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Column - Time to join the growing chorus for clean energy

Even though the gusher has been capped at long last, we should never forget the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. A similar spill is bound to happen again, somewhere or another.

For too long, oil companies have been fighting tooth-and-claw and spending billions of lobbying dollars to keep the status-quo - that is, an oil-dependent world. Is it any wonder clean-energy initiatives have been stalled?

There is hope, however. There is some progress being made on clean-energy-and-climate legislation in the U.S. Senate. There is a surprising bipartisan support for such a bill. Two of its strongest advocates are Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

Some other senators, however, are far too chummy with the oil industry. They must be pushed and prodded to support the bill. Fortunately, Minnesota's two senators, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, not only support such legislative efforts; they have been forerunners in advocating clean-energy policies for years, long before they were elected to the U.S. Senate.

A good way to learn about the importance of comprehensive clean-energy legislation is to Google two excellent websites: RepowerAmerica and the Alliance for Climate Protection.

On those sites, people can call or e-mail senators in any or all of the 50 states, urging them to support clean-energy initiatives. They can also learn about what's at stake by continuing to rely on petroleum-based energy and how each of us can make a big difference in wise-energy choices in our daily lives.

A comprehensive Clean-Energy Act, according to its bipartisan supporters, would jumpstart the economy and provide up to 2 million jobs. It would help end our dependence on foreign oil. It would reward innovation and conservation. And it would, obviously, help solve the global-warming crisis.

The best thing about currently proposed energy-saving initiatives is that the wheel does not have to be reinvented. Simple solutions such as retrofitting homes and businesses for energy efficiency would have quite an impact in saving energy. Other examples of in-place technology are the wind generators that are popping up nationwide and solar panels on homes as well as the multiple panels on solar farms.

Last summer I toured a solar farm on the campus of St. John's University, which provides about 5 percent of the university's needs. The "farm" consisted or row upon row of solar panels. I was surprised to learn Minnesota's winters are actually ideal for the production of solar energy.

A couple of years ago, I took part as an observer in a long, slow journey from Duluth harbor to the Iowa border - a caravan that delivered the huge parts of a wind generator to a "wind farm." The generators were made in Denmark, then shipped to Duluth.

The "future" is already here; but it must be expanded.

In the meantime, let's face it, we are all part of the energy problem. But we can be part of the solution. On the websites mentioned above are good tips on how to save energy day-to-day. The tips include using energy-efficient light bulbs, using less hot water (wash clothes with cold or warm water, for instance), drive less (for every gallon of gas not used, there are 20 pounds less of carbon dioxide in the air), avoid products with excess packaging, recycle more, check car tires for optimal pressure, adjust thermostats down just two or three degrees in the winter, turn off electric appliances when not in use and, if you can, plant a tree. A tree absorbs up to one ton of carbon dioxide in its lifetime.

Please, do check out those websites.

Dennis Dalman, a former reporter for the Echo Press, is a regular contributing columnist to the Opinion page. He is currently the editor of the St. Joseph Newsleader. He can be reached via e-mail at