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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Alternative energy options should be practical

The Minneapolis Star Tribune (June 29) featured a commentary by Dr. Jim Bowyer, retired professor of environmental engineering from the University of Minnesota, about mining and environmental topics.

He stated that a typical wind turbine contains four to eight tons of copper metal. Solar collectors contain even more copper per unit of energy generated. It is estimated that converting just 8 percent of the global automobile fleet to electric power would increase copper usage by more than 40 percent. He observed that if opponents of mining want a return to the Obama-era 20-year moratorium on copper mining, then they should also be perhaps advocating a moratorium on development and adoption of renewable energy and electric vehicles. He paraphrases Dr. Seuss, "Not here, not there, not anywhere," to summarize mining and drilling opponents' attitudes. He observes that America utilizes a larger share of metals of many kinds and is it more ethical to mine here, with environmental safeguards, or somewhere else around the world with lax regulations? Those are his statements and I recommend his book, "The Irresponsible Pursuit of Paradise." It is thought provoking, informative and non-vindictive in style.

Electricity generation and storage involve metals such as copper, nickel, lithium and many others. If you are for alternate energy generation and storage, then you must also be in favor of mining. We have deposits of many of the needed metals in the United States; however, chromium for example, may need to be purchased from the Russian Federation. Recycling of metals at an increased level is advocated by Dr. Bowyer and makes sense, but "virgin" or pure supplies of metals are always needed as recycled metals are commonly alloyed with other substances that cannot be practically separated or purified.

The Dec. 12 Pioneer included a story about Duluth introducing electric-powered buses for public transit. They had to add diesel auxiliary heaters for passenger comfort and to prevent rapid battery drain. Any serious student of the laws of physics, such as gravity and energy, soon learns that there is no" free lunch," and the Duluth story is an apt testimony.

I favor alternate energy options, provided they make economic and practical sense. The pipeline opponents who resort to vandalism, disregard for property, disruption and general lawlessness are the last people on earth we need to speak for a healthy planet.