Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Energy Production in Michigan - or Not

Somebody screwed up at the Detroit Free Press today. They ran an editorial on energy that made sense. It wasn't by one their own. Rather it's by Russ Harding, former director of the Department of Environmental Quality, and who is now director of the Property Rights Initiative at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland Michigan. Here's the whole thing.
By means of an executive directive, Gov. Jennifer Granholm made good on her State of the State promise to restrict new coal-fired power plants. The negative effects on Michigan's energy future were not long in coming -- the next day the Bay City Times reported that five pending power plant projects have been put on hold. Before more damage is done, the governor should rescind this directive, or the Legislature should prohibit such a moratorium.

The governor's directive instructs the Department of Environmental Quality to halt environmental permits for new coal plants unless it determines that "a reasonable electricity generation need exists" and that there is no "feasible and prudent alternative."

I was director of the DEQ for nearly eight years and can testify that the agency is ill-equipped to consider factors other than environmental ones. Requiring the DEQ to make critical decisions about Michigan's future energy mix is a recipe for stagnation or worse.

Those decisions should be left to the private sector, with environmental regulators limited to enforcing clean air and water standards on whatever type of plant is built. If there is any greater role for the state, it should be performed by the Public Service Commission.

Beyond that, politicians should be honest about energy realities. According to the PSC, coal generated 68.9% of the electricity consumed in the state in 2007, followed by nuclear at 23.3%. Renewable fuels provided l% percent of our energy needs -- with wind comprising just 0.05%.

The notion that alternative sources can provide more than a fraction of the energy required by a modern industrial economy is nonsense. Honest environmentalists admit that their real agenda is to radically scale back the size of our economy, lowering our standard of living.

Politicians enacting policies that bring this about either support that agenda, are ignorant of the realities, or are taking political benefits today while calculating they will be long gone before the bitter consequences hit home. That applies to the virtual moratorium on new coal plants and legislation passed last year mandating that 10% of Michigan's electricity come from renewable energy by 2015.

Meeting that mandate is impossible without a major scaling back of our economy. Wind energy is unreliable and must be backed up with other sources, usually natural gas-fired power plants. These plants are expensive to operate, and energy from them will consume a larger share of the discretionary income of Michigan families and businesses. And you don't have to be an expert to know that Michigan's solar energy potential is limited.

Last year, Granholm boasted that Sweden had created hundreds of thousands of renewable energy jobs (although she hasn't been able to support these claims). It's ironic that Sweden just announced that it is lifting a moratorium on building new nuclear power plants, rather than gradually closing down existing ones, as previously planned.

Sweden learned that it can't meet its people's power needs through wind and other renewable energy sources. We can only hope that policymakers here stop pretending that Michigan can, because without coal, the last person leaving Michigan won't have lights to turn off.
Environmental scaremongers, like the fellow from the Sierra Club who made the mistake of knocking on my door earlier this evening, will, I'm sure, offer arguments against Mr. Harding.

They need to read this article from City Journal on California's energy problems.
In truth, however, the Golden State’s energy leadership is a mirage. California’s environmental policies have made it heavily dependent on other states for power; generated some of the highest, business-crippling energy costs in the country; and left it vulnerable to periodic electricity shortages. Its economic growth has occurred not because of, but despite, those policies, which would be disastrous if extended to the rest of the country.
A dirty secret about California’s energy economy is that it imports lots of energy from neighboring states to make up for the shortfall caused by having too few power plants. Up to 20 percent of the state’s power comes from coal-burning plants in Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and Montana, and another significant portion comes from large-scale hydropower in Oregon, Washington State, and the Hoover Dam near Las Vegas. “California practices a sort of energy colonialism,” says James Lucier of Capital Alpha Partners, a Washington, D.C.–area investment group. “They rely on western states to supply them with power generation they are unwilling to build for themselves”—and leave those states to deal with the resulting pollution.

Another secret: California’s proud claim to have kept per-capita energy consumption flat while growing its economy is less impressive than it seems. The state has some of the highest energy prices in the country—nearly twice the national average, a 2002 Milken Institute study found—largely because of regulations and government mandates to use expensive renewable sources of power. As a result, heavy manufacturing and other energy-intensive industries have been fleeing the Golden State in droves for lower-cost locales. Twenty years ago or so, you could count eight automobile factories in California; today, there’s just one, and it’s the same story with other industries, from chemicals to aerospace. Yet Californians still enjoy the fruits of those manufacturing industries—driving cars built in the Midwest and the South, importing chemicals and resins and paints and plastics produced elsewhere, and flying on jumbo jets manufactured in places like Everett, Washington. California can pretend to have controlled energy consumption, but it has just displaced it.
It's a bit lengthy, but it's well worth reading to see what the fate of every state in the U.S. could be if we were to follow California's "enlightened" approach to generating electricity, something Governor Granholm of Michigan seems intent on doing, even though we, in Michigan, are in quite enough trouble already.

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At 7:04 PM, Blogger MightyMom said...

ooooooooo whoever let that one get printed might be in fear for his job tomorrow huh??




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