Coleman discusses energy at Lou-Rich

Published 10:37 am Thursday, July 3, 2008

The government can do more to help the energy needs of the country, according to U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman.

He pulled up to Lou-Rich Inc. in Albert Lea Wednesday afternoon in a large tour bus driven by Albert Lea Economic Development Authority Executive Director and former state Rep. Dan Dorman, who picked him up in the bus from the airport and drove him through town.

Coleman was in Albert Lea to discuss legislation he wrote addressing energy needs and learn the issues facing Minnesota manufacturers. He spoke to a crowd of about 50 people, some employees of Lou-Rich and some visitors.

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“We’ve all got a stake in success, and the reality is the government can take control,” Coleman said.

The senator toured Lou-Rich with President and CEO Mike Larson and and spoke about what government can do to help the strain of energy costs on businesses and their employees.

“It is the most important issue on the minds of Americans today,” Coleman said.

The Energy Resource Development Act of 2008, which Coleman authored, includes provisions to open oil and gas development in the Outer Continental Shelf outside Florida, nuclear energy production incentives and an ethanol pipeline loan guarantee program.

If the country would open up domestic drilling, the senator said, it would help with the energy issue America is facing. He said Americans can’t drill 90 miles from its own shores, and 85 percent of the areas with oil in the country are off limits to drilling.

But the answer to the energy crisis is not simply to create more supply. The senator talked about lowering the demand of oil and gasoline by continuing with renewable energy sources.

“This country has tremendous resources,” Coleman said, adding if the country can tap into the resources, it can have a positive future.

Through the act, Coleman wants to create an Energy Independence Trust Fund to fully fund renewable energy, energy efficiency, research and development and technology development programs. The trust fund would come from proceeds out of expanded domestic energy development.

The act would use the country’s 250-year supply of coal by developing coal-to-liquid technology. Coleman, through the act, said he supports innovative technologies such as hybrid cars, fuel cells, building efficiency, solar, wind and advanced batteries.

Larson said Lou-Rich is installing energy efficiency systems and will soon switch from five eight-hour days a week to four 10-hour days a week.

The president said that will allow the plant to shut down on Fridays, saving 15 percent of utility usage and thousands of dollars in energy costs a month. Plus, it will create three-day weekends and allow employees to save on gas.

“The key to our success is really what Lou-Rich is about,” Coleman said.

The senator said he will go back to Congress with the message of what companies and people in southern Minnesota are doing to conserve energy. On Wednesday, Coleman also stopped in Rochester, Mankato and St. Paul. Thursday he will tour parts of northern Minnesota to talk about different aspects of energy conservation and use.

“It’s our kids’ future and let’s be smart enough to learn how to make sure it’s still bright,” Coleman said.