St. Thomas students and community members stood on the corner of Grand and Cleveland avenues in the rain Tuesday afternoon, waving signs and banners in an attempt to encourage the rush-hour traffic to boycott Super America.
The protesters were upset about Super America’s attempts to discourage the public from supporting the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act of 2009. The act is currently being reviewed in national governmental committees and if it passes, businesses, including oil companies, would have to meet lower carbon-emission standards or pay a fine.
“All oil companies are trying to oppose progressive climate legislation, but Super America took the extra step of getting the public involved,” said Julia Nerbonne, a professor at the University of Minnesota and Hamline University who also works with environmental sustainability groups. “They put signs on their pumps to scare people into working against climate legislation. We’re out here to tell people what we believe is the real story.”
The concerned students and community members organized a boycott of Super America for the month of October and began spreading awareness about the benefits of the Clean Energy Act.
“We want to educate people truthfully and get the community involved,” said sophomore Abby Yeomans, who protested Tuesday afternoon. “We want people to send letters to their senators telling them to support the bill.”
Sophomore Stephanie Mankowski, who was also protesting in front of Super America, said that although the oil companies are worried about the possible costs of the Clean Energy Act and losing business, the new regulations will be good for both the environment and the economy in the long run.
“The act will create more clean-energy jobs and it is a good step towards cleaning up our environment and slowing down climate change,” Mankowski said.
But not everyone agrees that the Clean Energy Act would be a good thing. Some worry that placing caps on carbon emissions and imposing fines on businesses could be harmful.
“You have to control some things, certainly, in how they impact the environment, but putting a fine or a tax on a corporation means the corporation is either going to pass it on to the consumer or they’re going to lay off people,” said St. Thomas men’s track and field coach Steve Mathre, who was buying gas at Super America during the protest.
The Clean Energy Act, which is also known as the Kerry-Boxer Bill because of the two sponsoring senators, is geared toward turning America into an “energy independent” society, according to the bill. It would place a fine on excess carbon emissions, promote electric vehicles and implement a clean energy requirement for American utilities. It would also set the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020 from the previous 2005 levels.
Nerbonne said Super America had signs up this past week urging customers to call their senator and tell him or her not to vote for the bill, since it would increase costs for the average American family. According to Nerbonne, they took these signs down after a press release about the signs and the boycott came out Sept. 30. Employees at the Super America on Grand and Cleveland Avenues declined to comment.
“[Super America] claims this bill would cost the average family $2,900,” Nerbonne said. “However, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the true cost would be somewhere between $140 and $175 per family.”
During the protest, students held up signs encouraging motorists to “honk if they loved their planet” and passed out postcards that supporters of the Clean Energy Act could send to Amy Klobuchar. Nerbonne said they want people to contact Klobuchar because she is on three different committees that are all working with the act.
“We’ve had a very good response from the public and it has been energizing,” Nerbonne said. “We hope that people saw us out here and started having their own conversations about the importance of clean energy.”
Katie Broadwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org