ST. PAUL – Minnesota lawmakers from the House and Senate unveiled Part One of their Green Solutions package today – a comprehensive action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. This broad, bicameral alliance of legislators is calling the Green Solutions package "a real plan for real action" that will create and stimulate a Green Economy, put Minnesota on the cutting edge of energy efficiency efforts nationwide, and bring tens of thousands of good-paying, reliable Green Jobs right here to our state.
"Last session we passed important legislation that showed the state's commitment to the use of renewable energy and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions," said State Senator Ellen Anderson (DFL – St. Paul/Falcon Heights) who chairs the Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources Budget Division in the Senate. "We must now take real action to ensure the state will be able to reach these ambitious goals."
Part One of the Green Solutions package calls for Minnesota to adopt the Minnesota Clean Car Act and outlines a framework for the Midwest Cap and Trade System known as the Green Solutions Act.
The Minnesota Clean Car Act
The Minnesota Clean Car Act would require automobile manufacturers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent in all new cars by 2016. Car manufacturers can reach these standards by making improvements to a car's engine, tires, transmission, and air conditioning systems. These technologies are readily available and currently in-use by automobile companies worldwide. In fact, Chevrolet is releasing a new Tahoe Hybrid that will be compliant with 2016 standards. Other vehicles such as the Saturn Outlook, Chevrolet Equinox, and 2008 Sierra 1500 will also meet 2016 standards when fueled by E85.
"Adopting the Minnesota Clean Car Act is a smart and efficient way to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Minnesota while saving drivers money," stated State Representative Melissa Hortman (DFL – Brooklyn Park/Coon Rapids), chief-author of the Minnesota Clean Car Act in the House. "By acting now, we can help lead the nation in a new direction and give our state a head start in the Green Economy of the 21st Century."
Although auto manufacturers argue that adoption of the Minnesota Clean Car Act would increase the sticker price of a new car, consumers of standard-compliant vehicles would save a significant amount of money because these more efficient vehicles will use less fuel. According to a study conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the average vehicle owner under these new standards would save $1,700 per year if gasoline cost only $2.00 per gallon. With gas prices quickly escalating, those savings could likely double.
The Green Solutions Act
The Green Solutions Act outlines a framework for the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program, a regional Cap and Trade program that would create a carbon market in which polluters purchase credits equal to their annual greenhouse gas emissions. Minnesota joined the program in 2007 along with five other states and one Canadian province including: Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Kansas, and Manitoba. This regional cap and trade system would include the electrical sector, large industrial facilities, transportation fuels, natural gas sold to heat buildings, landfills, and a number of other industry sectors.
"This innovative plan gives us a simple and powerful system to meet the aggressive goals we set last session," said State Representative Kate Knuth (DFL – New Brighton/Shoreview/Arden Hills), chief-author of the Green Solutions Act. "It encourages clean technology investments and energy efficient business development, and provides consumers the opportunity and resources to transition into the new green economy. Put simply, we all win."
State revenue raised by the Green Solutions Act would be placed in a Climate Trust Fund. These funds would be used to further reduce emissions and minimize economic impacts on workers, businesses, and low-income families by funding:
· Direct payments or refunds for Minnesotans especially impacted by the program;
· Financial assistance to help consumers and businesses invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy technology;
· Investments in public transit;
· Investments in worker training and retention programs; and
· Studies in terrestrial carbon sequestration including efforts to assist Minnesotans with the cost of implementing carbon sequestration.
Additional components of the Green Solutions package, including initiatives for creating Green Jobs and encouraging Green Living, will be revealed in the coming weeks.
"As a national leader in renewable energy, here in Minnesota we must continue working fervently to capitalize on new, and innovative Green Opportunities," said State Representative Jean Wagenius (DFL – Minneapolis) who chairs the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance Division. "By adopting this real legislative action plan, Minnesota can again embrace our long-held reputation as the Green Giant of the Midwest."