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Tracy Frank, Published February 27 2008

Talk to focus on gas emissions reduction

National proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could cost a family of four from $3,500 to $4,900 a year, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber has picked North Dakota as one of four states for initial communitywide conversations on the economic and environmental impact of dealing with greenhouse gas management.

The group says the technology to deal with proposed mandates does not exist, and wholesale electricity prices could increase by 36 percent to 65 percent by 2015.

“If we do it the wrong way, we’re really going to have a problem,” said Bill Kovacs, U.S. Chamber vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs. “If we do it the right way, we can create a whole new industry.”

The North Dakota Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Commerce of Fargo Moorhead and the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce are co-hosting the dialogue on climate change March 18 in Fargo.

Organizers hope the conference will draw more attention to the consumer cost of implementing legislation to reduce emissions.

“When Congress or others set targets for reductions, it is important that our energy industry partners have time and resources to develop and deploy technologies effectively and efficiently,” said Margaret Tungseth, chairwoman of the Fargo-Moorhead chamber board of directors.

Proposals would place caps on various emissions, establish benchmark reduction goals and create cap-and-trade systems, which offer financial incentives for reducing emissions by charging money for polluting.

Managing greenhouse gasses effectively will cut across all sectors of the economy from coal plants in western North Dakota to automobiles and electricity in homes, said Kelvin Hullet, Bismarck-Mandan chamber president.

“This is one of the most important economic decisions that we’re going to make in this nation,” Hullet said. “We’re not saying not to move forward. We’re saying we need to move forward, but we need to understand what the implications are and deal with them.”

Margo Thorning, senior vice president and chief economist for the American Council for Capital Formation, will be the event’s keynote speaker. Thorning has co-edited a number of books on tax and environmental policy.

If you go

- What: North Dakota dialogue on energy policy

- When: 6 to 9 p.m. March 18

- Where: Fargo Holiday Inn, 3803 13th Ave. S.

- Info: Register at www.fmchamber.com or by calling (218) 233-1100.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526