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Letter: Minnesota should zipper merge on CO2 emissions

Orr writes, "Rather than replicating California’s clumsy transition away from fossil fuels toward unreliable energy sources, Minnesotans should zipper merge on emissions. This would entail using our reliable and affordable existing coal and natural gas power plants until the end of their useful lifetimes, and gradually 'merging' to new, carbon-free, nuclear power plants to replace them."

Isaac Orr.jpeg
Isaac Orr is a policy fellow at the Center of the American Experiment. Contributed / Isaac Orr

Minnesotans are notoriously bad practitioners of the zipper merge. Rather than using two full lanes until it is finally time to merge, something about the collective Minnesota mindset resents the zipper merge as unfair or cheating. While these feelings are well intentioned, they result in an inefficient, herky-jerky early merging system that results in longer bottlenecks, expensive accidents, and more injuries than would occur if we embraced zipper merging.

We have a similar mindset when it comes to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, favoring the stop-and-go early adoption of technologies that have not proved they are capable of powering our lives and transporting our families to and from our destinations. The results have been inefficient, costly, and they are growing increasingly dangerous.

Our state once had electricity prices far below the national average, but federal data show the cost of electricity has risen 2.7 times faster than the national average since our renewable energy mandate was unwisely signed into law by Gov. Pawlenty in 2007.

Minnesota is also at a greater risk of experiencing the electricity shortages that are currently plaguing California because like the Golden State, our grid is becoming increasingly dependent upon wind turbines and solar panels, energy sources that are reliant upon the weather.

Things have gotten so bad in California that the electric grid operators are begging people to use less electricity from 4 to 9 p.m. when electricity demand soars as people get home from work, but the setting sun reduces supply generated from the state’s solar panels.

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On several occasions this year, grid operators have asked Californians to forego the use of air conditioning during soaring temperatures, requested they not do laundry or use the dishwasher, and asked people not to charge their electric vehicles, which will be the only type of new vehicles that can be sold in the Golden State by 2035.

Rather than replicating California’s clumsy transition away from fossil fuels toward unreliable energy sources, Minnesotans should zipper merge on emissions. This would entail using our reliable and affordable existing coal and natural gas power plants until the end of their useful lifetimes, and gradually “merging” to new, carbon-free, nuclear power plants to replace them. This “zipper merge” strategy got a massive boost recently when Xcel Energy, the largest electric utility in the state, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with NuScale Power.

NuScale is currently developing an innovative new nuclear reactor design that focuses on building smaller, safer nuclear power plants that are connected together like a LEGO set to form a larger power plant.

Isaac Orr is a policy fellow at the Center of the American Experiment.

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

Related Topics: MINNESOTATIM WALZ
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