Every year, the Minnesota Legislature gives lottery proceeds to scientists with innovative ideas for developing renewable energy, protecting wildlife and the environment, and gathering information about climate change.
There is a dedicated body of lawmakers and citizens who are in charge of choosing which proposals make the cut, and they’re pretty tightfisted about it. Last year they vetted nearly 200 proposals and ultimately recommended funding for 69 projects considered to be the best of the best.
On Monday, House Republicans eliminated funding for 22 projects, or $18 million.
Many of these projects don’t have another source of funding, says Jeff Broberg, who is part of the grant-making commission. Broberg is a former petroleum geologist who now works for an environmental consulting firm.
He describes the 22 cut projects as mostly related to climate education and solar energy.
“To [Republican legislators], birds are a liberal value,” he says. “Youth education, wouldn’t want to taint our youth with knowledge of science or climate.”
The Raptor Center had asked for funding to educate hunters about how the lead shot in their firearms poisons eagles that feed on deer remains. That was eliminated.
The Department of Natural Resources wanted money to preserve Minnesota’s prairies, and to maintain lists of properties that could be purchased for inclusion in state parks. Those funds were slashed.
One particularly cool project that’s been cut is that of a U of M material sciences professor who has invented a means to build a new type of solar panel that doesn’t use expensive silicon chips, and could eventually cost just five percent of what current solar panels cost to build.
Other U projects would develop solar-powered robots for weed control in crop fields, improve the addition of renewable energy to local power grids, and map future projections of climate data to inform the long-term building of statewide infrastructure.
This last proposal was made at the request of state agencies, said Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Minneapolis) during a press conference on Monday.
Such a project could tell the Minnesota Department of Transportation, or a county that’s building a highway, how large to construct their culverts, she said. It could advise a farmer whether to keep reseeding a particular piece of land every year.
“Super useful project,” Wagenius said. “And cut by the Republicans.”