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The newly signed inflation reduction law provides urgent, if not vastly overdue, funds to help slow global warming, with around $ 370 billion for things like subsidies for electric vehicles (EVs) and renewable, clean energy sources. and to incentivize existing nuclear plants to increase production.
In Minnesota, the law’s “Buy American” requirement will provide something else: an added element in the long debate over opening the state’s first hard rock mine to extract copper, nickel, cobalt and other “critical” metals from a mine. extending through Northeast Arrowhead.
The law’s subsidies for electric vehicles require their batteries to contain metals produced or recycled in North America, half by 2024 and all by 2028. Northeastern Minnesota’s “Duluth Complex” contains vast deposits of the necessary metals and a Nickel-rich ore deposit is located west of Duluth.
For nearly two decades, PolyMet Mining has been involved in a mining permit approval process near Hoyt Lakes. All state and federal permits have been granted, but procedural challenges continue to hold back.
The authorization took too long, understandably frustrating the Iron Rangers who see the PolyMet mine as a good job and stability for a region plagued by a cyclical economy largely linked to iron mining.
Environmental advocates in the Twin Cities, mostly DFLers, fear the effects of endemic toxic waste from such extraction and have effectively applied legal and other resistance to PolyMet’s plan. The chain has been trusted forever deep blue, but the mining hype has changed that, leaving growing political rifts and an unfortunate regional divide.
Sure, copper mining has a grim world record of failing to prevent toxins from leaking into the environment and a nasty habit of closing mines while attacking others with costly cleanups. Green interests have rightly tried to prevent this from happening in Minnesota.
But there is a dark and dark force that pushes most other public issues to the second level: the worsening of climate change with increasingly devastating fires, intense hurricanes and storms, floods, droughts and rising seas. Recent measurements show greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere at their highest point ever, revealing the industrial world’s grim response to a calamitous behemoth that has marched in plain sight for a long, long time.
Copper mining and nuclear power present challenges, of course, and I am among those who have long had serious doubts about both. But with the growing threat of climate change, the time has come to think differently about some things, including making timely decisions on big energy projects; indeed, the transformation into a green economy will require it.
The new law recognizes the important benefit of carbon-free nuclear energy. Coal and natural gas plants emit tons of greenhouse gases and must be shut down sooner rather than later, and renewables cannot provide baseload replacement power without a radical expansion of infrastructure and a much more reliable national electricity grid. California has just reversed course and now supports nuclear power precisely to reduce carbon emissions; Minnesota should do the same.
The important advantage of hard-rock mines is that they produce copper, nickel and cobalt for the billions of energy storage batteries needed to store energy from renewable sources and to power electric vehicles.
The “Buy American” requirement of the new law aims precisely at reducing China’s world domination of the “critical metals” market. There is also concern about child labor in deep African cobalt mines.
While the designation of wilderness areas and restrictions on the use of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area have long fueled the antagonism between Rangers and urban DFLers, as it has now never reached the breaking point. The incensed Rangers are moving away from their political moorings, shifting to a neutral corner as the mining controversy continues.
Probably, this affects the progress of the state. Though socially conservative, Range lawmakers have helped shape Minnesota as a bastion of educational opportunity, premium health care, a celebrated quality of life, and a good place for those whose jobs are critical to the state’s outstanding economy.
The Range, whose iron made America a 20th century industrial powerhouse, provided a livelihood for generations and fused an ethnic mix into a unique Ranger culture. Rangers are an important part of the “L” in the DFL and would again be a positive political force by joining their political relatives.
The Inflation Reduction Act emphasizes the importance of hard rock mining in Minnesota. Go on.
Ron Way, of Minneapolis, is a former legislative director of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. He is at firstname.lastname@example.org.