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Republican Scott Jensen says he'd strike Minnesota Clean Car rule, end nuclear moratorium if elected

Jensen said the proposals were part of his broader plan to decrease energy prices for consumers and ensure the state's grid can meet demand.

Scott Jensen - Republican candidate for governor
Republican candidate for governor Scott Jensen on Wednesday, July 13, 2022, outlines his proposals to reduce energy costs in Minnesota and to ensure the energy grid is reliable.
Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — Republican candidate for governor Scott Jensen on Wednesday, July 13, said he would roll back Minnesota's Clean Car rule and lift a moratorium on nuclear power in the state to help drop consumer energy prices if elected this fall.

But the physician and former state senator said he also felt the state could meet its renewable energy goals to drop greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and should encourage year-round use of E-15 fuel.

Energy prices and the possibility of summer blackouts were the subjects of Jensen's latest campaign news conference on Wednesday and Jensen said the state needed to take a new approach to energy generation that would establish a strong reliable base for consumers rather than focusing more on measures that could reduce the state's carbon footprint.

Under the proposal, Jensen would call on the next Legislature to strike a rule set to take effect in 2024 that would require auto manufacturers to bring more hybrid and electric vehicles into Minnesota. He also called for allowing the construction of new nuclear plants, rolling back regulations on energy production and distribution companies and tapping the state's Renewable Development Fund to fuel new energy sources.

“We can’t let our wants undercut and neuter our economy because that’s what we’re doing," Jensen said. "We can absolutely lift the moratorium, we can absolutely start using the (Renewable Development) funds to start innovation, we can absolutely finish up the Granite Falls (hydroelectric) project and we can suspend and repeal the California-based car mandates. We need to have that big conversation and that's why Matt and I are in front of you."

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The state auto dealer association said the rule set to take effect in 2024 would force car dealers to carry more electric and hybrid vehicles than customers would want, spurring losses.

The ideas are a marked departure from Walz administration policy to bring more electric and hybrid vehicles into the state in an effort to tamp down greenhouse gas emissions caused by the transportation sector.

And they faced immediate blowback from environmental groups and Democratic Party leaders who said they would take the state backward in fighting climate change and offer little help to consumers.

"Gov. Walz is fighting to send $2,000 checks to Minnesota families to help with rising energy costs like gas," Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Communications Director Brian Evans said. "Scott Jensen's plan lends a hand to big oil companies instead of providing any meaningful financial support to Minnesota families."

Jensen and his running mate Matt Birk said they supported efforts to bring additional energy sources into the state that relied on nonfossil fuels — including a hydroelectric turbine in Granite Falls — but didn't want to get into specifics about some of their stances on addressing climate change since the issue can be polarizing.

"The problem with talking about climate is the word is such a lightning rod. We all know that, so it basically defaults into a conversation or brainstorming session into virtually a religious discussion," Jensen said. "I am plenty willing to talk about a green movement, how can we preserve our environment, our water, our atmosphere, but as soon as we say, 'Climate,' everyone goes ballistic."

At other points in the conversation, the candidates said they opposed "extreme green" policies being pursued by Gov. Tim Walz and his administration.

"The conversation has been kind of hijacked by extreme environmentalists. Fossil fuels have been vilified but fossil fuels is the reason why as a globe we're able to feed 8 billion people," Birk said. "While those are not perfect and there has been a lot of advancements being made in how we get those and the byproducts, it's still by far the most reliable and cost-effective source of energy we have."

Jensen and Birk also recommended further study of the state's base load power sources, additional energy storage mechanisms and possible public-private partnerships as part of their proposal.

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MORE FROM DANA FERGUSON:
Several incumbent state legislators, particularly in the Senate, edged out competitors with more extreme views on COVID-19, election security and more.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter  @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email  dferguson@forumcomm.com.

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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