Sunday, September 24, 2006

Day Four Highlighted Good Policy in Granite Falls and Lake Benton

State Representative Aaron Peterson met us at our motel and led us to the bike trail going south out of Montevideo. We joined the organizers from Clean Up the River Environment (CURE) based in the Mankato. Duane Ninneman and Patrick Moore had arranged for a number of bikers to join us. Seven of us left the city but another rider joined where the trail ended and we switched to the highway. Later, three students from Minnesota State University at Marshall, strong riders all, caught us just as we entered Granite Falls. The ride along the Minnesota River on a beautiful Sunday morning was the best ride we have had on the Tour.

CURE’s rally attracted more than 40 people and was covered by the local paper and the TV station from Alexandria. It consisted of addresses by politicians from all levels of government. Mark Dahl was running for county commissioner on the platform of completing the bike trail all the way between the two cities. The Mayor of Granite Falls, Dave Smiglewski, endorsed Mark at the event and described his own enthusiasm to add trails to enhance his town and the beautiful area along the Minnesota River. Smiglewski described his own fight to keep a defunct coal power plant from being converted to burn PCBs.

Aaron Peterson and Representative Lyle Koenen and Senator Gary Kubly from the neighboring legislative district all spoke about renewable energy production as an economic development boon to the region. Aaron has made his name in Saint Paul by supporting strong environmental issues. The Green Bikers made their same points that global warming is real, that local efforts of the sort sponsored by CURE and good legislation at the state level can confront global warming and produce local green development.

Our second Sunday event was a stop at the farm and wind turbine of Jim Nichols. Jim was Minnesota’s Commissioner of Agriculture and a former legislator who passed legislation to encourage bio-fuels and wind energy. He has also invested in the industry and two years ago put a wind turbine on his farm. The 1.5 megawatt NEG-Micon machine is twice the size of the turbines in the big General Electric wind farm that stretches along Buffalo Ridge a mile or two from Jim’s farm. He has had a lot to do with creating the renewable energy industry grow in his state.

Jim met us on the gravel road just off U.S. Highway 14 and led us up to the turbine. He spoke for an hour about what it takes to maintain and own a turbine, about the present state of the renewable energy industry in the Midwest and what should occur to build a renewable future. “Iowa needs 10,000 wind turbines and so does Minnesota”, was Jim’s view of the immediate future. Those amounts would bring Iowa’s density of turbines to a bit more than Denmark had in 2002.

2 comments:

Elaine Ditsler said...

10,000 Turbines for Iowa! That is a great idea and a catchy slogan to mobilize the public. Iowa already has almost 1,000 turbines. But we can do better and generate half of our state's electricity from the wind!

Anonymous said...

As one of the three college students that rode with you on Sunday, September 24th, I would like to say thank you for a fun time had, and for the education and enthusiasm that was provided during and after the ride. Our group had a ton of fun riding on such a beautiful day (afterward we did a little more, actually) and we wish you the best of luck in your endeavors. We will try to keep up the spirit here!!

Katie Freeman
Senior, Environmental Science major

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The Green Bike Tour is sponsored by The University of Iowa's Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, The Iowa Policy Project, and The Fred & Charlotte Hubbell Foundation, and Kelly Webworks.