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MN2020 http://www.mn2020.org/ Focused on what really matters Thu, 18 Jan 2018 07:02:01 -0600 Closing Minnesota 2020: A Farewell from John Van Hecke http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/journal/a-farewell-from-john-van-hecke http://mn2020.org/8831 <p> By John Van Hecke, Senior Fellow & Founding Executive Director </p> <p> Minnesota 2020 moved Minnesota&rsquo;s public policy debate forward for seven and a half years, from 2007-2014. Hundreds of volunteer writers, researchers and activists helped millions of Minnesotans focus on what really matters: education, healthcare, transportation and economic development. As a result, 2014 Minnesota looks different and better than 2007 Minnesota.</p> <p> Conservative &ldquo;no new taxes&rdquo; policies were all the rage. Implementing those policies carried consequences. By 2007, Minnesota&rsquo;s roads and bridge infrastructure were rapidly crumbling and, in the tragic case of the I-35W bridge, literally falling apart. Minnesota&rsquo;s school funding was declining annually. Minnesota&rsquo;s economy, like the national economy, was cooling and about to tank with the 2008 recession. Healthcare costs were spiraling beyond working families&rsquo; means. Policy leaders were more concerned with preserving wealth&rsquo;s privilege than creating opportunity for working families.</p> <p> Minnesota 2020 changed that. Beginning with Minnesota 2020&rsquo;s first report, &ldquo;Chasing Smokestacks, Stranding Small Business: Rural Minnesota&rsquo;s Crisis,&rdquo; Minnesota 2020 carefully examined the controversial conservative &ldquo;JOB-Z&rdquo; business subsidy policy. Following publication, which included recommended retasking JOB-Z funding into more cost-effective, stronger regional business development initiatives, Executive and Legislative support for JOB-Z quietly disappeared.</p> <p> That first report established an analytical template. Minnesota 2020 researchers examined Minnesota&rsquo;s property tax system; surveyed Minnesota&rsquo;s county engineers, finding widespread concern with road quality; and made the financial and economic development policy case for increasing Minnesota&rsquo;s minimum wage.</p> <p> Seven and a half years later, the public policy landscape looks better. Minnesotans have a substantially more fair state income tax structure. Minnesota&rsquo;s minimum wage is climbing. Minnesota&rsquo;s school funding decline has been reversed with more state resources flowing to public K-12 and higher education schools. Minnesota is back to work; unemployment levels are back to pre-recession numbers.</p> <p> Many people made these changes happen but Minnesota 2020 gathered economic data, crunched the numbers and made the public policy case for policy change. We traveled Minnesota, sharing our findings and explaining state policy&rsquo;s impact at the local level. We published over 30 reports and thousands of articles, digging into the who, what, where, how and why of public policy consequences.</p> <p> Remarkably, Minnesota 2020 vigorously engaged Minnesota&rsquo;s public policy debate without rancor, ad hominem attacks or personal slander. It didn&rsquo;t call people names, proving that Minnesotans appreciate objective, data-driven policy analysis. The same could not be said of Minnesota 2020&rsquo;s critics.</p> <p> While Minnesota 2020 closed on September 30, 2014, Minnesota 2020&rsquo;s body of research remains as a beacon of hope and achievement, of insight and conviction facilitated by hard work. Every published word is available here. Use it to learn about Minnesota&rsquo;s policy past. Use it to guide future research. Building a stronger, better Minnesota never stops.&nbsp;</p> Mon, 06 Oct 2014 16:17:13 +0000 Video: Express Bike Shop http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/transportation/video-express-bike-shop http://mn2020.org/8830 <p> By Briana Johnson, Video Production Specialist </p> <p> Minnesota 2020 went to the Express Bike Shop in St. Paul to learn more about Youth Express and their apprenticeship program for young adults. Youth Express, a program of Keystone Community Services, is a program created to help young adults develop entrepreneurial skills, work ethic and leadership. Keys Stone's investment to Youth Express helps provide a paid employment opportunity for youth who are joining the work force or those who may have already had a little work history.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> </p> Mon, 29 Sep 2014 18:39:26 +0000 Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy: A Three –Legged Stool with a Missing Leg http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/energy-environment/energy-efficiency-and-renewable-energy-a-three-legged-stool-with-a-missing http://mn2020.org/8824 <p> By Maria Brun, Graduate Research Fellow </p> <p> Drafting and passing effective public policies is a tricky business that often ends with unexpected and potentially counterproductive results. Sometimes this is a reflection of our lack of understanding of the causes of specific human, environmental, or economic behavior that we seek to alter. Other times, policies can interact in puzzling ways. Though frustrating, these unexpected outcomes provide the empirical data to better understand and improve policymaking and illuminate how sometimes disparate processes or parts of human society interact.</p> <p> The examples are plenty in energy and environmental policy where the systems policy interfaces with (utilities, ecosystems, climate, etc.) are particularly complicated and touch nearly every part of human life. I encountered one curious example last week involving common policy mechanisms to lower emissions/green the electricity grid worth exploration.</p> <p> There are two main strategies promoted for tackling emissions and the environmental impact of electricity. On the demand side, energy efficiency and conservation reduce the total amount of energy consumed and the rate of energy demand growth even as the economy and population grows over time. In Minnesota, the broadest energy efficiency policies are the <a href="http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hinfo/newlawsart2007-0.asp?storyid=608">1.5% retail sales savings goal</a> and <a href="http://mn.gov/commerce/energy/topics/conservation/How-CIP-Works.jsp">Conservation Improvement Program (CIP)</a>.</p> <p> From a mixture of policy and market influences, energy efficiency gains in appliances, equipment, and buildings, annual growth in electricity demand decreased significantly in the second half of the twentieth century. Based on the Energy Information Administration&rsquo;s Energy Outlook Reference Case, annual increases going forward is likely to level off around <a href="http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/MT_electric.cfm">0.9%</a> through 2040. This adds up to a 29% increase in demand between 2012 and 2014.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <a href="http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/MT_electric.cfm" target="_blank"><img alt="" src="/assets/uploads/article/f1_demand_growth.png" style="height: 450px; width: 600px;" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <em>Source: <a href="http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/MT_electric.cfm" target="_blank">eia.gov</a></em></p> <p> For comparison&rsquo;s sake, if demand increased annually by the 1950&rsquo;s rate of 9.8% during the same period, total demand for electricity would increase by a staggering 1270% between 2012 and 2040.</p> <p> In Minnesota, total electricity consumption rose from just over 47,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) in 1990 to about 68,000 in 2012. Like the nation as a whole, the annual rate of increase in GWh consumed has trended down slightly, as shown by the red trend line in the graph below.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <a href="http://www.eia.gov/electricity/data/state/"><img alt="" src="/assets/uploads/article/f2_mn_elecconsump.png" style="width: 600px; height: 285px;" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <em>Source: Author's analysis of <a href="http://www.eia.gov/electricity/data/state/">data from eia.gov</a></em></p> <p> This reduction in demand growth has implications for energy security (think avoided energy imports), economic growth (think avoided energy costs), and emissions. A report from <a href="http://www.mckinsey.com/client_service/electric_power_and_natural_gas/latest_thinking/~/media/204463a4d27a419ba8d05a6c280a97dc.ashx">McKinsey and Company</a> estimates that 1.1 gigatons of CO2 equivalent of greenhouse gasses could be avoided if energy efficiency measures were fully deployed. Bonus: on top of emissions savings, energy efficiency has the potential to net $1.2 trillion in operational and energy savings.</p> <p> On the supply side, greening our electricity system means shifting away from traditional fossil fuel-based generation to renewable and clean generation. Though this can include coal with carbon capture and sequestration and, depending on point of view, nuclear energy, policy intervention generally has taken this to mean increasing the proportion of electricity generated by solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass technology.</p> <p> In response to lower costs and policy mandates &ndash; namely state level<a href="http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=4850"> renewable portfolio standards</a> &ndash;renewable energy generation capacity has grown quickly. Renewables now account for around 12% of electricity generation. Renewable energy capacity is expected to increase by <a href="http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/MT_naturalgas.cfm">69% by 2040</a> with a more than 140% increase in non-hydro renewable generation. This pushes renewables&rsquo; proportion of the energy portfolio up to 16% by 2040.</p> <p> Minnesota&rsquo;s Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) is one of the <a href="http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/energy-environment/where-mns-renewables-stack-up">most aggressive in the nation</a>; with more than a decade before the ultimate renewable energy goal has to be met, Minnesota already gets <a href="http://www.awea.org/Resources/state.aspx?ItemNumber=5215">roughly 16%</a> of its electricity from wind alone. Based on current policy, Minnesota is on track to have 27.4% of total electricity sales generated from renewable resources by 2025. This does not include the new 1.5% solar mandate and, depending on the political atmosphere and results of a <a href="http://mn.gov/commerce/energy/images/MN_RE_Integration_Study_2014_pres_Stakeholder_Mtg_091313.pdf">feasibility study</a>, could increase substantially if the RES goal is adjusted up to 40%.</p> <p> Together, demand and supply side efforts are often seen as a complete, two-pronged policy package for greening electricity. Indeed, in Minnesota, <a href="http://bipartisanpolicy.org/sites/default/files/files/MNPCA.pdf">emissions dropped 3%</a> between 2005 and 2010 and are poised to continue on a downward trend thanks to efforts in energy efficiency and renewable energy.</p> <p> But here&rsquo;s where the interesting unintended policy side effect comes in. Energy efficiency is actually working against scaling up renewable and clean energy.</p> <p> Consider this: The more efficiently we use energy, the slower demand grows. The slower demand grows, the less additional capacity we need to meet electricity demand. As a result, the total amount of capacity added per year is actually <a href="http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/MT_electric.cfm">down significantly</a> (though expected to tick back up sometime in the next decade). Of what capacity additions are forecasted to come online in the coming years,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/MT_electric.cfm">73% will likely be natural gas power plants</a> with renewables making up 24%.</p> <p> Though this is a sizable piece of the pie, as needed capacity additions decreases, that 24% translates into a smaller and smaller total amount of generating capacity added. As a result, renewables stay a notable but small part of our generation portfolio.</p> <p> That&rsquo;s not to say that there are other factors that influence or limit the growth of renewable energy. Transmission issues, congestion, variability, cost, and resource availability all effect long term planning and moment to moment dispatch decisions as well. However, this curious policy interaction between two policies that seem to be complementary - energy efficiency and renewable energy policies &ndash; demonstrate that a two-pronged approach to reducing electricity-related emissions may not be sufficient if the goal is to rapidly decrease Minnesota&rsquo;s GHGs.&nbsp;Instead, perhaps a three-pronged approach is necessary: efficiency, renewable energy, and addressing existing generation, particularly those plants that are the least efficient and most GHG intense. In most cases, this means retiring old coal plants.</p> <p> In a <a href="http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/clean_energy/Ripe-for-Retirement-Full-Report.pdf">study</a> conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists, coal plants nationwide were analyzed based on their efficiency, generation costs, pollution controls and updates needed. The results were then compared to alternatives such as renewable energy. The report concluded that between 16.4 and 59 GW of coal-fired generation capacity is ripe for retirement now, 680 MW of which is located in Minnesota.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <a href="http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/clean_energy/Ripe-for-Retirement-Full-Report.pdf" style="font-size: 16px; line-height: 1;" target="_blank"><img alt="" src="/assets/uploads/article/f3_retirements.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 688px;" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <em>Source: <a href="http://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/clean_energy/Ripe-for-Retirement-Full-Report.pdf">ucsusa.org</a></em></p> <p> Plant retirement isn&rsquo;t a<a href="http://www.startribune.com/business/165526916.html"> new topic</a> for policymakers or regulators, including Minnesota&rsquo;s Public Utilities Commission. Coal-fired plants are a crucial piece of Minnesota&rsquo;s energy system, supplying roughly <a href="http://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=MN#tabs-4">46% </a>of Minnesota&rsquo; electricity and holding three spots on the list of top ten largest capacity plants in the state (5 are natural gas, some of which are converted coal plants). At the same time, the public is becoming more opposed to coal-fired plants, most notably the Sherco power plant, the<a href="http://www.environmentminnesota.org/news/mne/xcel-energy%E2%80%99s-sherburne-county-power-plant-minnesota%E2%80%99s-biggest-global-warming-polluter-21st"> 21st biggest polluter in the nation</a>.</p> <p> Simply retiring coal plants in Minnesota is not a feasible option in the short term. However, given the large proportion coal constitutes in Minnesota&rsquo;s portfolio, making room for renewables and low carbon alternatives will have to mean taking a closer look at replacing coal.</p> <p> The state is already looking into the feasibility of upping the Renewable Energy Standard to 40% and is consistently reevaluating energy efficiency programming. However, more emphasis, especially in light of new <a href="http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/regulatory-actions">EPA existing power plant emission rules</a> set to be finalized next year, should be given to developing a three-pronged approach to reducing electricity emissions by scaling up energy efficiency and renewable energy and carving out a bigger space for cleaner generation technologies by accelerating the retirement of old, fossil fuel-based plants.</p> Fri, 26 Sep 2014 12:07:31 +0000 A Public Role in Rail’s Big Battles? http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-developmenttransportation/a-public-role-in-rails-big-battles http://mn2020.org/8823 <p> By Conrad deFiebre, Transportation Fellow </p> <p> It's been a while since an oil train exploded anywhere in America, so the red-hot controversy over shipping North Dakota crude by rail has cooled, only to be replaced by another involving the Engine that Divides Us. This one's a heavyweight slugfest between the railroads and the giants of U.S. agriculture and industry.</p> <p> While about 50 unit trains of Bakken petroleum keep chugging through Minnesota every week en route to distant refineries, practically every other commodity has been plagued by rail shipment delays or prohibitively higher carload rates. As bipartisan federal lawmakers <a href="http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/218092-senate-panel-approves-freight-rail-oversight-changes">reviewed decades-old railroad deregulation,</a> 24 trade groups representing chemical, steel, cement, plastics, paper and fertilizer industries wrote Senate leaders to complain about a costly, time-consuming process for challenging rate increases before the Surface Transportation Board, <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-21/cargo-rates-trigger-shipper-backlash-as-u-s-rails-soar.html">Bloomberg News reported.</a></p> <p> Then, leaders of the National Farmers Union descended on Washington to protest a railcar shortage that, at a time of bumper crops and depressed grain prices, is further eroding profits, in some cases due to fines for late deliveries. &quot;It should really be imposed on the railroad that did not deliver on time, not the grain deliverer,&quot; Doug Sombke, the South Dakota Farmers Union president, told <a href="http://www.businessweek.com/ap/2014-09-08/midwest-railcar-shortage-debate-shifts-to-dc">Bloomberg Businessweek.</a></p> <p> Industrial companies are fighting the railroads mainly over price and relative profitability. Depending on where you set the baseline, rail shipping rates have almost doubled (since 2001, according to the American Chemistry Council) or fallen by nearly half adjusted for inflation (since the 1980 Staggers Act deregulation, according to the Association of American Railroads). Stock-market appreciation for the railroads, which have consolidated from about 40 Class I lines pre-Staggers to seven today, has far outstripped that of chemical firms as measured by Standard &amp; Poor's indexes, however.</p> <p> &quot;There will always be an ongoing debate between the shippers and the rails,&quot; transport analyst Justin Long told Bloomberg News.</p> <p> That's been true since the 1800s, but the challenges Upper Midwest farmers face to ship their crops today may be unprecedented. With Bakken oil hogging the rails, allegedly in exchange for under-the-table payment premiums, 100 million bushels of grain sat in Minnesota elevators and another 100 million bushels were stored on farms, the <a href="http://www.startribune.com/politics/statelocal/272935011.html">Star Tribune</a> reported in late August.</p> <p> &quot;When you're sitting in a grain elevator waiting for cars to load, and every day you see oil trains pass by, it just adds insult to injury,&quot; Bob Zelenka of the Minnesota Grain and Feed Association told the newspaper. Meanwhile, a state corn harvest estimated at 1.3 billion bushels is about to begin.</p> <p> Not all of that bounty will move by rail. Much of it usually goes downriver by barge, and it's likely that some along rail lines will be switched to big trucks. But that may pile more costs on Minnesota farmers who lost $109 million in revenue during just three spring months this year, mainly because of shipping problems, the state Department of Agriculture reported.</p> <p> <a href="http://bismarcktribune.com/news/state-and-regional/big-harvest-adds-to-railroad-woes/article_7e243cfe-1f7c-11e4-a8f2-001a4bcf887a.html">The Bismarck Tribune</a> reported in August that access to rail cars was fetching up to $4,000 on a secondary market, and that some millers paid an extra $1.50 a bushel for over-the-road trucking when their grain supplies ran short. North Dakota officials signed a deal with the Port of Vancouver, Wash., to send non-farm products from the Pacific Ocean port by 180 dedicated rail cars that will regularly return loaded with Peace Garden State grain.</p> <p> &quot;We cannot store our way to prosperity,&quot; Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring told the <a href="http://bismarcktribune.com/news/state-and-regional/deal-with-wash-port-will-send-rail-cars-to-n/article_4ad2c934-2e49-11e4-aea0-001a4bcf887a.html">Forum News Service.</a>&nbsp;Some critics questioned the food safety of shipping grain in boxcars that also carry cement, fertilizer and other products, but desperate times call for desperate measures.&nbsp;</p> <p> How desperate is it? The Surface Transportation Board can order railroads to prioritize some shipments over others but rarely does so, according to another <a href="http://www.columbian.com/news/2014/sep/04/regulators-urged-to-pressure-railroads-on-grain-bo/">Bloomberg News report.</a>&nbsp;A board spokesman said it intervenes only to avoid &quot;substantial adverse effects.&quot;</p> <p> In recent weeks, bipartisan elected leaders from conservatives in the Dakotas to Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton have suggested the time for action has arrived. As an anticipated record harvest approaches, &quot;There's great apprehension in how things will go this fall,&quot; North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple told the board at a hearing in Fargo. Dayton wrote to the board of &quot;the dire circumstances that Minnesota farmers face and the need for increased accountability and clarity&quot; from the railroads.</p> <p> Balancing the transport needs of the nation's agriculture, energy and industrial sectors -- as well as Amtrak passenger timetables <a href="http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/216728-amtrak-exec-freight-delays-hurt-ridership">severely disrupted</a> by rail bottlenecks -- is a difficult but necessary job. An opaque deregulated market seems to be making a mess of it. Could some old-fashioned government command and control do any worse?</p> Thu, 25 Sep 2014 11:00:37 +0000 VIDEO: MN 2020 Property Tax Report http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/fiscal-policy/mn-2020-property-tax-report http://mn2020.org/8825 <p> By Briana Johnson, Video Production Specialist </p> <p> This week, Minnesota 2020 released a <a href="http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/fiscal-policy/delivering-dollars-2014-homeowner-property-tax-report" target="_blank">report</a> showing the impact of the 2013 tax bill on property taxes. &nbsp;Because of the historic homestead credit refund, most Minnesotans saw their property taxes decrease substantially. This credit successfully targeted tax credits to the people with the lowest ability to pay, making our state's tax system less regressive and more equitable for Minnesota homeowners. &nbsp;Here's our video coverage of the press conference at the Capitol, which was followed by a statewide media tour including Rochester. Duluth, Bemidji, Moorhead, Fergus Falls, St. Cloud, and more. &nbsp;</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p> </p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p> You can also check out a sampling of the news coverage from the first day of the press tour:</p> <a href="http://kstp.com/news/stories/S3569156.shtml">KSTP</a>,&nbsp;Minneapolis/St. Paul <a href="http://www.kttc.com/story/26611151/2014/09/23/report-claims-decline-in-minnesota-property-taxes-in-2014">KTTC</a>, Rochester <a href="http://www.sctimes.com/story/news/local/2014/09/23/smaller-tax-bills-coming-minnesota-homeowners/16131695/">The St. Cloud Times</a> Thu, 25 Sep 2014 11:00:17 +0000 The Sun Drives Economic Development in Minnesota http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-developmentenergy-environment/the-sun-drives-economic-development-in-minnesota http://mn2020.org/8820 <p> By Lee Egerstrom, Economic Development Fellow </p> <p> Minnesotans are squinting up at the sun and leaning into the wind in efforts to link their pocketbooks and the natural environment to benefit both from clean energy development and economic development.</p> <p> We now get about 15 percent of our total electricity generated by windmills on wind farms, primarily in southern and southwestern Minnesota. We have goals of generating 1.5 percent of our electricity need by 2020 from solar energy development, but the flurry of development activity currently underway suggests that may be a low target.</p> <p> Economics and &ldquo;green&rdquo; energy development are merging with solar developments, insists David Wakely of Minnesota Community Solar in Minneapolis, the firm that has developed the first &ldquo;community solar gardens&rdquo; that feed electricity into Xcel Energy&rsquo;s distribution territory.</p> <p> Minnesota Community Solar (MNCS) is now expanding into rural communities. It announced in August it is building a four-acre Gaylord Community Solar Garden in the Gaylord Industrial Park west of the Twin Cities. The project is a partnership with local social entrepreneurs Steve Mangold and Paula King with Mangold&rsquo;s Front Row Energy company.</p> <p> Similar rural-sited projects are on the drawing board, Wakely said.</p> <p> With the Gaylord project, residents of Carver, Le Sueur, McLeod, Nicollet, Renville, Scott and Sibley counties in Xcel Energy&rsquo;s distribution areas can &ldquo;subscribe,&rdquo; or contract for solar produced energy. Subscribers select the number of units, or &ldquo;leaves&rdquo; that suit their household or business needs. Current projections show they may save as much as 35 percent off their electricity bills during the 25-years of the contract.</p> <p> The rapid spread and development of solar energy generation is explained by David Shaffer in a recent <a href="http://www.startribune.com/business/271475131.html" target="_blank">Star Tribune</a> article and by Bob Shaw in the <a href="http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_25395983/developer-looking-build-solar-panel-field-woodbury" target="_blank">St. Paul Pioneer Press</a>. Their articles work as a primer for interested people for whom solar energy development also introduces new applied technology terminology, such as solar gardens, leaf and leaves, and the larger collection of solar panels called arrays.</p> <p> From an economic viewpoint, however, the current spark of solar energy development does show a marriage of increasingly popular objectives with enlightened public policy. A 2013 Minnesota law makes this development possible, and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) recently rationalized how solar energy can be valued and priced.</p> <p> At Gaylord, the sun will do most of the heavy work after construction so it won&rsquo;t be a big jobs producer, said city administrator Kevin McCann. But, he said, the city will be a subscriber and will benefit over time from lower energy costs. Moreover, it will be an incentive for companies to locate and expand at Gaylord.</p> <p> From another angle, solar development is economic development because MNCS is using Minnesota made products and technology &ldquo;when possible.&rdquo; The solar collecting panels, for instance, are made in Bloomington.</p> <p> Living wages are being paid, and local products are intentionally used. &ldquo;We aren&rsquo;t in the &lsquo;race to the bottom.&rsquo; We aren&rsquo;t going after products where we could get them the cheapest,&rdquo; said MNCS&rsquo; Wakely.</p> <p> All this spills over with growth in a technology-based new industry. In March this year, the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) and Midwest Renewable Energy Association held a solar conference at the University of St. Thomas that acknowledged both the rapid growth of solar in Minnesota and the catching up work still needed.</p> <p> They noted in materials for the conference that Minnesota had 864 solar jobs in 2013, a 72 percent increase from the previous year. But that ranked Minnesota 31st among states and the District of Columbia.</p> <p> Another quantum leap in solar employment can be expected this year based on the projects described by Shaffer and Shaw that are in various stages of planning and development around the state.</p> <p> On another bright note, solar energy development appeals to entrepreneurs and investors who have social goals combining economic and environmental sustainability, said Wakely. That is evident with the partnership MNCS has with social investor Mangold and his wife King, at Gaylord. King is the founding dean of St. Catherine University&rsquo;s School of Business and Leadership.</p> <p> The management team at Minnesota Community Solar also fit that mold. They include founder Dustin Denison who worked in mechanical and electrical trades before starting Applied Energy Innovations, a Minneapolis-based solar installation company. Others include various environmental activists, like Wakely and subscription manager Dana Hallstrom, and researchers and designers such as co-founder Peter Teigland and Steve Coleman.</p> <p> Earlier this year, MNCS teamed with Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church in south Minneapolis to place a community solar garden atop the congregation&rsquo;s education building &ndash; the first such project with a faith-based organization.</p> <p> The convergence of interests with clean technology attracts attention. The Minnesota High Tech Association recently nominated Minnesota Community Solar for its annual Tekne Energy Award along with Ecolab, of St. Paul; and RA Knowledge, of Minneapolis. In all, the high tech association makes 12 different awards among 36 innovative nominees.</p> <p> Nominated companies include huge, well-established companies with innovative products such as 3M, of Maplewood, on down to start-ups of less than three years that include Gravie, Minneapolis; NimbeLink, Plymouth, and NxThera, Maple Grove.</p> <p> Presentation of the <a href="http://www.mhta.org/event/tekne-awards/" target="_blank">Tekne Awards</a> will be made Nov.13 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.</p> Wed, 24 Sep 2014 11:59:46 +0000 Delivering Dollars: 2014 Homeowner Property Tax Report http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/fiscal-policy/delivering-dollars-2014-homeowner-property-tax-report http://mn2020.org/8803 <p> By Jeff Van Wychen, Fellow and Director of Tax Policy & Analysis </p> <p> <a href="/assets/uploads/article/delivering_dollars_print.pdf"><strong>Download full report</strong></a> (<em><a href="/assets/uploads/article/delivering_dollars_print.pdf">high quality</a> or <a href="/assets/uploads/article/delivering_dollars_web.pdf" target="_blank">small size</a></em>)<br /> <a href="http://www.scribd.com/doc/240597821/Delivering-Dollars-2014-Homeowner-Property-Tax-Report?secret_password=DRlKDKUxrUCQO1qEFhtA" target="_blank"><strong>View online at Scribd</strong></a></p> <p> <em>All files contain complete appendix data</em></p> <p> In 2014, Minnesota homeowners will experience the largest property tax reduction in twelve years and will begin to benefit from the most significant reform of homestead taxation in at least three decades. The final property tax after refunds paid by the typical homeowner with a median income residing in a median value home will decline by over ten percent from 2013 to 2014 in the majority of Minnesota communities.</p> <p> This comes as welcome news to homeowners, who experienced rapidly escalating property taxes over the preceding decade. From 2002 to 2013, statewide homeowner property taxes increased by 87 percent&mdash;double the rate of inflation. The large drop in property taxes from 2013 to 2014 is primarily the result of tax reforms passed during the 2013 and, to a lesser extent, 2014 legislative sessions, including significant increases in state aid to local governments (replacing a portion of aid cuts enacted over the preceding decade), improvements to aid distribution formulas, an increase in the renter property tax refund, and&mdash;most importantly from the perspective of homeowners&mdash;an expansion of the homeowner property tax refund in the form of the homestead credit refund. A decline in statewide homestead values relative to other classes of property also contributed to 2014 property tax increases</p> <p> <strong>Methodology</strong></p> <p> This report estimates final 2013 and 2014 property taxes after refunds for typical Minnesota homeowners using property value and tax information from the Minnesota Department of Revenue and median owner-occupied household income data from the U.S. Census Bureau&rsquo;s American Community Survey (ACS). Specifics regarding the data and methods used in and limitations of this analysis are&nbsp;described in the Introduction.</p> <p> <strong>Findings</strong></p> <p> For a homeowner with an income equal to the statewide median (estimated at $72,431 in 2013 and $74,180 in 2014) living in a home with a value equal to the statewide median (estimated at $159,300 in 2013 and $158,300 in 2014) and subject to statewide average tax rates, property taxes dropped from $1,905 in 2013 to $1,592 in 2014, a decline of $313 or 16.4 percent.</p> <p> Of course, not everyone has the median income and lives in a median value home. On a statewide basis and for selected cities, this report examines 2013 and 2014 homeowner property taxes under nine different scenarios by combining low, median, and high income levels with low, median, and high home values. In each case, &ldquo;low&rdquo; is defined as one-third below the median and &ldquo;high&rdquo; as defined as one third above the median. Based on statewide average tax rates, the smallest 2013 to 2014 property tax reduction was $44 (3.9 percent) for a high income homeowner living in a low value home, while the largest reduction was $484 (20.5 percent) for a median income homeowner in a high value home. The chief mechanism for delivering 2014 homeowner property tax relief is the expanded property tax refund, renamed the &ldquo;homestead credit refund.&rdquo; This refund is targeted to homeowners who have high property taxes in relation to their ability to pay as measured by annual income. For this reason, homeowners with the greatest 2013 property tax relative to their income tended to receive the most&nbsp;property tax relief in 2014 as indicated in the following graph.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <a href="/assets/uploads/article/p8_g1_taxaspercent_income.png" target="_blank"><img alt="estimated property tax as a percent of income" src="/assets/uploads/article/p8_g1_taxaspercent_income.png" style="width: 600px; height: 335px;" /></a></p> <p> The income-sensitive property tax refund has been embraced by progressives, conservatives, and non-partisan policy wonks as a highly efficient way of reducing tax regressivity and directing tax relief to those homeowners who need it most. The large and widespread 2014 homeowner property tax reductions documented in this report were primarily due to the expansion of this program in the 2013 and 2014 tax acts in the form of the homestead credit refund.</p> <p> &ldquo;In an era when good public policy often falls victim to partisan gridlock, this outcome is something that Minnesotans of all political persuasions should recognize and celebrate, &ldquo; said Jeff Van Wychen, Minnesota 2020 Fellow and Tax Policy Director. &ldquo;The new homestead credit refund is the most important homeowner property tax relief in last three decades and it is important to protect and preserve this accomplishment in coming years.&rdquo;</p> Tue, 23 Sep 2014 15:15:14 +0000 VIDEO: Bringing Fresh Produce to the Community http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/video-bringing-fresh-produce-to-the-community http://mn2020.org/8808 <p> By Briana Johnson, Video Production Specialist </p> <p> Fresh fruits and vegetables can be very expensive, especially in many low-income areas. Expense along with access to local grocery stores in North Minneapolis have proven to make it difficult for some families to have fresh, healthy food. NorthPoint along with community partners, Project Sweetie Pie, Gardening Matters and others joined together to provide free produce for community members. Project Sweetie Pie provided free seeds along with demonstrations on how to plant your own crops and ways to take care of plants both indoors and out.</p> <p> Minnesota 2020 headed over to North Minneapolis to learn more.<br /> &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> </p> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 11:42:46 +0000 Is the New “Accountability” Actually Professional? http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/is-the-new-accountability-actually-professional http://mn2020.org/8809 <p> By Michael Diedrich, Education Fellow </p> <p> When looking at teacher accountability, we&rsquo;ve experienced many turbulent changes in the past few years. Unfortunately, they aren&rsquo;t likely to have nearly the impact some are hoping for. One problem? They don&rsquo;t do enough to professionalize teaching.</p> <p> The criticisms of traditional teacher evaluation and accountability systems are well-worn by now. They rely too much on years of service as a proxy for quality. The due process guarantees are too strong. At the heart of the criticism is that teachers&rsquo; contracts look too much like blue collar labor contracts and are unprofessional.</p> <p> In response to these criticisms, a wave of reform came in promising to move teacher evaluation and accountability beyond their industrial roots. We have already seen countrywide adoption of teacher evaluation systems that are based in part on student testing data, and there are many who want to see these evaluations replace seniority as the basis for budget-forced layoffs. This, we have been told, is a more professional way of evaluating teachers. The argument goes on to suggest that, perhaps now that people know they will be judged on their performance, we will attract higher quality teacher candidates who were repelled by the previous industrial model.</p> <p> A growing chorus of voices dispute this assumption. One of the more current entries is the National Center on Education and the Economy&rsquo;s report, <a href="http://www.ncee.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/FixingOurNationalAccountabilitySystemWebV4.pdf" target="_blank">&ldquo;Fixing Our National Accountability System.&rdquo;</a> Citing well-established research on management practices, the report argues that the new system isn&rsquo;t any more professional than the old system. Instead, the new model has merely adopted an additional strain of old industrial practices, relying on simplistic quantitative measurements to incentivize and punish job performance.</p> <p> The problem with this, as the report points out, is that the new carrot-and-stick approach to teacher accountability doesn&rsquo;t produce the same results with teaching and other professions relying on &ldquo;knowledge work&rdquo; that it does with historical industrial work. (It should also be noted that less and less of today&rsquo;s industrial work is a good fit for the historical approach, too.) Instead, this is an attempt to claw back at protections that school districts granted in exchange for keeping pay low and hours long.</p> <p> A truly professional accountability system, this report suggests, would rely much more heavily on accountability to one&rsquo;s peers and oneself in the honest pursuit of high quality work. Instead, the report suggests a system that uses career ladders&mdash;informed by a much more nuanced definition of performance than test-based calculations&mdash;that increases teachers&rsquo; compensation, recognition, and authority while also increasing responsibility. It would support a system of mentorship, with higher performing teachers supporting those still developing, and advancement would depend in part on spending time working at schools whose students grapple with more outside obstacles.</p> <p> There&rsquo;s a lot more to the proposed system (including a scaled back approach to testing that shifts the high stakes to students rather than teachers or schools), and it is not without its share of issues, both political and policy-related. However, it does represent a genuinely different direction in accountability that looks more like that of other professions than like an assembly line. That distinction may be its most important contribution, and it&rsquo;s a notion that, while not new, certainly has not received enough attention.</p> <p> One can imagine other routes to alternative accountability systems. <a href="http://www.mn2020hindsight.org/view/accountable-to-whom" target="_blank">Community-based accountability,</a> for example, is a more democratic process that puts families and teachers together to define the objectives for students, agree on appropriate measurements, and identify the response when objectives aren&rsquo;t reached. Whatever the approach, it&rsquo;s important to sustain a broad definition of what students should learn and to involve teachers in their own professional development process.</p> <p> Achieving any alternative to the current system will require more work on the part of teachers and their unions. We have already seen some examples of this. Teachers have participated in the creation of <a href="http://www.mn2020hindsight.org/view/getting-better-teachers" target="_blank">career ladders,</a> and have developed effective peer assistance and review programs that support teachers that need it and move out those who belong elsewhere. Most of these efforts have happened at the local level, and we can apply the lessons learned by that local work to future statewide changes. The accountability system we have isn&rsquo;t professional and isn&rsquo;t likely to be as effective as hoped; we deserve something better.</p> Mon, 22 Sep 2014 11:30:31 +0000 FOIA Improvement Act: Why Minnesotans Should Care http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/Discussion/foia-improvement-act-why-minnesotans-should-care http://mn2020.org/8792 <p> By Mary Treacy, Hindsight Community Fellow </p> <p> The frenzy is on as the 113th Congress moves into its last lap and mid-term electioneering hits peak. Left in suspension is a rush of politically charged bills pulsating to get through committee, desperate to avoid sudden death at the stroke of a partisan pen.</p> <p> Standing apart from the teeming mass is one critical bipartisan bill, the FOIA Improvement Act, co-authored by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT). By unclogging the flow of government information Senate 2520 will improve access to information by and about the federal government, thus to facilitate the transparency that undergirds government accountability. Because it is not sexy, pricey or viciously partisan the FOIA Improvement Act escapes the limelight; because it affects every American&rsquo;s right to know, it deserves attention, understanding and discussion.</p> <p> FOIA has a deserved reputation as a wonkish tool wielded by investigative journalists and attorneys. Most of us have never taken the treacherous path that the Star Tribune's James Eli Shiffer described in his recent series relating his<a href="http://www.startribune.com/local/blogs/274136841.html" target="_blank"> &ldquo;mystifying journey&quot;</a> into the world of FOIA.</p> <p> What we fail to realize is that the information that reaches us through the press, advocacy groups, social media, even distorted propaganda, depends on someone having delved into the public record to ferret out the facts. It&rsquo;s worth paying attention to FOIA, the &ldquo;bill of rights&rdquo; for the individual or organizational information seeker.</p> Is a clean and healthy Mississippi a concern? The <a href="http://www.epa.gov" target="_blank">Environmental Protection Agency</a>&nbsp; collects the essential data that informs the work of organizations such as Clean Water Action or the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. Worried about food safety? You&rsquo;ll need direct or indirect access to the <a href="http://www.fda.gov" target="_blank">Food and Drug Administration</a>, the <a href="http://www.usda.gov" target="_blank">U.S. Department of Agriculture</a> and to the information mavens at Food and Water Watch, the Environmental Working Group or the Minnesota Extension Service&mdash;all of these and countless others depend on ready access to federal government data and research. Threatened by the oil-loaded trains traveling across Minnesota rails? Start with the <a href="http://(a href="http://www.mn2020.org/?URL=http%3A%2F%2Fntlsearch.bts.gov%2Fresearchhub%2F"http://ntlsearch.bts.gov/researchhub/"/a target="_blank">US Department of Transportation Research Hub</a> to understand the players and pressure points. Think there may be something to <a href="http://www.globalchange.gov/about" target="_blank">climate change</a>? Information from the feds is the essential first step. Questions about services for <a href="http://www.va.gov/vetdata/" target="_blank">veterans</a>? Planning a family vacation in Our Nation&rsquo;s Capitol? You&rsquo;ll want to tap into the<a href="http://dc.gov/page/visitors-resource-center" target="_blank"> DC Visitors&rsquo; Center</a> Worried that the<a href="/www.fbi.gov/foia/requesting-fbi-records" target="_blank"> FBI still has a file on you</a>? Can&rsquo;t hurt to ask. Want to track the FOIA Improvement Act? Thomas at the Library of Congress is just one of the options you have to follow<a href="http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php" target="_blank"> legislation-in-progress</a>. <p> The point is that the federal government is the sole source of massive data and practical day-to-day information on which we as a nation and as individuals depend. Our democracy rests on the ability of citizens to keep an eye on our government and to hold our officials accountable.</p> <p> Information by and about the government is the resource with the power to enlighten, misinform, shape an issue, turn a profit, and/or create a strong, accountable, functional and accountable democracy.</p> <p> Truth to tell, communications and information technology have outstripped our individual and collective ability to keep up -- and politics can clog the gears. That doesn&rsquo;t mean we give up. Over time agencies have intentionally or inadvertently created barriers of time, cost, efficiency. That doesn&rsquo;t mean we relinquish our rights.</p> <p> The original FOIA as it was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 4, 1966 (with some reluctance)1 was built on a common understanding of the underlying principles. The FOIA Improvement Act of 2014 holds to and reinforces those principles. Bottom line: by eliminating the barriers that have thwarted the process over time, the FOIA Improvement Act restores FOIA to its original, intended &ndash; and absolutely essential -- purpose.</p> <p> The FOIA Improvement Act must pass through the Senate Judiciary Committee on which both Minnesota&rsquo;s Senators serve. The House is already on board. Every Minnesotan can benefit to having access to information.</p> <p> Want to review the FOIA basics?&nbsp; Check<a href="http://www.foia.gov/faq.html" target="_blank"> here for FOIA FAQs</a> - print and video, English and Spanish.</p> Fri, 19 Sep 2014 11:00:27 +0000 What’s the Buzz on Bees? http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/video-whats-the-buzz-on-bees http://mn2020.org/8797 <p> By Briana Johnson, Video Production Specialist </p> <p> Honey bees are in trouble and fifth graders in the Minneapolis public school&rsquo;s S.T.E.M. program are learning what to do to help them. Honey bees are the most viable indicators of a global threat to our food security. The bees play a major role in our food system and agriculture depends greatly on the honeybee for pollination of fruits and vegetables but due to their loss of habitat, our methods of agriculture, and use of pesticides, the honey bee is in trouble.</p> <p> Minnesota 2020 headed to the University of Minnesota&rsquo;s Bell Museum to learn more about bees and what humans can do to help. As we learn, one way is to simply plant different types of flowers.</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> </p> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 11:17:06 +0000 To Improve Traffic Safety, Look Outside the Car http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/transportation/to-improve-traffic-safety-look-outside-the-car http://mn2020.org/8798 <p> By Conrad deFiebre, Transportation Fellow </p> <p> From 2003 through 2012, more than 47,000 Americans were fatally injured while walking along streets or roads, about 16 times the toll of the 9/11 terrorist attacks or that from earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes over the same decade. In that span, an estimated 676,000 pedestrians suffered non-fatal harm&mdash;one about every 8 minutes.</p> <p> Of course, all these senseless casualties occur across vast stretches of time and space without yielding the compelling news videos of natural disasters or jetliners flying into buildings. So the response from the public and officialdom has been modest and slow to develop. But two news items last week suggest that the important work of remaking our travel corridors with thought toward the safety of those not in motor vehicles is gaining steam.</p> <p> First, a Minneapolis City Council committee approved a <a href="http://www.startribune.com/local/blogs/274497691.html" target="_blank">$9 million plan</a> to reshape the Hennepin-Lyndale bottleneck, among the most heavily trafficked intersections in Minnesota, with more room for pedestrians and bicyclists. <a href="http://joe-urban.com/archive/dreaming-of-hennepinlyndale-avenue/" target="_blank">Joe Urban blogger</a> Sam Newberg said he was &quot;pretty impressed&quot; at the move &quot;to build a city for people, not cars.&quot;</p> <p> Then, at the national level, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced his department's <a href="http://www.dot.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/safer_people_safer_streets_summary_doc_acc_v1-11-9.pdf" target="_blank">18-month initiative</a> to promote walking and biking and reduce their death tolls. &quot;For years, the message pedestrians and bicyclists have been given is, 'You walk or bike at your own risk; be responsible for your own safety,'&quot; Foxx said on his<a href="http://www.dot.gov/fastlane/bicycling-and-walking-should-be-safe" target="_blank"> Fast Lane blog</a>. &quot;But that's not good enough [because] in many places there is no safe space for them to be. After all, we don't only [warn drivers and ship captains to be safe]. We make sure our highways are well paved and well marked, and that our sea lanes are navigable.&quot;</p> <p> Foxx, who as mayor of Charlotte, N.C., once was struck by a car as he legally jogged across an intersection, said that USDOT's &quot;Safer People, Safer Streets&quot; program &quot;is critical to the future of our country.&quot; It comes as deaths of pedestrians and bicyclists in crashes with motor vehicles have steadily risen since the end of the Great Recession, even as overall roadway fatalities have declined. The death toll of nonmotorized travelers now totals more than 5,000 a year.</p> <p> A <a href="http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/research/dangerous-by-design/dbd2014/national-overview/" target="_blank">comprehensive report</a> by Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition attributes this to streets that are &quot;Dangerous by Design&quot; for pedestrians. While better vehicle design and enforcement of seat-belt, drunken driving and distracted driving laws have achieved unprecedented safety for motorists, the report states, &quot;we have invested nowhere near the same level of money and energy in providing for the safety and security of people when they are walking.&quot;</p> <p> This isn't an &quot;us vs. them&quot; standoff, either, because walking constitutes &quot;the first and last leg of almost every trip,&quot; Foxx notes. Every able-bodied person walks some of the time.</p> <p> So, how can we go about this game-changing retreat from 20th century autocentricism? There are many approaches:</p> USDOT plans wide-ranging research from safety assessments of selected local corridors to studies of best multimodal street design practices, performance measures and nonmotorized network development. It will also work on technical advances such as vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) communications to help drivers see pedestrians, vehicle crash-avoidance systems, backup cameras and audible alerts on quiet hybrid and electric cars.&nbsp; One thrust of the department's design initiative is to promote &quot;road diets,&quot; which it says can reduce overall traffic crashes by 29 percent and nearly by half in small towns. That's the focus of the Hennepin/Lyndale plan, which reverses the common former practice of increasing vehicle lanes as traffic counts mount.&nbsp; <p> &quot;A much safer road&quot; results from changes such as converting a four-lane, two-way arterial street back to two lanes with a shared left-turn lane in the center, according to Eric Jaffe at <a href="http://www.citylab.com/design/2014/09/so-what-exactly-is-a-road-diet/379975/" target="_blank">The Atlantic CITYLAB.</a>&nbsp;And that ain't all. &quot;Bicycle and pedestrian traffic tends to soar at these sites, as the recaptured road space gives way to bike lanes or street parking that provides a sidewalk buffer from moving traffic or crossing islands, and as vehicle speeds decline ... Best of all, these kinds of changes don't cost much. When timed with regular road maintenance and repaving [as at the Minneapolis bottleneck], road diet policies require little more than the paint needed to restripe lanes. They're about as cheap and cost-effective as infrastructure improvements get.&quot;</p> A pricier European form of traffic calming is being considered for the reconstruction of potholed W. 29th Street in the Minneapolis Uptown area, the <a href="http://www.startribune.com/local/minneapolis/274968141.html" target="_blank">Star Tribune</a>&nbsp; reports. It goes by the Dutch name &quot;woonerf,&quot; using extra curbing, planters or other obstacles to slow or discourage vehicle traffic on a non-arterial street. Unlike a basic road diet, this one, at an estimated $2 million, would cost more than twice the city's budget for the work scheduled in 2016. Alternative transportation grants might close the gap. In Ogden, Utah, introduction of a lighted crosswalk, flashing signs and a lower speed limit on an arterial street near a homeless shelter ended a run of five pedestrian fatalities, according to the <a href="http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/57999385-78/crosswalk-avenue-wall-crossing.html.csp" target="_blank">Salt Lake Tribune.</a>&nbsp;The lights especially were credited with saving lives; most pedestrian deaths happen after dark. <p> Focusing on the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists may be the low-hanging fruit in the quest for a less deadly surface transportation system. But there's evidence from other developed countries, most of which have lower fatality rates as well as much steeper declines in those rates since 2000, that everybody wins with that approach.&nbsp;</p> <p> In a <a href="http://usa.streetsblog.org/2014/08/20/americas-progress-on-street-safety-is-pathetic/" target="_blank">StreetsblogUSA post</a> headlined &quot;America's Progress on Street Safety is Pathetic,&quot; Angie Schmitt wrote that &quot;America's dismal performance does not reflect a lack of resources&quot; but rather reliance on an old, &quot;broken&quot; paradigm that emphasizes making driving safer. &quot;The European nations that have been especially successful at reducing traffic deaths have gone a lot farther, prioritizing the safety of pedestrians and cyclists over the speed and convenience of driving, especially in urban areas,&quot; she added.&nbsp;</p> <p> In the world's safest nations for travel, the United Kingdom and Scandinavia, traffic laws are tougher and urban speed limits lower. Their fatality rates run just above a quarter of the United States'. Even Canada kills barely half as many per capita on the roads as we do. &quot;If America had the same traffic fatality rate as the U.K.,&quot; Schmitt noted, &quot;around 25,000 fewer people would be killed every year.&quot;</p> <p> Wow! Also in the U.K., pedestrian deaths are falling faster than those among vehicle occupants, the opposite of the U.S. trend. While no one deserves to die on the roadway, the former seems like a more equitable balance since it's the motorized mode that deals the deadly energy in almost all cases.&nbsp;</p> <p> Still, it's clear that policies centered around foot-powered travelers benefit everyone else, too. We should keep building on our late-developing progress in that direction.</p> Thu, 18 Sep 2014 11:00:50 +0000 Naming Rights Reveal Importance of Farms, Food in Minnesota http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/naming-rights-reveal-importance-of-farms-food-in-minnesota http://mn2020.org/8794 <p> By Lee Egerstrom, Economic Development Fellow </p> <p> Minnesotans were reminded recently that food and agriculture remain huge drivers of the state&rsquo;s economy when two of the largest home-based companies stepped forward to acquire naming rights to new facilities in the Twin Cities.</p> <p> At first glance, it seemed like business as usual. Nothing new here except the signage. But that doesn&rsquo;t begin to tell the story.</p> <p> On one level, Land O&rsquo;Lakes&rsquo; $25 million grant to the University of Minnesota and CHS Inc.&rsquo;s purchase of naming rights to the St. Paul Saints&rsquo; new ballpark reveal how big, successful and integrated into the global economy these farmer-owned cooperatives have become.</p> <p> More broadly, they remind us how huge agriculture, food manufacturing, marketing and related food and ag support services, such as finance and logistics, sectors are in this state. Although Minnesota has a diversified and constantly changing economy, the farm and food connection remains a pillar supporting what we do and how we live here.</p> <p> The accompanying table shows the enormity and diversity of Minnesota-based food and agriculture companies.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <a href="/assets/uploads/article/mn_agbusiness" target="_blank"><img alt="Minnesota: Land O'Lake and Land O'Foods" src="/assets/uploads/article/mn_agbusiness" style="width: 600px; height: 397px;" /></a></p> <p> These are just some of Minnesota&rsquo;s largest. There are hundreds more ranging from mom-and-pop retail stores to large retailers like Kowalski&rsquo;s, Coborn&rsquo;s and Lunds and Byerly&rsquo;s; other wholesalers that include the former Nash Finch side of what is now SpartanNash and Mason Brothers, restaurants are all part of this big family of food related sectors, and countless other firms that provide services, ingredients, or do manufacturing of food and ag products.</p> <p> The table above lists C.H. Robinson as a full-fledged player in Minnesota food and ag. Yes, it is a transportation company. But you would be hard pressed to find fresh fruit in winter that wasn&rsquo;t handled by this former Grand Forks, N.D. potato warehousing company.</p> <p> The complexity and reach of the food and ag supply chain in Minnesota was reflected in the <a href="http://www.landolakesinc.com/utility/news/company/ECMP2-0186273">Land O&rsquo;Lakes</a> grant to the University of Minnesota. In the Sept. 2 announcement of the grant, the Arden Hills-based co-op noted it would be supporting student athletes and academic programs.</p> <p> &ldquo;Land O&rsquo;Lakes has doubled in size over the past five years and is committed to grow its food and agricultural businesses both domestically and internationally,&rdquo; company president and chief executive Christopher Policinski said in the statement. &ldquo;It is going to take high caliber talent to achieve our business goals.&rdquo;</p> <p> The grant includes major support, with naming rights, for a new center in the University&rsquo;s planned Athletics Village complex. And it includes research grants, teaching and scholarship support for the U&rsquo;s College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences, the Carlson School of Management, and the College of Science and Engineering.</p> <p> While this represented what the University called &ldquo;one of the largest single corporate commitments in University history,&rdquo; it also continues what University President Eric Kaler said was a &ldquo;40-plus-year partnership&rdquo; between the U and the company.</p> <p> About 300,000 dairy farmers across the country own Land O&rsquo;Lakes directly and indirectly through local co-ops. Founded here 93 years ago as an association of local creameries, it now does business in all 50 states and 60 countries.</p> <p> All the while, it has drawn talent from the University of Minnesota and other land grant colleges and universities where skills are honed to support the food chain from fields to tables. They are not alone in using and supporting these academic to application resources; one of the world&rsquo;s most sophisticated laboratories working on plant diseases that threaten the world&rsquo;s food supply is in the Cargill Building on the St. Paul campus.</p> <p> In May this year, Minnesota 2020 observed that the Big Ten Conference is essentially <a href="http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/food-farming-and-football-connected-by-research">&ldquo;a league of &lsquo;farm&rsquo; teams.&rdquo;</a> Northwestern University is the only member of the conference that isn&rsquo;t a land grant institution, and food and ag companies closely tied to the universities largely support televised Big Ten athletic events.</p> <p> What&rsquo;s more, farmers know how connected they are to the diverse sciences of modern food production. In 2012, the last year for which completed data, farmers in Iowa had $23.7 billion in farm expenses, Nebraska farmers paid out $19.2 billion, and Minnesota farmers had $15.5 billion in expenses. New Jersey farmers, tied to new member Rutgers, had more than $900 million in farming-related expenses.</p> <p> That&rsquo;s the ground level. Food really gets big in Minnesota when it leaves the farm. Along the way, the University has supported these firms by educating and training accountants and agronomists, biologists and brokers, chemists and climatologists, dieticians and &hellip; run the alphabet. With feed manufacturing and animal health companies as well, you can include zoologists.</p> <p> The big business connection showed itself with <a href="http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_26490803/st-paul-saints-stadium-to-be-named-chs-field">CHS, of Inver Grove Heights</a>, buying the naming rights to the new downtown baseball stadium in St. Paul. At the announcement, CHS&rsquo; president and chief executive Carl Casale acknowledged the general public knows the co-op&rsquo;s products, such as Cenex gasoline, Dean&rsquo;s Dips and Marie&rsquo;s salad dressings; but little about the company itself.</p> <p> Here at home, Minnesotans should be reminded of this food and agriculture strength every time they drive past CHS Field, the Cargill Building, or see reference to the Land O&rsquo;Lakes facility at the U. This strength is still building muscle.</p> Wed, 17 Sep 2014 11:00:11 +0000 Where Children, Data, and Equity Meet http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/where-children-data-and-equity-meet http://mn2020.org/8785 <p> By Michael Diedrich, Education Fellow </p> <p> It&rsquo;s not hard to agree that young children shouldn&rsquo;t face suspension or expulsion except in the most extreme circumstances. Beth Hawkins of <em>MinnPost</em> has provided <a href="http://www.minnpost.com/learning-curve/2014/09/mps-suspension-ban-youngest-students-part-effort-reduce-glaring-racial-dispar" target="_blank">in-depth coverage</a> of the recent efforts in Minneapolis to address that problem by modifying their rules to make it difficult-to-impossible to send kindergarteners and first graders out of school for misbehavior. It&rsquo;s the latest in a cluster of recent efforts in different Minnesota districts to address a real problem of equity in our schools.</p> <p> Specifically, the changes in Minneapolis are a reaction to the stark and prolonged racial disparities in school discipline. African-American and American Indian students have faced suspension rates that are several times higher than white and Asian students, with Latino students suspended at a rate somewhat higher than white and Asian students. These gaps are one local reflection of a countrywide trend with <a href="http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/video-breaking-school-to-prison-pipelines" target="_blank">real ramifications</a> for students&rsquo; experiences of school.</p> <p> Looking underneath the data to analyze the underlying causes is more complicated. Oftentimes, one factor is school or district discipline policies, and in particular their definitions of grounds for suspension or expulsion. Vague or ambiguous language like &ldquo;willful defiance&rdquo; opens the door for unconscious or implicit biases to affect which students receive different levels of consequence. Schools that have eliminated such language as part of a broader effort to change discipline practice have seen dramatic reductions in suspensions and expulsions.</p> <p> Another factor is how well school staff can identify and adapt to family and home conditions that can affect student behavior. For example, my report <a href="http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/local-lessons-five-case-studies-in-community-driven-education-reform" target="_blank">&ldquo;Local Lessons: Five Case Studies in Community-Driven Education Reform&rdquo;</a> discussed the partnership between Rochester teachers and the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Project to help teachers recognize and respond to the effects on children of having a family member deployed in the military. Even students in the youngest grades can find themselves facing expulsion when their family needs are going unaddressed. Students across Minnesota face a wide range of challenges, and ensuring that school staff in many roles are equipped to help them address those obstacles can help moderate the underlying causes of misbehavior.</p> <p> Of course, the more services schools can offer in addressing those needs, the better positioned they are to support students and reduce misbehavior. Many districts found themselves laying off guidance counselors and social workers in response to Pawlenty-era budgets, for example, and helping them <a href="http://mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/education/valuing-the-whole-child-education-beyond-test-scores" target="_blank">rebuild those positions</a> should be a priority.</p> <p> Returning to the role of discipline policies themselves in contributing to or reducing racial disparities, rewriting those policies should be accompanied by incorporating teachers, support staff, and other school personnel in the process of creating an explicitly anti-racist school climate. While clearing up ambiguous language makes it more difficult for implicit biases to produce disparities in punishments, reframing the whole educational environment to acknowledge and attempt to counteract racism can help people actively resist those biases.</p> <p> Moving towards a restorative justice framework is a related way of helping adults and students alike rethink the purposes and assumptions of school discipline. Exchanging <a href="http://mn2020hindsight.org/view/school-discipline-shouldnt-be-miniature-law-enforcement" target="_blank">the law enforcement model</a> for one that guides students through an understanding of harm and reconciliation transforms the entire structure of misbehavior and discipline from one based on confrontation to one based on collaboration and learning.</p> <p> Running through all of these ideas and recommendations is the lesson learned from years of pounding heads against walls in the pursuit of higher test scores. That lesson: Work on fixing the problem, not <a href="http://mn2020hindsight.org/view/look-past-the-thermometer" target="_blank">the data.</a> Unless the causal factors are addressed, any surface-level shifts in the data are likely to be temporary, deceptive, or both. This is why blanket bans on suspensions unaccompanied by any other changes don&rsquo;t tend to work out well.</p> <p> Pursuing educational equity requires us to constantly re-anchor ourselves in the search for causes and effects. It is not enough to simply make <a href="http://mn2020hindsight.org/view/people-numbers" target="_blank">bad numbers</a> go away. The numbers themselves aren&rsquo;t the problem, and when we chase them as if they are, we risk making major mistakes (like narrowing curriculum and cutting important opportunities for students). Instead, the numbers are one reflection of many different factors intersecting in a variety of ways at different levels of the system. Schools can&rsquo;t &ldquo;fix&rdquo; all of those factors, but if they are to become more equitable, they must be able to name them and change practice appropriately.<br /> &nbsp;</p> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 11:00:29 +0000 Discussing Racial Bias in Law Enforcement http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/Discussion/discussing-racial-bias-in-law-enforcement http://mn2020.org/8790 <p> By Deb Balzer, Communications Director </p> <p> Recent high profile cases of alleged police misconduct have propelled the conversation about police treatment of the black community, especially black men and what many believe is a different set of standards. Nationally, the tragic shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri and locally, the case of a Chris Lollie, who was tasered and arrested by St. Paul police while waiting for his children in a skyway have raised questions and concerns about general community trust in our law enforcement officers.</p> <p> We at Minnesota 2020 ask: &quot;<strong>What can we do from a policy perspective to ensure that our laws are enforced according to standards of racial equity, and to ensure that police practices are safe and equitable across communities?</strong>&quot;</p> <p> Today, we have an opportunity to talk with two experts about what builds trust in our community:</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> Dr. Duchess Harris is Professor of American Studies at Macalester College and an author who has written extensively on the role of race in our country.</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> Wintana Melekin is a civic engagement organizer at Neighborhoods Organizing for Change</p> <p> Join us for conversation and share your questions.&nbsp;This conversation is open all day. Dr. Harris and Wintana will both be joining us from 8-9:30 am.</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p> <strong>&nbsp;Post your comments or questions in the box below, scroll down to see the ongoing conversation, and use &quot;refresh&quot; to see new comments.</strong></p> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 11:00:23 +0000 Local Government Aid: Actions Speak Louder than Words http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/fiscal-policy/local-government-aid-actions-speak-louder-than-words http://mn2020.org/8773 <p> By Jeff Van Wychen, Fellow and Director of Tax Policy & Analysis </p> <p> Gubernatorial candidates of all political persuasions support city Local Government Aid (LGA), at least while on the campaign trail. After all, LGA is an important source of funding for city services and helps keep property tax rates at reasonable levels, particularly in communities that have small tax bases or a demographically driven demand for higher spending levels. Few aspirants to the state&rsquo;s executive mansion campaign on a platform of kyboshing LGA, given the legitimate role it plays within the property tax system and its statewide popularity, particularly in greater Minnesota.</p> <p> For example, in 2010 candidate Mark Dayton pledged support for LGA while on the campaign trail. For the most part, Dayton following through on this commitment. In 2011, Dayton&rsquo;s proposed budget contained no cuts to the LGA program (or&mdash;for that matter&mdash;to any other property tax relief program), despite the fact that the state was facing a <a href="http://www.mn.gov/mmb/images/Budget%2526Economic_Forecast_Feb2011.pdf" target="_blank">$5 billion deficit</a>. Dayton ultimately acquiesced to conservative demands to cut LGA, the renters&rsquo; property tax refund, and other property tax relief programs in order to end the 2011 state government shutdown.</p> <p> With progressives in control of the legislature in 2013, Dayton proposed an $80 million (19 percent) increase to LGA funding, replacing half of the nominal funding cut to the program over the preceding decade. Dayton also cooperated with the legislature to produce the most comprehensive reform of the LGA formula in twenty years, resulting in a better targeted and less volatile distribution of aid dollars. The only disappointment from the perspective of LGA advocates was the failure to enact an ongoing adjustment to the LGA appropriation to ensure that it <a href="http://www.mn2020hindsight.org/view/lga-and-the-three-legged-stool-part-ii">keeps pace with inflation and population</a> growth in future years, although state policymakers did approve a one-time LGA increase for 2015. All in all, Dayton gets solid marks for following through on his 2010 commitment to LGA.</p> <p> While nearly all credible gubernatorial candidates voice support for LGA, not all of them follow through. For example, in 2002 candidate Tim Pawlenty made the following statement to a group of city officials regarding his commitment to LGA:</p> <p style="margin-left: 40px;"> In the near term we need to preserve and protect your aid, government aid, and in the long term too. And I want to make sure that that commitment is there... you know you can&rsquo;t turn around the state and say I&rsquo;m not going to increase taxes and then cut LGA in a way that drives up local property taxes. I understand that.</p> <p> Pawlenty was not the first candidate to renege on a campaign promise, but most at least wait until taking office before doing so. However, after winning the 2002 gubernatorial election in November 2002 but before taking the oath of office in January 2003, Pawlenty urged outgoing Governor Jesse Ventura to cut the December 2002 LGA payment to cities. (Ventura declined.)</p> <p> After assuming office, Pawlenty sought and achieved a series of LGA reductions. In fairness, Pawlenty was not the first governor to cut LGA during a recession. Twice before&mdash;during 1981-82 recession and the 1990-91 recession&mdash;city LGA was trimmed. However, the depth and duration of the aid cuts during the Pawlenty years were far greater than anything seen previously. For the sake of consistency of comparison, the graph below focuses on all general purpose city aid, of which LGA is by far the largest but not the only component.*</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <a href="/assets/uploads/article/cityaid_credit_reductions.png" target="_blank"><img alt="Total city aid and credit reductions" src="/assets/uploads/article/cityaid_credit_reductions.png" style="width: 600px; height: 345px;" /></a></p> <p> Despite the fact that the recession of the early 2000s was less severe than either the 1981-82 recession or the 1990-91 recession,&dagger; cuts to city aid&mdash;measured as a percentage of the aid level prior to the cuts&mdash;were over four times deeper. Furthermore, after the 1981-1982 and 1990-1991 cuts, funding for general purpose city aid was restored to its pre-cut level within one or two years. Not so with the 2002-2005 cuts. In fact, two years after the 2002-2005 aid cuts ended, a new round of aid cuts commenced. At the end of the Pawlenty administration, general purpose city aid was 33 percent less than it was at the beginning, even prior to factoring in the effects of inflation. The <a href="http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/fiscal-policy/finally-a-halt-in-escalating-city-property-taxes">net result</a> was a dramatic reduction in funding for city services and a dramatic increase in city property taxes.</p> <p> So when it came to support for LGA, Tim Pawlenty talked the talk, but didn&rsquo;t walk the walk. Mark Dayton, on the other hand, did both&mdash;not only keeping his commitment to increase LGA funding but also participating in substantive reform of the LGA formula. What about 2014 conservative gubernatorial hopeful Jeff Johnson?</p> <p> In a recent appearance before city officials, Johnson expressed general support for the city LGA program. However, Johnson&rsquo;s record on LGA as a member of the Minnesota House is less than encouraging. As assistant majority leader of the Republican caucus from 2003 to 2006, Johnson generally supported the Pawlenty fiscal agenda, which included perennial cuts to city LGA. There is certainly no indication that Johnson used his leadership position to block or mitigate the 22.9 percent cut to LGA from 2003 to 2005&mdash;the largest cut in the history of the LGA program.</p> <p> Jeff Johnson&rsquo;s <a href="http://johnsonforgovernor.org/proven-record/#.VA_EOqNuqsA" target="_blank">&ldquo;legislative record&rdquo;</a> on his website gives no hint of support for LGA, something that he would presumably tout if there were anything there to tout. The <a href="http://johnsonforgovernor.org/issues/#.VA_UtaNuqsA" target="_blank">&ldquo;issues&rdquo; section</a> of his site contains the standard right wing platitudes about &ldquo;cutting taxes&rdquo; and &ldquo;reducing government&rdquo; (the same rhetoric that Tim Pawlenty used in justifying his <a href="http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/-no-new-tax-policy-shifts-public-costs-to-property-taxpayers">cuts in aid</a> to cities, counties, and school districts), but again is silent on the topic of support for LGA or any other property tax relief program. Apparently candidate Johnson is comfortable talking about his fondness for LGA to city officials, but not on his website where his Tea Party supporters might see it.</p> <p> When it comes to support for Local Government Aid, actions speak louder than words. Jeff Johnson&rsquo;s past actions regarding LGA give no indication that his current support for LGA&mdash;like Tim Pawlenty&rsquo;s support in 2002&mdash;is anything more than a soothing bromide designed to pacify unsuspecting city officials and local property taxpayers.</p> <p> <br /> <em>*During the 1981-1982 period, general purpose city aid was comprised entirely of LGA. During the 1990-1991 period, city general purpose was comprised of LGA, Homestead and Agricultural Credit Aid, Equalization Aid, and Disparity Reduction Aid. During the period from 2002 to 2012, general purpose city aid consisted of LGA and the city portion of the homestead market value credit.</em></p> <p> <em>&dagger;This conclusion is based on a <a href="http://www.accessecon.com/Pubs/EB/2010/Volume30/EB-10-V30-I3-P210.pdf" target="_blank">model-based ranking of U.S. recessions</a> published in a 2010 issue of Economics Bulletin (volume 30, issue 3).</em></p> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 11:22:55 +0000 VIDEO: Tech Crawl http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/video-tech-crawl http://mn2020.org/8783 <p> By Briana Johnson, Video Production Specialist </p> <p> Budding entrepreneurs and innovators seeking strategic advice, resources and networking opportunities had the opportunity to join in a series of 20 events across the metro during the first ever Twin Cities Startup Week.</p> <p> Minnesota 2020 headed out to the Startup Crawl to learn more about different businesses in the metro and some exciting new opportunities including new business apps that can help people in their everyday lives. From mobile apps that tell you exactly when your bus will arrive, applications that help you custom design you own baby clothes, to larger companies such as computer coding, and software.</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> </p> Mon, 15 Sep 2014 11:00:47 +0000 Energy Trends: Fossil Future or Renewable Outlook? http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/energy-environment/energy-trends-fossil-future-or-renewable-outlook http://mn2020.org/8778 <p> By Maria Brun, Graduate Research Fellow </p> <p> Energy, sitting at the intersection of powering society and emitting greenhouse gasses (GHG) linked to climate change, has become a highly partisan issue, stylized into soundbites. War on coal. Windturbine syndrome. Renewable energy raises electricity rates. 400 parts per million. The list goes on.</p> <p> Though there is at least partial merit to some of the noise on energy, many of our discussions are disconnected from a basic knowledge of the state of our energy system. How much energy do we use? How are emissions actually trending and where are they coming from? How are we currently generating power and how will that change in the future? What does this all mean for policy?</p> <p> To get a good picture of what&rsquo;s going on in energy in the U.S., The Energy Information Administration&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/" target="_blank">Annual Energy Outlook</a> and the recently released <a href="http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/" target="_blank">Electric Power Monthly</a> and <a href="http://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/state/analysis/" target="_blank">State-Level Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions, 2000&ndash;2011</a> reports are a good place to start. To add more regional context (and inspire a bit of friendly border rivalry), it&rsquo;s also helpful to look at what different states are doing, particularly those who share similar climates, cultures, and resource availability.</p> <p> Last year, the U.S. consumed roughly <a href="https://flowcharts.llnl.gov/content/energy/energy_archive/energy_flow_2013/2013USEnergy.png" target="_blank">97 quadrillion Btus</a> (quads) of energy. A mere 38 quads were transformed into energy services (for example, lighting a room, heating water for cooking), while the rest was lost or rejected through the transformation process (think of a car engine generating waste heat instead of using that energy to turn the wheels). This use is down slightly from some years, such as 2008 and 2010, but is up from last year&rsquo;s estimate of 95 quads. Overall, the last five years has seen pretty consistent energy consumption.</p> <p> Also consistent is the proportion of energy by use. Consistently the second biggest consumer of energy, transportation derived 92 percent of its energy from petroleum (the rest coming from natural gas and biomass) and is responsible for 28 percent of <a href="http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/usinventoryreport.html">total US GHG emissions</a> released in the U.S. Electricity generation is the largest consumer of energy, last year using 38 of the 97 quads, or roughly 40 percent of total energy consumption. Eighty-six percent of this energy came from coal, nuclear, and natural gas, with only a small sliver coming from clean energy. Not suprisingly, electricity is also the largest source of GHG emissions, accounting for almost one third of the total.</p> <p> Looking just at electricity, nationwide, we added 4,350 megawatts (MW) of utility-scale electric power generation capacity between January and June of this year. Most of this new capacity was built in three of the largest economies, Florida, Texas, and California. These states continued the trend of favoring natural gas, solar, and wind, all considered low or no carbon fuels/generation technologies.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <a href="http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=17891" target="_blank"><img alt="U.S. power plant capacity additions by state" src="/assets/uploads/article/powerplant_bystate.png" style="width: 450px; height: 372px;" /><br /> <em>Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration</em></a></p> <p> Capacity additions are a good indicator of what the mix of our energy generation&mdash;how much coal versus nuclear, for example&mdash;may be changing to in the future. The first half of 2014 lends support for a trend toward a <a href="http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/MT_naturalgas.cfm">larger role</a> for natural gas and renewables and a slow decline in coal, though this is data only from 6 months. Additionally, <a href="http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=17891&amp;src=email" target="_blank">as shown by the U.S. Energy Information Administration</a>, combined cycle natural gas plants dominated new natural gas capacity additions. As opposed to combustion turbines, combined cycle plants are generally more compatible with intermittent resources like wind and solar as they are more <a href="http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy12osti/55433.pdf" target="_blank">economically</a> and <a href="http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy14osti/60575.pdf" target="_blank">physically</a> more capable of being cycled between output levels to accommodate demand as well as other power generation sources.</p> <p> Despite this trend, the general look of the energy pie is not expected to change dramatically through 2040. In the EIA&rsquo;s Energy Outlook 2014 with Projections to 2040, renewably generated energy is expected to increase by 69 percent by 2040 with a more than 140 percent increase in non-hydro renewable generation. Despite this, since fossil fuels such as coal already hold a larger proportion of the generation portfolio and renewables account for roughly 12 percent, renewable energy is expected to account for only 16 percent of generation by 2040 (assuming no substantial policy changes). One exception could be under the EIA&rsquo;s scenario of accelerated retirements of coal and nuclear plants. In this case, renewables still stay a small proportion of total energy generation, but natural gas generation increases rapidly.</p> <p> Capacity additions alone are insufficient to shed light on where our electricity generation is coming from now. Looking at current net generation by source in the region, our continued reliance on coal in the Midwest becomes clear. Among Minnesota and its neighbors, all but South Dakota have the most electricity generation coming from coal. South Dakota is the odd state out with most of its power generated from conventional hydropower.</p> <p> Also clear from this picture is the impact of a decade of wind development. Except in Wisconsin where the wind resource is poorer, wind is rivaling the share of more traditional power sources such as nuclear. By contrast, Wisconsin has a higher proportion of natural gas, a cleaner alternative to coal.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <a href="http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/" target="_blank"><img alt="Share of total energy generation by fuel" src="/assets/uploads/article/Mix.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 307px;" /></a><br /> <strong>Share of total energy generation by fuel</strong><br /> <a href="http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/" target="_blank"><em>Data from the Energy Information Administration&rsquo;s Electric Power Monthly</em></a><br /> <em>Note: only includes most significant energy sources.</em></p> <p> Moving from snapshot to change over time, compared to the same period (January-June) last year, all states have seen an increase in the amount of electricity generation coming from wind. Minnesota was the only state to increase the amount of electricity generated from coal and nuclear. However, since there have been no new capacity additions in Minnesota for either, the increase is likely due to higher output levels and market conditions that drive dispatch decisions favoring coal and nuclear as compared to last year.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <a href="http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/" target="_blank"><img alt="Change in net generation by fuel source" src="/assets/uploads/article/Trend.png" style="width: 500px; height: 324px;" /></a><br /> <strong>Change in net generation by fuel source, January-June 2013 versus 2014. </strong><br /> <em><a href="http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/" target="_blank">Data from the Energy Information Administration's Electric Power Monthly</a></em></p> <p> As alluded to above, energy mix is an important component to total GHG emissions. In Minnesota&rsquo;s case, 41 percent of GHG emissions come from electric power, the largest single source of emissions. Electricity is also the largest GHG emissions source for Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Iowa as well. Conversely, with its large supply of hydropower, South Dakota&rsquo;s electricity only accounts for 20 percent of emissions and as a result, South Dakota has the fifth lowest total emissions in the U.S.</p> <p> Per capita emissions paint a different story, however. When adjusting for population, South Dakota&rsquo;s small population and high amount of personal travel moves it to the middle at 23rd highest GHG emissions per person. Iowa and North Dakota shoot to the top with the 11th and second highest GHG emissions per person, respectively.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <a href="http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/" target="_blank"><img alt="Per-capita energy-related carbon dioxide emissions" src="/assets/uploads/article/Emissions.png" style="width: 600px; height: 287px;" /><br /> <em>Data from the Energy Information Administration&rsquo;s Electric Power Monthly</em></a></p> <p> Moving to the second largest energy user, transportation, some positive trends are worth noting. First, personal vehicle travel demand, known as vehicle miles traveled (VMT), is expected to stay relatively flat for the next 15 years, around 12,500 miles annually per person. However, the number of licensed drivers is expected to increase from around 213 million to almost 270 million by 2040. This growth could reverse the <a href="http://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/carbon/" target="_blank">negative trend</a> in total emissions in the first few years of the current decade, but new fuel economy standards for light duty vehicles as well as <a href="http://www.navigantresearch.com/research/electric-vehicle-market-forecasts" target="_blank">fuel switching</a> makes up for the growth in <a href="http://www.state.gov/e/oes/rls/rpts/car4/90324.htm" target="_blank">drivers</a>.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <a href="http://www.afdc.energy.gov/data/" target="_blank"><img alt="Alternative Fuel Vehicles in Use" src="/assets/uploads/article/Alt_Fuels.png" style="width: 600px; height: 282px;" /></a></p> <p> Twenty-six percent of Minnesota&rsquo;s end use energy consumption goes to transportation, yet as of 2011, transportation accounted for almost 34 percent of emissions. Emissions are impacted by several factors, including how people drive, how far, and what fuel they use. To the latter, Minnesota lags behind the nation, ranked <a href="http://www.cargroup.org/assets/files/deployment.pdf">25th for hybrid car registrations (2007-2009)</a> and has low levels of electric vehicle adoption.</p> <p> On the other hand, Minnesota drivers are traveling less. VMT decreased by<a href="http://www.ecowest.org/land/state-vmt/" target="_blank"> 4.3 percent in 2005-2011</a>. By comparison, VMT increased by over 12 percent in North Dakota and decreased by the same amount in Wisconsin. Iowa saw a slight reduction as well while South Dakota&rsquo;s VMT stayed nearly flat.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <a href="http://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=MN#tabs-2" target="_blank"><img alt="Minnesota Energy Consumption by End-Use Sector" src="/assets/uploads/article/Mn_Chart.png" style="width: 550px; height: 367px;" /></a></p> <p> So what does this all mean? Energy and transportation are and will continue to be the largest source of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. if current trends hold. Even with current state intervention to promote renewable and clean energy generation, the U.S. will generate one sixth of its electricity renewably and continue to depend on fossil fuels even if coal plants are retired faster than anticipated. Without rapid adoption of alternative fuel vehicles and the supporting infrastructure, emissions reduction will have to be achieved by substantially altering peoples&rsquo; travel behavior.</p> <p> In otherwords, business as usual sets us up to continue down an unsustainable path. Despite the bleak picture this paints for climate change, the good news is that there is so much improvement to seek that there are a large range of options for policymakers. But the current reality of our energy system and projections into the future are clear: policymakers need to<em> take advantage</em> of these options and step up to do more, moving away from small nudges toward renewable energy to creating a fundamental shift in our energy use and generation as well as transportation habits to substantially reduce emissions.</p> Fri, 12 Sep 2014 11:00:47 +0000 VIDEO: Minnesota Apple Harvest http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/economic-development/video-minnesota-apple-harvest http://mn2020.org/8774 <p> By Briana Johnson, Video Production Specialist </p> <p> Minnesota's apple harvest is underway and early word is that this year's crop is bountiful. There are <a href="http://www.mda.state.mn.us/food/minnesotagrown/minnesotaapples.aspx" target="_blank">116 apple orchards</a> across the state with more than a dozen varieties of the autumn favorite.</p> <p> Minnesota 2020 stopped by Aamodt's Apple Farm in Stillwater where they practice sustainable farming methods. Chris Aamodt, third generation owner of the popular orchard, says they use a minimal amount of spray to keep away bugs, promote an all natural process to replace chemicals during the growing process and use rain water to keep the apple trees hydrated. The farm has been around since 1948. It was started by Chris Aamodt's grandfather, a past student and professor at the University of Minnesota, who carefully picked the location of the orchard to avoid major storm activity that could damage a crop.</p> <p> And, yes, you'll find some some terrific University of Minnesota varieties including the newest star of the University of Minnesota apple breeding program, the SweeTango.</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"> </p> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 11:39:59 +0000 Tech Takes on Congestion; So Does Transit http://www.mn2020.org/issues-that-matter/transportation/tech-takes-on-congestion-so-does-transit http://mn2020.org/8771 <p> By Conrad deFiebre, Transportation Fellow </p> <p> Driverless cars. The Internet of autos. Drones on traffic patrol. Spatial analytics and behavioral economics.&nbsp;</p> <p> The strange list above offers just a taste of the latest technological efforts to tame soul-sapping road congestion. Highway authorities everywhere are focusing on such fixes because laying more pavement is cost-prohibitive as well as self-defeating as more driving is induced. Whether the same problem crops up with technical management of traffic remains to be seen.</p> <p> But depending on whose methodology you believe, tech advances from ramp meters to priced congestion lanes have already smoothed out traffic in the Twin Cities area.&nbsp;</p> <p> The Minnesota Department of Transportation calculated a <a href="http://www.dot.state.mn.us/rtmc/reports/congestionreport2013.pdf" target="_blank">7 percent drop</a> in the region's freeway tieups last year, based on how much of the 758-mile system experienced persistent slowdowns below 45 miles per hour. That metric dropped from 21.4 percent in 2012 to 19.9 percent in 2013, the agency reported, despite a metro population increase of 40,000. On the other hand, the <a href="http://www.inrix.com/pressrelease.asp?ID=1193" target="_blank">2013 INRIX National Traffic Scorecard Annual Report,&nbsp;</a>measuring different things over wider places and times,&nbsp;found overall metro traffic up 17 percent and congestion delays 14 percent greater.</p> <p> Both of these studies, by the way, depend on technology: MNDOT's roadway detectors on 90 percent of the system, supplemented by field observations; INRIX's global positioning system data. The Holy Grail, though, is scientific wizardry that works so well there's no congestion left to measure. Here's a rundown of developments toward that goal, plus warnings about potential complications:</p> <p> <strong>Autonomous vehicles</strong></p> <p> The idea here is not only that your car wouldn't need your help to navigate traffic, but also that its wireless connection with everything else on the road could maximize safe and efficient use of limited right-of-way. &quot;The rise of the connected car ... is the coming together of communications technologies, information systems and safety devices to provide vehicles with an increasing level of sophistication and automation,&quot; the <a href="http://www.economist.com/news/technology-quarterly/21615060-way-cars-are-made-bought-and-driven-changing-mobile-communications" target="_blank">Economist</a> noted.</p> <p> This futuristic vision may be closer than we've imagined. <a href="http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/274273131.html" target="_blank">GM just announced</a> that in only two years it will introduce a new &quot;Super Cruise&quot; Cadillac that leaves most of the driving to itself. At about the same time, all Cadillac CTS models will get vehicle-to-vehicle transmitters and receivers. &quot;But GM says it's working on a system to make sure drivers still pay attention,&quot; according to the Associated Press report.</p> <p> Good thing that, although assuring watchfulness by the human seated behind the dashboard (if there's no steering wheel anymore)&nbsp;may be a tougher challenge than deploying the fancy cybernetics. It's important, however, because of at least two problems, one fiscal, the other technical.</p> <p> <strong>Internet of cars</strong></p> <p> Unlike in the 1960s, when Congress funded the Pentagon's work that led to the Internet, federal officials have all but ruled out paying for, building or operating a wireless system linking vehicles together. &quot;Due to the current fiscal environment, it does not seem plausible,&quot; the U.S. Department of Transportation wrote last month, according to <a href="http://www.autonews.com/article/20140825/OEM06/308259958/funding-strapped-feds-search-for-someone-to-run-the-internet-of-cars#" target="_blank">Automotive News.</a></p> <p> The trade journal said &quot;that leaves a big cloud of uncertainty over the future of vehicle-to-vehicle, or V2V, communications technology,&quot; although a consortium of at least eight major American, German, Japanese and South Korea automakers has been working on it for the past decade. &quot;DOT officials have endorsed V2V as a huge leap forward in auto safety, but they are looking for someone else to manage the network, which they expect will cost about $60 million annually to maintain.&quot;</p> <p> On a national scale, or even compared with Google's revenues, $60 million is small potatoes, but a greater obstacle is the threat of liability if something goes wrong and crashes occur. Anyone who doubts that possibility should remember the glitches that plagued the Affordable Health Care Act's state and federal web sites and the serial breaches of corporations' customer data.&nbsp;</p> <p> Clearly, there's a threat of hacker mischief to practically any computerized system. <a href="http://www.technologyreview.com/news/530216/researchers-hack-into-michigans-traffic-lights/" target="_blank">University of Michigan researchers</a> recently showed how easy it was to get into wirelessly networked traffic signals via at least three technological weaknesses. In some places, non-scholarly hackers have posted <a href="http://lanctalk.com/Forums/index.php/topic/240047-officials-trying-to-stop-hackers-from-breaking-into-electronic-road-signs/" target="_blank">rogue warnings</a> &mdash;Caution: Zombies ahead!&mdash;on electronic highway message boards. While such vulnerabilities might only draw a laugh or let a geek hit all the green lights on his way home, a terrorist could cause real mayhem by penetrating a V2V network.&nbsp;</p> <p> &quot;Running the network would be fiendishly complicated, requiring the government to constantly remain one step ahead of hackers and potential privacy breaches,&quot; Thilo Koslowski, a connected-car analyst at Gartner Inc. in Santa Clara, Calif., told Auto News. &quot;I don't think the government wants to take on the burden of ensuring the high reliability of this network.&quot;</p> <p> While all this gets settled, a couple other tech solutions for traffic are in the works:</p> <p> <strong>Drones over Atlanta</strong></p> <p> Georgia Tech researchers commissioned by the state's DOT &quot;came up with more than 40 tasks&quot; drones could help with, including vehicle counts, traffic management, congestion analysis, speed enforcement and even bridge inspections, according to the <a href="http://www.govtech.com/transportation/Drones-Eyed-as-Tools-in-Traffic-War.html" target="_blank">McClatchy News Service.&nbsp;</a>The holdup is federal planning and rulemaking to address issues of safety and privacy that may be years from completion.</p> <p> <strong>Weird Science </strong></p> <p> A company called Urban Engines &quot;uses spatial analysis to create a digital replica of a city's transportation system and helps cities implement incentives based on behavioral economics that reward commuters for shifting their travel away from peak times,&quot; according to the journal <a href="http://www.govtech.com/transportation/Can-Spatial-Analytics-Combined-with-Behavioral-Economics-Ease-Congestion.html" target="_blank">Government Technology.</a>&nbsp;For example, giving lottery tickets away in a pilot project in Bangalore, India, reduced peak congestion 17 percent. The firm has also crunched data for cities as far-flung as Sao Paolo, Singapore and Washington, D.C.</p> <p> With all its pitfalls, technology, high or low, may still offer the likeliest solutions to traffic jams. In Minnesota, MNPass lanes, intelligent lane control signs and variable speed limits &quot;are helping fight congestion,&quot; University of Minnesota traffic researcher John Hourdos told <a href="http://www.mprnews.org/story/2014/05/15/report-traffic-jams-ease-up-as-twin-cities-grow" target="_blank">MPR News.</a></p> <p> He added, however, that the best way to bust traffic jams is by increasing public transit use. Conservatives resist this common-sense solution, but building bus and rail infrastructure and service into realistic alternatives to driving can do even more than technology to reduce the costs and frustrations of congestion.</p> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 11:00:22 +0000