Professor Burton Abrams has this to say about the Mesaba coal gasification project:

Itasca County should focus on recreation
Grand Rapids Herald-Review

As a part-time resident of Itasca County, I recently received a brochure from the Citizens Against the Mesaba Project (CAMP). If the allegations made by CAMP are true, it is apparent that Excelsior Energyâ??s project is contrary to the long-run interests of the county. For nearly 60 years, I have enjoyed the pristine lakes of northern Itasca County, but I have been dismayed at the countyâ??s ability to never miss an opportunity to permit environmental damage. In 2001, Itasca County ranked third in Minnesota in sulfur dioxide emissions, an important source for acid rain.

My grandfather told of beautiful Trout Lake alongside Coleraine and a short walk from Bovey that teemed with gigantic lake trout. The nearby iron mine was permitted to dump its tailings into the lake, silting over the lakeâ??s gravel spawning beds. The trout and most of the mining jobs are gone, but the environmental damage remains and may grow. One of the abandoned pit mines, now a lake complete with hazardous embankments, threatens to overflow and flood parts of Bovey.

The demographic trends in the United States and the characteristics of Itasca County indicate that Itasca Countyâ??s comparative advantage is not power generation. Itasca County is first and foremost a recreational paradise whose value will only grow with the graying of America. To subsidize Excelsior Energy with the privilege of eminent domain to increase acid rain and to contaminate ground water strikes me as a dangerous job-creation strategy. If jobs are needed, letâ??s subsidize fish hatcheries to return our lakes to world-class fish production. The jobs created by the increase in tourism and retirement-related services would better serve the county. In the final analysis, bragging rights in Itasca County will focus on tons of fish harvested, not on tons of pollutants released into its air and water.

Professor Burton A. Abrams
Acting Chairman
Department of Economics
University of Delaware
Newark, DE

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