Decreasing our Reliance on Oil // Simply put, we need to reduce our reliance upon oil. Currently, the vast majority of fuels used within the state come from Canadian tar sand oil. Oil derived from tar sands has a larger life-cycle carbon footprint, roughly three to five times that of light sweet crude, due to the process by which it is converted to a usable petroleum product. In addition, the process by which tar sand oil has been extracted has already left an indelible impression upon the Canadian landscape.
Alberta Tar Sands: Minnesota's Dirty Oil Secret
Wednesday, September 22 at 7 p.m.
Approximately 80% of the gas Minnesotans put in their vehicles comes from the environmental devastation wrought by tar sands oil extraction (see above).
WHEN: Wednesday, September 22nd, 7 p.m.
WHERE: University of St Thomas O'Shaughnessy Auditorium (St Paul)
PARKING: Anderson Parking Facility, Corner of Cretin & Grand, CAMPUS MAP
WHO: Simon Dyer of the Pembina Institute in Calgary, Clayton Thomas-Muller of the Indigenous Environmental Network, and Michael Noble of Fresh Energy
Alberta Tar Sands: Minnesota's Dirty Oil Secret, a public forum will be held at 7 p.m., Wednesday, September 22 at the University of St. Thomas O'Shaughnessy Auditorium in St. Paul. Reception with sponsor information tables is from 6:30-7 p.m.
The event will include a presentation by Simon Dyer, the Oil Sands Program Director at the Pembina Institute in Calgary, on how the tar sands excavations have destroyed thousands of acres of boreal forest in Alberta, including water pollution and lost wildlife habitat. Simon is the co-author of Death by a Thousand Cuts: Impacts of In-situ Oil Sands Development on Alberta's Boreal Forest and Haste Makes Waste: The Need for a New Oil Sands Tenure Regime.
In addition, Clayton Thomas-Muller, of the Mathais Colomb Cree Nation and an international activist for indigenous rights and environmental justice with the Indigenous Environmental Network, will speak. Based out of Ottawa, Clayton is involved in many initiatives to support the building of an inclusive movement for energy and climate justice. He will talk about his work with grassroots indigenous communities across Canada, Alaska and the lower 48 states to defend against the sprawling infrastructure that includes pipelines, refineries and extraction associated with the tar sands.
Michael Noble, the Executive Director of Fresh Energy, will discuss the role Minnesota and our fuel consumption plays in supporting this this destructive energy source, and what we can do to reduce our need for tar sands oil. Michael is the chair of the Clean Energy Working Group, serves on the Steering Committee of RE-AMP and the board of directors of Conservation Minnesota Voter Center, Wind on the Wires, and the Will Steger Foundation.
EVENT SPONSORS: Audubon Minnesota, Fresh Energy, Honor the Earth, Indigenous Environmental Network, Izaak Walton League of Minnesota, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA), Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG), Pembina Institute, Sierra Club North Star Chapter, St. Paul Audubon Society, University of St. Thomas Department of Political Science
Moving Forward Minnesota: Background // Transportation contributes to 25% of global warming emissions in Minnesota. Furthermore, as Minnesota’s demographics shift, we face an aging population that will require alternatives to driving but will have few options. Both of these problems are caused by a lack of access to green modes of transportation for most people. To address the challenges of global warming and our state’s shifting demographics, we need to rethink the way we get around. By doing so, we will not only be protecting Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, and streams, we will be providing new and innovative ways for people to live their lives without the current heavy reliance upon automobiles. This issue has energized students and young people across the nation in a unique way. MPIRG has made great change on this issue recently (see below for more). Given the strong sense of urgency and growing awareness of the importance of transportation policy, this issue presents an opportunity for MPIRG to remain on the forefront of this movement in Minnesota by affecting real change now that will impact generations to come.
In 2007, Governor Pawlenty convened a team of 56 environmental and industry experts to study Minnesota’s contribution to global warming. The group, known as the Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group (MCCAG), released an action plan in February 2008 which detailed a number of proposed policies for reducing Minnesota’s greenhouse gas emissions. In the Transportation and Land Use section of their final report, MCCAG gave 12 policy suggestions that fell into one of three Transportation Land Use Areas: (1) – Reduce the number of miles driven, (2) – Reduce carbon per unit of fuel (cleaner fuels), (3) – Reduce carbon per mile and/or per hour (improved vehicle efficiency). Much of the green transportation advocacy work being during this past legislative session has its roots in these policy prescriptions. Despite bipartisan support for the creation of MCCAG, the state has failed to act upon or successfully pass any of the policy recommendations. Despite the success of a federal clean car standard, work remains to reduce the carbon intensity of fuels used in Minnesota. We need to advance the next generation of biofuels and create incentives to reduce the life-cycle carbon impact of the petroleum products we do use.
Policy Primer // In order to address this issue in particular, and overall oil consumption for transportation generally, we need to create standards and incentives that encourage adoption of fuels with lower life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions. One such policy proposal is the Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS). The Low Carbon Fuel Standard creates a timetable for global warming emissions reductions for fuels refined and used in Minnesota. It does so by establishing carbon intensity values for a variety of transportation fuels and then setting goals for reduction. As a result, the policy encourages the use of fuels, such as biofuels or oil and biofuel blends, with lower carbon emissions. There is currently a study underway at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities that will establish more precise carbon intensity values for transportation fuels as well as analyze the economic impacts to Minnesota from the adoption of such a standard.
In addition to reducing the carbon impact of transportation fuels, we need to reduce overall reliance upon vehicles as the sole mode of transportation.
One way to reduce vehicle miles traveled is to offer people improved alternatives. We need urban and regional planning models that consider a broader array of transportation options that include walking, biking, and transit. A variety of proposals have already been introduced at local units of government that accomplish this overall objective. For example, St. Paul, Rochester, and Hennepin County have adopted Complete Streets ordinances which guarantee that any road being built or significantly repaired will be developed in consideration of how they serve biking, walking, and transit in addition to car travel.
Example of what complete streets in Minnesota will look like.
During the 2010 legislative session, MPIRG and our allies in the Complete Streets Coalition were successful in passing a statewide Complete Streets statute. Though work remains to fully implement this policy, it is a big step forward in ensuring that new roads and bridges are built with walking, biking, and transit in mind. In addition, other policy options are being proposed, such as the Building Sensible Communities legislation, which requires a broader set of transportation variables to be considered by MnDOT and the Metropolitan Council when planning transportation in and around the Metro Area. MPIRG will work to raise awareness of and advocate for transportation policy that increases transportation choices and builds a broader transit infrastructure.
Links and Resources
Minnesota Complete Streets Coalition
Minnesota Department of Transportation - Complete Streets Study
Fresh Energy's Take on Transportation
Transit for Livable Communities: Minnesota Developing Complete Streets Iniatives
National Complete Streets Coalition
Complete Streets FAQ