge he talks about, of not taking any fossil fuel contributions. If you want to be technical, he violated that pledge. Since that is petty and ridiculous, I think we can dismiss all of this. (For comparison sake, Ted Cruz has taken over $1 million in industry individual contributions.)

2. Lobbyists. Here we get into a little more serious business. It is the lobbyist's job to influence the politics of these things. And yes, the Clinton campaign has received money from the industry lobbyists. Sanders campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, has pointed that out....

Jeff Weaver, Mr. Sanders's campaign manager, said in a statement that it was "disappointing" that Mrs. Clinton has accused Mr. Sanders's staff of lying on the issue of fossil fuel industry donations. "Fifty-seven lobbyists from the industry have personally given to her campaign and 11 of those lobbyists have bundled more than $1 million to help put her in the White House," he said.

Now the individual lobbyists maximum contribution as individuals is $2700. Most of these 57 lobbyists fit that description. But the 11 lobbyists who bundle are the serious ones. Together they raised over $1 million for the campaign. Bernie doesn't deal with bundlers. But that is a campaign finance method that has been used by virtually all other campaigns - past and present. President Obama had a prolific bundling organization - according to OpenSecrets, Obama had 769 individual bundlers raise a staggering total of $186,500,000 for Obama's re-election. And a significant portion of those bundlers came from the Securities and Investment industry.

Including these lobbyists, we still only get to 0.8% of the Clinton donations total.

3. SuperPacs. Jeff Weaver used some more Greenpeace data to add more evidence...

"If you include money given to super PACs backing Clinton, the fossil fuel industry has given more than $4.5 million in support of Clinton's bid," Mr. Weaver said.

It is a little difficult to add this to any kind of influence pressure. After all, Clinton cannot coordinate in any way with a SuperPac, and truthfully, she probably had no idea where the SuperPac gets its funds. The only reason she knows about these contributions is because Greenpeace investigated it.

Bernie's campaign can always make this an issue, because they have the formula to live off of individual donations. Frankly, it is incredible and he has every right to brag and use it to point out the inequities of the current system.

But to attack Clinton on the fossil fuel issue? She is pretty much in agreement with all of Bernie's positions on climate change. She came out against the Keystone XL. She has a program she wants to start that will make solar panels more affordable and useful for everyone. And she and Bernie both attack the GOP for their climate denial. The only daylight between them, may be on fracking. Bernie is ready to eliminate it, while Clinton is more hesitant because she wants more data on it and she is not willing to risk the jobs involved just yet. But Bernie definitely has the stronger position in that regard.

But this whole fracas is not worth having a fight about. After all, 97.7% of all fossil fuel industry contributions go to Republicans. They know where their bread and butter lies.

Individual contributions from people in an industry are hard to portray as influencing a candidate. For comparison's sake, Bernie's campaign gets $2.5 million in those type of contributions from Google. Does that mean that they have an influence pipeline to Bernie? Of course not.

This disagreement is worthy of discussion between the Democratic candidates, and Bernie has the high ground on campaign finance. No question about it. But let's keep the discussion on the merits.

Let's try not to get personal.

Related article in Washington Post.
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