Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Minnesota's competitive advantage?

Something I keep losing track of as I get older is that many of today's Minnesotans hadn't yet been born at the time of the 1969 Cuyahoga River fire. I suspect and fear that many haven't read Rachel Carson's Silent Spring nor Bill McKibben's The End of Nature. That also probably means that today's younger generations haven't heard as many times as I have that environmental regulations are job killers, even when it just ain't so, according to people like Michael Porter at the Harvard Business School. That's why I cringe at the prospect of the Minnesota Legislature getting involved in setting standards for air and water quality. Below is a map of the Minnesota waters that didn't meet standards in 2012. Personally, I don't find this to be a very attractive picture. Minnesota's reputation for a clean and healthy environment is supposed to be one of our competitive advantages, I don't think the state of our water quality is helping us. Of course, we could try Florida's approach and prohibit MPCA and other state staff from talking about impaired waters and nonattainment, but then folks would make fun of us and go see what the USEPA has for information.

Impaired Waters 2012
source: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

If you check the USEPA's (dated) national water quality data base, Minnesota's lakes in 2008 were 97% impaired while lakes in my home state of Massachusetts were 88% impaired in 2006. Rivers were 79% and 69% impaired, respectively. I don't think that bodes well for what should be one of Minnesota's strong points, nor does it make a strong case for Minnesota as the state that works. As long as our politics continue to be more about partisanship than governance I strongly question how much the legislature has to contribute to setting environmental standards, unless, of course, Minnesota wants to participate in a race to the bottom and see if that's a winning strategy. On the other hand, the Metropolitan Council has the largest wastewater treatment plant in Minnesota. Phosphorus removal is part of the treatment process at that plant. If the metro area and Bemidji are doing what's right for our waters, why shouldn't greater Minnesota cities and, for that matter, our agricultural sector (farmers) do their parts for Minnesota's environment. When did being a free rider become part of Minnesota Nice??

Government Spending

By Patricia Lockwood 
The government spent a Patricia on me,
“a huge waste,” it lamented, “when we could
have been spending it on another Nixon,”

the government spent all its beauty
on the great light leap on the deer-
crossing sign — there was hardly any
beauty left for anything else in America,
and looking around them the government
said,
           “Is there none left? Print more,”

you are born, you barely contain yourself,
you grow, inside you, someone spends
a billion to make prison more luxurious;
inside you, someone spends a billion
to keep libraries open one hour later;
then oh god, you feel wonderful,
                         you must be on welfare,

the government spent its whole education
on me, at least that is how it feels right now,
I am bursting with educational dollars,
I am bursting with other dollars as well,
I’m rounded up, I’m one long row of ohs,
I get so many commas
                     that the sentence doesn’t stop,

the dollars in me are a map of  Missouri
my mother can’t fold back up, oh no the map
is everywhere, but I know the way, I am hot
on a trail, I am bursting with the dollars
that put that knowing breath in drug dogs,

all the spending of  the space program is in me,
the stars seem especially close, this is because
they are a government handout, they are spending
millions on moonlight research, when I am President

I will cut the arts and let my right arm flow downhill,
I am ready, there is nothing trivial about me left,
I am eliminating the penny every second,

a dollar is peeled off a roll of  thousands,
it is the day, the mint of  it is in my mouth,
I open it, completely fresh.


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