Earth Day brings renewable energy push at Capitol

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Arctic explorer Will Steger sparked a chorus of boos at theState Capitol Monday when he pointed out that 40 percent of state lawmakers don't accept the notion that climate change hasmanmade causes.

Butrather thanreveling in the moment, Steger cautioned the crowd they've got to treat skeptics with respect and connect with legislatorson a personal level.

"Be organized. Talk from your heart. Have a heart to heart," Steger instructed the audience in the Capitol Rotunda.

"Talk about your children, your future children you want. Talk about your environment and your jobs. Talk to them!"

His comments came during a lively Earth Day rally that drew hundreds to the Capitol.Steger has personally documented the shrinking polar ice in visits to the Arctic, and has been sounding the alarm about a warming atmosphere and ocean for years.

The event wassponsored by theClean Energy & Jobs Campaign, an organization that seeks to make the connection between going green and creating sustainable jobs in the process.

"For too long we have thought about the environmental movement and the goals of the labor movement as somehow being at odds,"said Javier Morillo-Alicea, a SEIU Union leader.

"We thought thatgood jobs and clean environment are at odds, and that is simply not true!"

The coalition of labor and environmental groups is supporting efforts at the Capitol to raise the renewable fuel targets to 40 percent by the year 2030.Bills pending in the House and Senate would do that, as well as making it easier for solar energy producers to sell their excess electricity to utilities.

The bills would exempt rural electric coops and municipal utilities from the 40 percent targets. The current targets, signed into law in 2007 by then-Governor Tim Pawlenty, set a standard of 25 percent renewable by the year 2025.

The bulk of that target will be achieved with wind energy, which is one of the reasons backers of the current bills would like to see a 10 percent standard for solar energy.The bills in the House and Senate go with a 4 percent target for solar instead.

In 2007, Steger addressed a joint session of the legislature, presenting slides and satellite images of his Arctic findings, as he made the case for lowering carbon emissions.


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