Michael Noble is the executive director of Minnesotans for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a Minnesota coalition that works to improve the environment and the economy through increased efficiency in energy and land use, and increased reliance on home-grown renewable energy. The coalition partners conduct a coordinated program of research, public education campaigns, and citizen involvement in public decisions.

Sunday, 26 Mar 2000

ST PAUL, Minn.

It’s a blast to put a daily diary on the Internet — even for one week. And though it seems that there are no slow weeks anymore, this will be a wild one. At Minnesotans for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ME3), we are teaming up with some of our coalition partners, kicking off our countdown to Earth Day 2000.

This week’s two big items on the radar screen are a Wednesday/Thursday visit from Denis Hayes, chair of Earth Day 2000, and a Thursday/Friday statewide summit of activists, grassroots groups, and other civic organizations ready to join the campaign for Clean Energy Now! Our partners at Clean Water Fund and the Minnesota Project have done a heck of an organizing job, and ME3 has added a few of its own twists that I’ll write about this week.

What I love about working in Minnesota is that folks really work together, make commitments to each other, divide the labor, and play to each others’ strengths. One reason we have almost 1,000 megawatts of new renewable energy on the ground and on the drawing board is that we set a goal in 1993 and kept at it. Now we are launching the next phase, and our long-term goal is to transform our energy economy as thoroughly as the cyber-world has transformed the industrial economy in the past 20 years.

But like anyone with a long “to-do” list, I’ll stick to what can we make happen today and this week. We have a good plan for the week, but I expect surprises.

For example, will our celebrity Minnesota governor, Jesse Ventura, put his head under the hood of a Honda Insight for a photo-op (last week the answer was YES), or will the head of the state pollution agency keep the agency car under wraps, to save its media debut for a speech closer to Earth Day? Will the morning breakfast with Denis, seven U.S. Senate hopefuls, and one U.S. senator (or aide) light up that bulb and help everyone see that it’s time to put clean energy in every stump speech between now and November? Will the media catch on to the countdown idea, or will they put this off until a few days before April 22?

At ME3, we have never before invested much in Earth Day. We weren’t born yet at Earth Day 1990. (Well, I was 35, but our organization wasn’t yet incorporated.) Since that historic sea change of the first Earth Day in 1970, none of us has known how to channel the Earth Day energy into the nuts and bolts of building power and making real and lasting change. We all need to believe that we are truly “part of something really big,” and that a revolution like that of 1970 — which led to the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the creation of the EPA — is ready to happen again.

The theme of Earth Day 2000 — “Clean Energy Now!” and protecting against global climate change — is exactly ME3’s message, and we have centered all our plans on the idea of gaining momentum on Earth Day that we will carry through the end of this year and into the next. Our 25 allies in the Minnesota SEED Campaign (Sustainable Energy for Economic Development) give us enough tools, ideas, and organizers that we can manage an all-out effort. For example, over 80 state legislators have signed our Clean Energy Principles, as have 45 local officials and 45 organizations. This list will build over the next four weeks until Earth Day, and then the issues will carry into the November campaign season, and a supposed 2001 debate on the restructuring of the electric industry.

Today my top objectives are to get a new intern ready to pitch in this week, finalize details of an email Earth Day 2000 PostCard campaign we launch next Monday, and spend some serious time laying out a 2,000-word opinion piece (with graphics) to run in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune the Sunday before Earth Day.

I’ll tell you more tomorrow.