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Minnesota Energy Policymaker Rep. Pat Garofalo's Complicated Vision for the Future

Locally sourced usually comes with a price, but it's not one Garofalo's willing to pay.

Locally sourced usually comes with a price, but it's not one Garofalo's willing to pay.

Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) is anti-solar subsidy, pro-oil pipeline, and pro-fracking, but he also drives a Tesla and backs wind power.

The longtime lawmaker is heading up Minnesota's energy and jobs committee in a new Republican-controlled legislature House, and he's starting the year with big ideas on how to strike maximum power for minimum costs at the risk of pissing a lot of people off.

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Made in Minnesota is all the rage, but not when the state's incentive program for locally made solar panels costs a whopping $500 a megawatt-hour, Garofalo says. He'd prefer buying wind at competitive rates of $25 a megawatt-hour.

At the same time, Garofalo has high hopes for Minnesota's role in the nation's "shale revolution." There's no shale in Minnesota, but there's a ton in North Dakota. Still, it's a revolution spotted with fears of a short boom and bust cycle, not to mention nothing freaks out environmentalists more these days than fracking.

Fracking, a strenuous process of squeezing oil and gas from shale rock, requires high pressure pumping of water, sand, and chemicals deep into the earth. It's been accused of contaminating groundwater and causing earthquakes, leading communities across the country to ban the practice despite the economic returns -- followed by countersuits from oil and gas interests.

Some forecasters report shale production will double comfortably over the next several decades, while others expect production to peak as early as 2020. In any case, Garofalo wants to get a piece of the boom while it lasts, by mining Minnesota sand for use in fracking operations, and then transporting shale oil back into the state through the proposed Sandpiper pipeline.

At the end of the day, Garofalo can rest assured that his own carbon footprint must be beyond reproach. He just bought a Tesla, and it's "totally awesome."

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