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Bemidji legislator endorses U.S. Senate's energy bill

Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, speaks during a press conference Tuesday afternoon to call for support from Minnesota senators for the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

State Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, and local renewable energy and conservation leaders called on the community to back a U.S. Senate bill introduced Sept. 30.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., introduced the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act. The bill aims to help the United States become energy independent and create 1.7 million new clean-energy jobs.

At a lectern flanked by green hard hats printed with the logo "2 million clean energy jobs now" during a Tuesday afternoon press conference at the Bemidji State University American Indian Resource Center, Persell said figures he garnered from the Center for American Progress indicate 30,000 of those jobs could come to Minnesota.,

"I've been working on environmental quality issues for decades," said Persell, who generates his home electricity with a wind plant and serves as an environmental analyst for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe

"The clean energy bill will put America back in control of our future," he said. "Our dependence on foreign oil ... it's been crippling our economy. Our national security is at stake."

Sue Trnka of the Minnesota Environmental Partnership agreed.

"America's dependence on foreign oil hurts our economy, helps our enemies and puts our security at risk," she said. "Oil companies, lobbyists and special interests have fought energy reform for decades to protect their profits."

Persell said finding clean energy and climate solutions mean cutting carbon emissions by 20 by 2020 and by 80 percent by 2050. He said was born in 1050 and plans to be around to witness the changes 41 years from now as a centenarian.

He pointed out the push to reduce energy consumption and reliance on foreign oil the percolated during the 1970s.

"We started - we stuttered," he said.

Now is the time to work together and take advantage of the opportunities initiatives like the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act offer.

Ryan Zemek of the Headwaters Regional Development Commission and Anthony Schaffhauser of the BSU Center for Research and Innovation also touted the opportunities the move toward alternative energy sources provides.

Bemidji City Councilor Kevin Waldhausen, Ward 1, said Mayor Richard Lehmann has initiated a Sustainability Commission comprised of himself, Erika Bailey-Johnson and Andrew Spaeth to look into ways the city can reduce energy consumption.

"It's in its infant stages," he said of the Sustainability Commission. "But it's moving and we expect big things."

For example, he said, the Bemidji Regional Event Center will be heated and cooled geothermally.