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    Iron & Steel Part 2, Energy, Pollution & People

    Green Iron and Steel Jeff Hanson Oct 4th 2022

    Green Iron & Steel Jeff Hanson Q&A

    These notes come from the Q&A section that immediately followed Jeff Hanson’s talk. This section was not recorded as part of the zoom. The notes have been lightly edited.

     

     

    Maggie S
    This transition will be good for the climate and good for the Minnesota economy. It will require, a transition period of retiring blast furnaces and changing to the vertical shaft DRI furnace. Even though it’s good for the economy, do you see that as being a disruptive process at the company level and then at the workforce level? Or do you see that as being fairly smooth? If it is disruptive, what are your thoughts on that? What sort of incentives and supports would we need?

    Jeff H
    Thanks for the question. First off I’m not an economist but I think it’s going to be fairly disruptive. It’s a big change because we don’t traditionally do any of the next steps after pelletizing. That means a lot more being done here, needing a lot more people working. Those in the taconite mining and pellet making industry are basically going to be keeping the same jobs, but we do need new people for new jobs. But it’s good, in a lot of ways. One thing we know about the challenge of climate change, if we keep doing what we’re doing we are doomed. We’ve got to do some disruptive things to change this. I keep thinking of that 9% of greenhouse gas from the steel industry. The steel industry is ranked as number two contributor to greenhouse gases after transportation. And they said for a long time, oh, it’s a hard industry to green up, well there is a way to green it up.

    Michael O
    Green Iron & Steel Conference is the link for the summary of the conference “MN Iron Ore and the Green Economy” held March 16, 2022. Can you comment on why electric arc furnaces did not get started in Minnesota? Why did we miss that opportunity? Also how much infrastructure needs to be developed to incorporate hydrogen into the process?

    Jeff H
    On the first question “Why did electric arc furnaces not get started here?” Electric arc furnaces need conductive feedstock. They were started and developed as a way to recycle steel.  But we don’t produce steel here nor do we have as many scrap cars as Detroit. What we produce here mostly, up to now, are taconite pellets. They don’t conduct electricity and cannot be fed into an electric arc furnace. So why would anybody put an electric arc furnace in Minnesota when we don’t have the feedstock? The president of Cleveland Cliffs delayed the opening of the Northshore Mine in Babbitt and kept Silver Bay idled because they are getting more and more recycled steel to put into their furnaces and they have enough DRI grade pellets from the Minorca Mine in Virginia. They don’t need the pellets from Babbitt and Silver Bay. We don’t have the scrap steel here or the DRI grade pellets so we don’t have the electric arc furnaces.

    On the second question “How much Infrastructure needs to be developed to use hydrogen?” The Midrex system dominates 70% of DRI furnaces right now. They have an older system that uses coal which we won’t discuss. Their natural gas system is designed to fairly easily incorporate hydrogen. They can incorporate a small percentage of hydrogen in the existing plants like the one that they have in Cleveland Cliffs in Toledo where our pellets go to. With small modifications in that plant they can do 100% hydrogen.  Those plants are not cheap and they’re rather sophisticated. It would require having plants of that nature here.  That’s pretty big infrastructure building. That’s a bigger step than doing electric arc furnaces which have a much smaller footprint. A DRI vertical shaft furnace is a big investment and we don’t have any around here at this time. But if we are going to produce DR grade pellets I would expect that is under consideration at a couple of different mining and steel companies. US Steel and Cleveland Cliffs definitely, and there will be others.

    Bill N
    One comment on the transition from blast furnaces. Many of the blast furnaces are quite old. At some point they are going to need major renovations and new refractory linings etc that cost billions of dollars. They are already expensive and inefficient and if we ever have a carbon tax they are dead. If you are a steel company, do you want to invest in old technology that may go away? If blast furnaces go away then taconite is dead.

    Jeff H
    For full disclosure, that was Bill Newman my partner at Clearwater Biologic. Our advisors come from the taconite industry. Jim Swearingen is an ex general manager at Minntac, he knows this business. He has said for years that when you need to replace the thick expensive refractory lining of a blast furnace they will just shut it down instead. It’s more efficient and less expensive to use an electric arc furnace. Our industry was built on blast furnaces originally, but that technology is now old. So, Bill’s point is that when it comes to that time to refurbish and reline a blast furnace generally it has been shut down. Last year there were two blast furnaces that were shut down. If you read the strategy of Cleveland Cliffs you can see that they bought a whole bunch of different steel making facilities and they are now bigger in steel making than US Steel. They have a mix of blast furnaces and electric arc furnaces, but their investment is now all going to electric arc furnaces.  The transition is happening.

    Hudson K
    I like your presentation. I agree with you strongly about everything you said. But Mr. Lourenco Goncalves, the president of Cleveland Cliffs, he’s a bit of a piece of work right? He’s not an environmentalist and he doesn’t care about that at all. He admits he just wants to make money. US Steel’s Keetac burns coal now. And you know there are dirty versions of every technology including making hydrogen. Neither grey hydrogen nor blue hydrogen are environmentally clean. It would be much cheaper to get that dirty hydrogen from Alberta than it would be to make green hydrogen here. I read about Keetac upgrading to make a particular type of iron. But I didn’t see any details that gave me optimism that they were actually going to do green hydrogen which would be the right thing. So I invite you to tell me where your optimism comes from.

    Jeff H
    I agree, Goncalves of Cleveland cliffs, is not a staunch environmentalist. He is worried about making money and he says that very clearly. They are not inherently going to be doing the right thing for the environment. Their priority is making money.  So where’s my optimism coming from since the Keetak plant burns a lot of coal? They didn’t talk about changing that. They talked about making DR grade pellets to feed into a DRI system somewhere else. Where’s the optimism index? They didn’t talk about cleaning up that operation at all.

    I have one very strong conviction, mining and steel companies are there for financial reward. If you think otherwise you are fooling yourself. That’s why I say environmentally there are two things going on. One, we have to hold their feet to the fire and see that they do the right thing. Historically, mining steel companies have not done exactly the best thing environmentally. And second, why am I more optimistic now? Because the economics are in favor of them doing it better. If they don’t make the transition to DRI, they will die. It’s not a good economic scenario for them to base their future on taconite pellets.  The blast furnaces are going out, so the taconite pellets are going out too. They are going to have to make the change. And if you want to do it in the economic way, you work towards basing it on hydrogen. It is more energy efficient, it is more economical, and it’s in their best interest. The Inflation Reduction Act with the money that is going into green energy and infrastructure is a big deal. And it’s a real big deal to make hydrogen more economically feasible than fossil fuels. It has already started to happen. We are in that transition now. How fast are we going to go? We don’t know yet but it is a reason to be optimistic. And I think that understanding this whole myriad of factors coming together is significant here in northeastern Minnesota.

    I think we need to understand and promote it as “Hey Mr. Mining Companies and Steel Companies, nice to see you going in the right direction. I applaud that, but let’s see you do it faster and cleaner than you might do if you drag your feet.” Lourenco Goncalves is bombastic, strong industry leader. But he’s turned Cleveland cliffs into a much bigger and better company. Before he came in, the only thing they produced were taconite pellets. Now they’re the largest steel producer in the US, and they’re getting larger. US Steel have been dragging their feet. But they’re also being forced into going forward. Now we understand what’s going on, we can hold their feet to the fire and say “Hey, this is what we need for climate, for climate change, for our country, for the world and for Minnesota.” We have got to move forward, it’s not an option to not change.

    Barb J
    How inevitable do you see this development for Minnesota? Is the financial setup and the existence of the iron here enough? Or do we have to have the politicians or the state put in extra incentives?

    Jeff H
    The simple honest answer is I don’t know, that’s a big question. I think we need the politicians, they set the rules on a lot of stuff. And if you go back and say, why weren’t we doing this in Minnesota before, why didn’t we do value added things on our iron that we mined in Minnesota before? Well, did we want blast furnaces in Minnesota? I didn’t, they are big polluters. How many cement kilns do we have in Minnesota? That’s really easy. The answer is zero. They are in Iowa, Wisconsin, and South Dakota, but not in Minnesota. Because cement kilns are the second most polluting greenhouse gas emitters right after blast furnaces, and we didn’t want them in Minnesota. So cement kilns have never been permitted in Minnesota. The taconite industry really got started up here because we changed our tax codes for it.  Hematite had a different incentive – a requirement to produce on their leases. So yes, we do need politicians. And I think for me, the important point on this is that I care about the environment. I moved here because of the environment and mining. I know that to do the things we need to do for the environment and for climate change we need steel and iron. A lot of the people that live up here want to stay here and they need jobs.

    Barb J
    Before you close you should tell people about Almanac North on Duluth Public TV 8pm this Friday.

    Jeff H
    Yesterday, I got invited to participate in a special edition of almanac North on WDSE, to be aired at 8pm Friday. The topic will be “The Future of Iron and Steel and What it Means to Minnesota”. So it’s related to the topic presented here. It will be hosted by Aaron Brown. I was invited because of the other big issue on mining in Minnesota which is “What do you do about the sulfur and sulfate?” Can we have a more economical version than reverse osmosis so we can tell the mining companies “Yes you can do something about sulfate pollution”. Watch on Friday.

    Barb J
    We should thank Jeff for talking and zooming with us. This talk has been hosted by Bill Tefft in the Ely Field Naturalists’ Resource Center. Thank you Jeff and Bill and thank you all for coming.

     

    August 2nd 2022 Maggie Schuppert & Hudson Kingston

    July 26th 2022

    Hi Folks,

    Our next climate change meeting will be August 2nd at 10am at the Ely Senior Center. We will be able to talk with two Ely residents who work on environmental and climate issues – Maggie Schuppert and Hudson Kingston, local Ely residents, will be coming.  FYI the TG presentation that day will be given by John Shepard “Northern Nights, Starry Skies: Preview of a PBS Documentary”.

    Maggie is CURE’s Campaigns Director. Clean Up the River Environment (CURE) is a rural, nonprofit organization made up of people who care about the well-being of their neighbors, the health of the land and water, and the legacy we leave for future generations.  She is helping to build CURE’s capacity for strategic communications, campaigns, and advocacy. Maggie is a Minnesota transplant from the East Coast. Before moving here in 2015, she worked around the world with communities that have been adversely impacted by large-scale energy and development infrastructure projects, helping them fight for their rights. She has brought this commitment to environmental rights, justice, and accountability to her environmental organizing work in Minnesota. Two of CURE’s keystone campaigns include Rural Electric Co-op reform and carbon pipelines.  You can find more info about CURE and Maggie here: CURE, Maggie Schuppert

    Hudson Kingston (Sarah’s son) is an attorney who works for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) an organization that works with current and former public employees to protect the environment. He has experience with public health, consumer protection, and environmental organizations in both Washington DC and the Midwest. Over the course of his career he has worked on litigation and policy related to climate change, addressing the water pollution impacts of mining, pesticide regulation, the environmental and health impacts of e-cigarettes, and environmental injustices perpetuated by the administrative state, partnering with tribes, local nonprofits, low-income advocates, coalitions of environmental and social justice groups, and local, state, territorial, and federal public employees. And he has won a marathon. You can find more about PEER and Hudson here:  PEER, Hudson Kingston

    Both Maggie and Hudson are quoted in this MPR story about CO2 pipelines: MPR on CO2 pipelines

    In the course of a month there are many interesting new articles related to climate. If it is too hot or too wet to enjoy the outdoors try reading! I will share three thought provoking or just plain shocking articles today. Two come from the NY Times. I will share the NY Times text if you have paywall problems, let me know. The last is from the Guardian which is always accessible.

    The first comes from the NY Times and was passed along by Frederica. This is quite a long read about the many efforts to plant trees to try to draw down CO2. Many of these are close to scams although the basic idea is attractive. This is a long and comprehensive article. NY Times – a trillion trees

    The second is a shorter piece about the peatlands and rainforests in the Congo basin which are to be auctioned off for oil and gas drilling. This is also protected gorilla habitat. Congo is desperately poor and needs the income.  NY Times Congo Basin

    Finally, the oil sector has yielded profits of $3 trillion per day for the last 50 years. This article is short and to the point. Guardian: Staggering oil profits

    Hope to see you August 2nd

    Thanks

    Barb

    Divestment Outline   Valerie Myntti   July 5, 2022

     

    Discussion

    1. A Brief History of Divestment Movements

    Policy Objectives of FF Divestment

    (Please Note: this is the longest section)

    1. The Arguments against FF Divestment
    2. The Nuts & Bolts of Personal Divesting

     

    *We will break after each section for about 10 minutes to take comments/ questions.

     

    What is Divestment?

    Divestment is a socially responsible investing tactic to remove assets from an industry based on moral objections to its business practices.

     

    What has the fossil fuel divestment movement achieved so far?

    1. Divestment changed the conversation around fossil fuel and its financing.
    2. Divestment has stigmatized fossil fuels as risky and toxic thereby reducing their financial desirability.
    3. Investors and bankers are now questioning the long-term financial viability of the FF sector.
    • Norms around the acceptability of fossil fuels have changed, and today FF are seen by many negatively.
    • Changing norms and stigmatization around FF coaxes governments to act by enacting legislation and to regulate FF companies.
    • Divestment forced pension fund managers, and other huge institutional investment managers, to confront climate change.
    • Banks– refusing to do business with FF companies—can now choke off that steady cash flow– reducing the supply of capital.
    1. Today divestment can be seen as a savvy and responsible business decision.
    2. Divestment challenges the political power of the fossil fuel industry.
    3. Divestment moves money away from dirty energy towards climate solutions.

     

     

    How to Personally DIVEST?

    Talk to the institutions in your life to see if they invest in FF.

    These institutions will include your banks, credit card companies, your brokerage companies and investment advisors, the companies with whom you invest, the charitable organizations you support with donations, your pension fund and IRA, your insurance companies, your union, your faith organization, your prep schools & universities, your city and state governments.

    Tell them you want your investments and donations to reflect your values.

    You want to divest from any stocks or other investments in FF or its infrastructure. You wish to re-invest in green climate solutions.

    You will not give philanthropic gifts to any organization (university, church, or other non-profit organization) that invests in FF or its infrastructure. You will not give another donation until they divest.

    You will not bank in, or use credit cards from banks, that are invested in or finance FF operations/ transport/ infrastructure.

    You will put your money in banks that do not invest in FF.

    You will find an insurance companies that invests in fossil fuel-free companies.

    You will apply pressure on your pension fund manager, your union, and your city & state governments to divest from investing in FF.

     

       There are many online resources to help you do this.

                 Banks & Credit Card Companies

    * See how your bank scores at Banking on Climate Chaos at https://www.bankingonclimatechaos.org

    * Find a better bank at https://greenamerica.org/get-a-better-bank

    * Determine what your bank or credit union does with your money at www.mightydeposits.com

    * Find socially responsible credit cards from community development banks at

    https://www.greenamerica.org/take-charge-your-card

     

    Divest From FF Companies

    *Identifies the top 100 coal and the top 100 oil & gas publicly-traded producers & reserve holders globally, ranked by the potential carbon emissions content of their reported reserves.  This list is used by FF campaigns and individual divestors to divest.

    https://fossilfreefunds.org/carbon-underground-200

    *List of 100 top Greenhouse Polluters by the Political Economy Research Institute at

    https://peri.umass.edu/greenhouse-100-polluters-index-current

     

              

     Reinvest in Climate Solutions and Socially Responsible Stocks & Mutual Funds

    *Check out The S & P Fossil Free Index that measures the performance of companies in

    the S & P that do not invest in FF at

    https://www.spglobal.com/spdji/en/indices/esg/sp-global-1200-fossil-fuel-free-index

    *To better understand green & socially responsible investing check out https://www.greenamerica.org/socially-responsible-investing

    https://www.sofi.com/learn/content/green-investing/

    https://www.greencentury.com

     

     

     

     

     

    Sources

     

    This talk is not based on original research, but is a synthesis of the many articles I have researched, read & used in preparation, including articles from:

    Brookings Institution,

    NPR,

    Investopedia,

    Yale Climate Connection,

    Oxford Research Encyclopedia,

    Science Policy Institute at the University of Sussex (UK),

    Sustainable Development News,

    London School of Economics,

    University of California at Hastings Law Review,

    Green America.org,

    Global Citizen.org,

    Pension Fund Divestment by Jeremy Brecker,

    Climate Newsletter,

    Mighty Deposits Guide,

    NRDC,

    Wall Street Journal,

    350.org,

    Forbes Magazine,

    Inside Higher Ed,

    The Guardian,

    The New York Times,

    Washington Post,

    Harvard Crimson,

    Vox,

    Wired,

    Scientific American,

    Axios,

    Schroders Executive Summary on Divestment,

    Ethical Consumer.org,

    What do We Owe the Future by William MacAskill,

    Laudato Si Movement.org,

    Operation Noah.org,

    Ozy

     

     

    July 5th 2022 “Divestment” 10am at GEL

    The Ely Climate Change Group is Hosting a Presentation by Valerie Myntti on Fossil Fuel Divestment and Tom Omerza on Local Banks’ Investment Policies.

    Where: Grand Ely Lodge

    When:  Tuesday, July 5, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.

    **No charge, open to the public

     

    Please join us to hear about a climate action all of us can participate in now.

    While governments are distracted by our immediate, unfolding global crises, and not taking the urgent steps necessary to meet their Paris Accord & Glasgow carbon emissions targets, we, the citizens, can take climate action now by minimizing our carbon footprint, voting for climate activists for political office, and by joining the Fossil Fuel Divestment campaign.

     

    You do not need to own stocks to take action to divest. We can all help. Where you do your banking matters. According to 350.org, the Fossil Fuel Divestment campaign is a key strategy that systematically challenges the political power of the fossil fuel industry, creates uncertainty about the long-term financial viability of the industry, and moves money away from dirty energy towards climate solutions.

     

    Join us for a presentation and discussion on Fossil Fuel Divestment. Learn how you can participate.

    Valerie Myntti will talk about the History of Divestment Movements, the Policy Objectives of Fossil Fuel Divestment, and the Nuts & Bolts of Personal Divestment.

    Local banker, Tom Omerza, will offer a perspective on community banking and investment policies.

     

     

    June 7th 2022

    May 31st 2022

    Hi Folks,

    Our next climate change meeting will be June 7th at 10am at the Ely Senior Center. The TG presentation that day will be given by Grant Hauschild, the DFL candidate for Minnesota’s senate seat currently held by Tom Bakk who is retiring. Grant was invited to our CC meeting but was unable to fit us into his schedule. Save your climate questions for him at Tuesday Group.

    For our 10am meeting here are some suggestions. I would like to take some time to reflect on how we feel about the current climate situation and how we talk to others about climate. Talking to others is important. We have a better chance of achieving useful goals when more people are informed. There is so much climate news and it’s the bad news that gets the headlines. Sometimes it is useful to concentrate on the good news for talking points and to keep our spirits up.

    Citizens’ Climate Lobby has recently discussed how to use “The Six Americas” as a conversation starter. This comes from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. Most people have heard about climate change (aka “Global Warming”) and most have some opinion about how serious it is. The crew at Yale asked 1000 people how they felt on a scale that goes from

    Alarmed to Concerned, Cautious, Disengaged, Doubtful and Dismissive. The sizes of the bubbles show their results.

    Where are you on this scale? Since you are reading this email I would guess you are in the Alarmed or Concerned categories. Ask your friends and neighbors. CCLers have been using this at tabling events with good success in getting people engaged. You can read about the program here: Six Americas   With only about 10% in the “dismissive” category that means that most people are willing to consider a discussion.

    Another approach that maybe useful is inspired  by the Peanuts cartoon where Lucy gives Climate Anxiety Advice in lieu of Psychiatric Advice for 5¢. You might make enough to buy a cup of coffee. Anyone want to try this at the farmers market?  What advice or counselling would you give? Here is a link: Climate Anxiety Advice 5¢

     

    Katharine Hayhoe is a leader in how to talk about climate. She is a Prof of Climate Science in Texas. Here is her biography: Heyhoe bio  She is an author and popular public speaker. Her most recent book is “Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World”. If you search for her on YouTube there is a lot of material. I have picked out 2 videos. The first, which will give you a quick taste of her style, is an 8 minute segment with Jimmy Kimmel KH with Kimmel   The next is a longer interview with Citizens’ Climate Lobby about her recent book “Saving Us”. If you don’t have time to watch it all go to 21 minutes and watch a few minutes from there. KH with CCL

    If you have favorite authors, speakers that help you understand our climate while staying positive please share!

    Hope to see you June 7th

    Thanks

    Barb

    May 3rd 2022 An electric school bus for Ely from “Infrastructure Bill” funds

    An Opportunity for Ely Schools – The EPA Clean School Bus Program

    From the EPA’s Clean School Bus website:

    The bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s Clean School Bus Program provides $5 billion over 5 years to spur the transformation of the nation’s school bus fleet. Half of the $5 billion total funding is dedicated for zero-emission school buses. $500 million available in 2022. Applications accepted between May and August 2022.

    Benefits of zero-emission buses: zero tail pipe pollution, reduced greenhouse gas emission compared to diesel school buses, potential for reduced maintenance and fuel costs, potential for fleets to partner with local utilities to feed power back into the grid when buses not in use and electricity demand is high.

     

    Electric School bus action – please contact school board members to urge them to apply for an electric school bus for Ely.

    Suggested email language- also feel free to add your own message. 

     

    Dear School Board Chair Marsnik,

    I am a concerned taxpayer in the Ely School District ISD 696. I’m writing today to urge Ely’s Schools to take advantage of federal funds available to purchase electric school buses. It’s time to phase out diesel buses to protect the health of students and bus drivers and to reduce air pollution and carbon emissions that contribute to climate change.  Electric school buses have lower fuel costs and need less maintenance.

    The first round of EPA funding applications will be opening up in May of this year and we hope that you are prepared to apply for these electric school bus grants and rebates.  We ask that you and your transportation leadership review the EPA clean school bus program web page where you will find up to date information about the benefits of electric school buses and how to apply for rebates that could fully fund the cost of purchasing new electric school buses for our district.  Google “EPA clean school bus program” to get to the web site.

    Ensure your school district has applied for federal unique identity number at https://sam.gov/content/duns-uei which is necessary to receive federal rebates and grants

    The MN Clean Cities Coalition is a great resource for school districts. Contact Lisa Thurstin, 651-223-9568,  Lisa.Thurstin@lung.org to find out about their webinars, how to do a fleet inventory, and other resources.  You can find additional links on the Ely Climate Change website   https://elyminnesota.com/elyclimate/

    Thank you for taking steps to procure federal funds for electric school buses to support student health and a healthy climate!

     

    Signed _______________________________   May xx, 2022

     

    Ely School District 696    School Board members

    Tony Colarich  School Board Director  tcolarich@ely.k12.mn.us

    Hollee Coombe  School Board Director  hcoombe@ely.k12.mn.us

    Chad Davis  School Board Director  cdavis@ely.k12.mn.us

    Ray Marsnik  School Board Chairperson  rmarsnik@ely.k12.mn.us

    Tom Omerza  School Board Treasurer  tom.omerza@ely.k12.mn.us

    Rochelle Sjoberg  School Board Clerk  rsjoberg@ely.k12.mn.us

     

    Excerpts from The Minnesota Reformer “Electrifying Minnesota school bus fleet will pay big dividends” by Madi Johnson Mar 2, 2022

    It’s time for Minnesota to electrify our school bus fleet. 

    The biggest winners when we do it will be our school kids. Diesel fumes inside of buses and at bus stops are respiratory hazards for developing lungs. Ground level air pollution in high-density and high-traffic neighborhoods has been shown to disproportionately impact low income and marginalized communities. There is strong correlational data showing that exposure to air pollution leads to poorer grades and increased absenteeism. Especially in denser areas, cleaning up our buses and converting other diesel trucks to electric will have measurable health benefits. And, reducing the amount of pollution drivers are exposed to also helps create safer jobs. 

    Regarding cost: Over its lifetime and given the health and climate benefits, an electric school bus at full price is still more cost effective than diesel. They benefit from cheaper fuel, lower maintenance costs and a longer lifespan.

    The health benefits of electrifying our fleet of trucks and buses also mean savings.  According to the MPCA, between 2,000 and 4,000 Minnesotans die each year due to air pollution. Reducing vehicle pollution will result in hundreds fewer premature deaths and hospital visits each year. 

    Electric vehicle fleets also promote economic stability and local self-reliance. Interruptions in the supply of petroleum should untoward events occur on the international stage — like Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine — will not affect the price or availability of wind and solar generated electricity.  Also, battery prices, which have plummeted in the past 10 years, are expected to drop even further and may become more technologically advanced. Which could mean significant improvements in range and reduction in cost. Finally, the use of home grown, often Minnesota-made electricity to power our fleet of buses and trucks — instead of spending our money in other states or other countries — has economic benefits.

    An electric and conventional bus will be the same price after about 12 years of regular use, according to the transportation managers responsible for the electric buses.

    Electric utilities such as Xcel Energy, Great River Energy and Dakota Electric are also doing their part to hasten this transition. The utilities are helping with charging infrastructure and offering energy credits to incentivize schools to fuel their buses with electrons instead of diesel. 

    The federal infrastructure bill made $2.5 billion available for electric school buses and $2.5 billion for low emission buses. In short, the buses are great, the price is right, and the money is there.  

    But not necessarily in Minnesota, which hasn’t created a comprehensive plan to transition its buses; we are positioning ourselves to miss out on that investment. Unlike 16 other states, Minnesota has not set commitments to replace conventional school buses or medium and heavy duty vehicles with electric. 

    At the local level, we are seeing some progress. Metro Transit just announced a zero emission bus plan, and the cities of Duluth, St. Cloud and Rochester have had electric buses on the ground for years. This has been despite state government inaction. 

    There are also jobs at stake. To bring them to fruition, our state needs to set goals — not just to hit the climate goals we are legally bound to meet in the Next Generation Energy Act — but to create a robust green economy that keeps manufacturing in Minnesota. Electric vehicle manufacturing provides more than 1,000 jobs in Minnesota. Minnesota’s going to miss out on these jobs and this investment if we don’t start positioning ourselves.

    This is how school buses should be supported in MN:

    https://environmentminnesotacenter.org/reports/amc/electric-school-buses-and-grid

     

    Additional practical information and help for school board members writing proposals can be found from Lisa Thurstin MN Clean Cities Coalition Coordinator. This is from Lisa:

     

    Below are resources from the webinar as well as what we can offer:

    1. Minnesota Clean Cities Coalition (MC3) staff can assist with grant writing or application review
    2. MC3 can assist with a fleet analysis (no cost) of how an electric (or other clean fuel) would fit in the fleet. Use this template and send back to us to get started. EPA’s school bus inventory template(.xlsx)
    3. Set up a meeting with multiple Bus manufacturers to discuss best fit for your fleet.
    4. Introduction to Xcel Energy staff to start conversation of expectations of added electric.
    5. And more – provide general education to your team, provide surveys to gauge interest/knowledge in community or district.

     

    April 8th, we hosted a webinar on Electric School Buses. Our speakers provided a variety of perspectives on the benefits and considerations of deploying electric buses. And we hope what we shared on the upcoming EPA Clean School Bus Rebate program will be helpful.  The recording can be found on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTK_jaT20VE

     

    We have a plethora of links and opportunities for more information listed below. By signing up to receive our monthly newsletter with Clean Cities Coalition you can be kept updated on funding opportunities, news, events and more.

     

    Presentation slides:

     

    Keep informed:

     

    Other resources:

     

    Best regards,  Lisa

     

    Lisa Thurstin Director | Clean Air

    Minnesota Clean Cities Coalition

    American Lung Association in Minnesota

    490 Concordia Ave | Saint Paul, MN 55103

    O:  651-223-9568 | Lisa.Thurstin@Lung.org

     

    May 3rd 2022 About Corn Ethanol

    This is from the Publications of the National Academy by Jason Hill at the University of Minnesota https://www.pnas.org/doi/10.1073/pnas.2200997119

    The sobering truth about corn ethanol

    Jason Hill

    Evidence that RFS2 increases rather than reduces GHG emissions adds to long-standing criticism of its high economic and environmental costs. At current prices, $20 billion of corn is converted to ethanol annually, which is approximately a third of all corn grown in the United States. This requires an area of cropland equivalent to all the land planted to corn in Iowa and Minnesota, the first and fourth largest corn-producing states, yet it offsets just 6% of domestic gasoline use. To put this in perspective, the current US average vehicle fuel economy is 22 miles per gallon (MPG), and a modest improvement of just 2 MPG (from 22 to 24) would, all else being equal, offset as much gasoline. What is more, this 6% offset is a gross value, not net, and does not account for fossil fuel use in ethanol production. Ethanol’s small contribution to the domestic fuel supply, while providing a sizable guaranteed market for corn farmers and ethanol producers, comes at substantial cost to the American public, three times over in fact. First, they pay higher taxes to subsidize crop insurance programs. Second, they pay more for fuel at gas stations and for food at supermarkets and restaurants. Third, they pay the economic costs of climate change, reduced water and air quality, degraded soils, habitat loss, and other environmental damage caused by corn ethanol production and use (817).

    May 3rd 2022 Meeting Announcement

    April 26th 2022

    Hi Folks

    Our next climate meeting will be May 3rd at 10am in the Ely Senior Center. FYI the Tuesday Group meeting that day is “Meet New Elyites”.

    There is a lot to share this month. I’ll start with the Minnesota Climate Action Framework. In 2019 Gov. Walz established a Climate Change Subcabinet. The MN Climate Action Framework is the plan they and other state agencies have developed. You can find details here: MN Climate Action Framework  This web page gives you some background and links to download the material. The draft document includes summaries of how our climate has changed, our history of success and failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and proposals for actions. Comments on this plan are due by April 29th. My apologies for the short notice. We should have discussed this last month. This means we cannot respond as a group, but I plan to send comments personally and have attached my draft letter to this email. I encourage you to write your own letter or co-sign mine if you agree with it. Email your responses to climate.mn@state.mn.us

    Next, the EPA has released an Environmental Justice Screening tool. You can find it here: EPA EJ mapping tool. If you launch the tool you get maps of many environmental, social and climate issues. To give you an example I have attached a map of the unemployment rate across the Twin Cities. If you love maps there is a lot to look at here.

    Finally, we have been discussing inviting Rob Ecklund to a meeting. This is unlikely to happen before the end of this legislative session at the end of May, but still worth doing. I have made a summary of his background and interests and some lines of questioning we might use in a file attached. What would you want to discuss with him? His republican opponent for the November election is not yet decided but is likely either Roger Skraba or Bob Wolfe.

    There is always more to discuss, so come to the meeting next week

    Thanks

    Barb