Back in the late 1970s the Great Plains became a source of low-sulphur coal for electric utilities when the Surface Mining Act became law and these vast deposits in Montana, North Dakota, and Wyoming would be reclaimed to their prior condition after strip mining.
Midwest power plants could substitute this cheap Western coal and lower the sulphur dioxide in their stack gases without cleaning Illinois coal before burning, or without any scrubbing away the SO2 and NOx as it rises into the atmosphere.
When I heard that former employees of Northern States Power in Minneapolis started a company to bring coal to the Mesabi some years ago, I wondered how anyone could justify the transportation cost of rail haulage from the Plains, or the transmission costs to wheel hundreds of megawatts down to the cities. But the new Excelsior Energy executives convinced enough Rangers to get millions in grant money.
But now it is 2009, and Hard Times are here again. It is time to get real.
Minnesota Power adequately supplies electricity to the Iron Range.
The Twin Cities can meet its electric energy needs much better with conservation, efficiency, and alternative sources.