This is the Environment Report. In for Rebecca Williams, I’m Zoe Clark.
The Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs coalition wants to increase the state’s renewable energy standard to 25 percent by 2025.
That would mean that a quarter of all the energy used in Michigan would come from renewable sources like the wind and sun. The coalition is trying to collect enough signatures to put the issue before voters in November.
And, interestingly enough, the proposal is getting support from both Democrats AND Republicans.
Steve Linder is President of Sterling Corporation, a Republican consulting firm. He says his organization is behind the proposal for business reasons.
“While we don’t like government mandates, this allows us to use manufacturing capacity in Michigan rather than bringing in $1.6 billion worth of coal from West Virginia and Pennsylvania. So, this is really a business to business ballot initiative and we are very comfortable in making the business and economic case that this keeps dollars in our state and it keeps us at the cutting age of new types of manufacturing technology,” Linder says.
Mark Fisk, a Democrat, is co-partner of Byrum & Fisk, a political consulting firm. He says he’s working on behalf of the initiative because of the jobs it’ll bring to the state and the environmental benefits of renewable energy.
“This initiative will create thousands of new Michigan jobs and help boost Michigan’s economy by building a clean energy industry right here in our state. And, it gives Michigan cleaner and healthier air and water. It’ll protect our Great Lakes, reduce asthma and lung disease, and ultimately save lives,” Fisk says.
James Clift is Policy Director at the Michigan Environmental Council. The MEC is part of the Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs Coalition.
James, right now, how much energy does the state get from renewable sources?
James Clift: We’re at about three and a half percent and we’re hoping to get up to about five percent this year.
ZC: Now, there’s already a renewable energy mandate in place in the state. The legislature passed it in 2008 and it says that Michigan needs to get to 10 percent by 2015. So, how big of a change would this new proposal be if it is, indeed, passed in November?
JC: Actually, it’d be about the same ramp-up that we’re currently doing today. We’re increasing about one and a half to two percent a year. So, this would increase us another 15 percent over 10 years – so, about one and a half percent a year. So, it’s a nice, steady transition to cleaner energy.
ZC: And, what would the environmental impact be?
JC: The Michigan Environmental Council commissioned a report last year looking at the nine oldest coal plants in Michigan. That report found that Michigan residents have health care costs and damages of about $1.5 billion a year – just from those nine oldest coal plants. So, transitioning away from coal to clean more renewable energy, we hope will put a significant dent in those health costs that we are currently occurring.
ZC: And, finally, why a ballot proposal? Why not go through the legislature like the earlier mandate?
JC: Well, the bottom line is that the legislature is not going to do anything. So, it’s going to be up to the people to say we want cleaner energy in the future and we want more of our energy dollars being spent on Michigan workers and Michigan products.
ZC: James Clift is Policy Director at the Michigan Environmental Council. James, thanks so much.
JC: Thank you.
ZC: Utility companies in the state think a ballot proposal mandating an increase in Michigan’s renewable energy use is the wrong approach. They say energy policy should not be changed by amending the state constitution.