What would the late “Jack Pine

Bob” Cary think of proposed

Excelsior project?

Grand Rapids Herald-Review


The late â??Jack Pine Bobâ? Cary once remarked that instead of spending millions of dollars on poorly planned economic development the government would be better off giving 100 people 1 million dollars. These people would quit their jobs creating 100 job openings and would spend like crazy, boosting the local economy and creating more jobs.

However, I donâ??t think Bob would approve of spending almost 2 billion dollars to build a power plant near Taconite at the price of about $20 million per job. Heâ??d likely point out that we have no need for more power in this area. Why would we want to take away our neighborsâ?? land to build transmission and pipelines for the benefit of a private corporation and then send the power to distant cities or states? Why would we want more train traffic and coal dust in downtown Grand Rapids? Why should we give our hard-earned tax dollars to an unproven company, and why would we risk those tax dollars on unproven technology?

Bob might ask why we should trust Excelsior Energy when they have never produced a single kw of power? Why should we trust CEO/lobbyist Tom Micheletti when his main strength appears to be making deals at all levels of government? Why would we trust his wife and co-CEO Julie Jorgensen when she was previously a top executive with NRG (a company that filed a $9.2 billion bankruptcy shortly after her departure)? The â??expertiseâ? of Excelsior seems to be greasing political wheels and schmoozing. Nothing in this companyâ??s background indicates they are capable of success.

Before Itasca County Commissioners get too excited about distributing and bonding millions of dollars for this project, Bob might caution them to consider what happened with Technimar, Tirecycle, and the chopsticks factory in Hibbing.

In contrast, the MSI steel project seems worth supporting as the principal players are experienced and know how to produce a product for which there is a market. They will purchase power from MP & L, not Excelsior! MSI does not need Excelsior, but Excelsior needs a mandated Power Purchase Agreement for the electricity they hope to produce. They are hoping the Minnesota PUC will force another utility to buy their power. Right now this is an ongoing legal battle that they very well may lose. Excelsior has said that without a PPA, â??not a shovelful of dirt will be turned.â?

Bob would look at the overall downside to this project and wonder at the audacity of our local and state officials supporting $15-20 million dollars of our tax money per job (very few of which any local resident is qualified for), construction jobs too specialized for local workers, up to 540 pounds of mercury emitted per decade leading to fewer fish safely eaten, several thousand annual tons of pollutants up the stack, dusty train traffic, and loss of our personal property to eminent domain.

Heâ??d probably give a wry smile and ask, â??Are we stuck on stupid?â?

â??White Pineâ?
Jim Anderson

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