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Posts from the ‘renewable energy’ Category

Historic climate march creates ripples of hope

With the sun setting on the New York City skyline behind us, Bill Latka, a filmmaker and leader of the Traverse City chapter of 350.org, read the following passage over the loudspeaker to the 55 exhausted and exhilarated travelers as we began our 18-hour bus ride home: “Organizing a big march is like throwing a rock in a pond: the splash is exciting, but the real beauty is in the ripples.” It was written by one of the organizers of the People’s Climate March, and it rings so true.

The march was exciting, and it was the kind of big splash that can turn the tide of a movement. There were more than 400,000 people marching through the streets of New York. There were so many people that we filled a city street for four miles. There were so many people that those of us in the middle of the pack didn’t even start marching until two hours after the march had begun.

The march was led by indigenous people and frontline communities—the people first- and most-impacted by climate change. Joining them were New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon, former Vice President Al Gore, and celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio. Filling the streets were parents with babies, elementary school classes, senior citizens, marching bands, artists, and 50,000 college students. There were people from all over the world and the U.S., including six busloads of people from Michigan. This really was a people’s march.

Kate and Elizabeth

Elizabeth Dell of the Citizens Climate Lobby (left) and MEC's Kate Madigan.

On my bus were physicians, teachers, parents, store clerks, retired couples and college students. We chose to sleep two consecutive nights on a bus because we had to get back to our jobs, classes, and young children. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.
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A clean power plan for Michigan

Many of us working on energy and climate policy looked forward to June 2 like it was Christmas morning. That was the date set for the EPA to announce a new draft rule to cut carbon pollution from power plants, building on the Clean Power Plan President Obama drafted last summer.

Now that we’ve had a couple of weeks to dig into the rule, does it match the hype leading up to it? On one hand, yes: It is undoubtedly the most significant action the U.S. government has taken to address climate change, and it should yield economic benefits and job creation.

On the other hand, the reality of the rule’s impact—at least in Michigan—does not match the sky-is-falling rhetoric opponents to carbon regulation have used to describe it. The rule reaffirms the action Michigan took in 2008 by passing Public Act 295, and meshes well with the clean-energy discussion started by Governor Snyder in 2013.

Still, Michigan will not achieve the required carbon reductions with a business-as-usual approach. We will need to be more aggressive in our transition to renewable energy and in reducing energy waste. Fortunately, MEC is already taking part in discussions in Lansing to outline the next steps for Michigan’s clean energy programs. Read more

New Public Service Commission analysis: Renewable electricity 26% cheaper than coal

Wind turbine near Pigeon, MI

Electricity from renewable clean energy sources in Michigan is at least 26 percent less expensive than comparable coal-fired electricity according to an annual analysis by the Michigan Public Service Commission released this week.

The report also says that state utilities are going to meet the 10 percent renewable electricity goal by the target date of 2015. The highlights are documented in the MPSC’s press release.

The most recent clean energy contracts – primarily wind-powered electricity – are half as expensive as just five years ago, the report concludes. The report uses “levelized cost,” which accounts for initial capital, discount rate, as well as the costs of continuous operation, fuel, and maintenance. Renewable electricity costs are just under $79 per kilowatt hour. Coal costs are $133 according to the MPSC’s estimate, or $107 using Consumers Energy’s figures.

The figures do not take into account “externalized costs” that aren’t reflected in rates – for example, the health care expenses due to coal-burning pollutants are not factored into the figures.

The costs for clean electricity are so low that Consumers Energy is seeking to eliminate its renewable energy surcharge, and Detroit Edison has lowered theirs from $3/mo to 43 cents.

Will hard data dissuade defenders of the status quo from continuing to claim that renewable energy is too expensive? Of course not. Will it be a critical factor in Gov. Rick Snyder’s eventual proposal – expected late this year or early next – on where to go next with renewable energy development? We suspect so.

You can let the governor know you want more of the cheapest and cleanest energy sources by contacting him here.  And you can tell your state rep and senator the same thing here and here.

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Sarah Mullkoff hired to lead MEC’s energy policy work

Sarah Mullkoff

Sarah Mullkoff

Sarah Mullkoff has been hired as energy program director for the Michigan Environmental Council, the organization’s president, Chris Kolb, announced last week.

Mullkoff has worked in natural resource policy in a variety of capacities, most recently as energy & climate policy coordinator with the National Wildlife Federation. There, she advanced clean energy policies and carbon reduction campaigns for NWF’s six-state Midwest region.

She previously worked for Clean Water Action as Michigan campaigns coordinator; serves on boards of directors for the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association and the Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition; and volunteers for social and environmental justice causes. She also serves on the steering committee for RE-AMP, a 160-strong coalition of Midwest nonprofits and foundations working on energy policy and climate change.

Mullkoff is a graduate of Michigan State University’s James Madison School of Public Policy with a major in International Relations and specialization in Science, Technology, Environment and Public Policy. Read more

Governor’s energy hearings start on Valentine’s Day, end on Earth Day! Be heard!

Since we love energy efficiency and clean renewable power here at MEC, it is quite appropriate that today – Valentine’s Day – is the first of seven public forums on Michigan’s energy policy called for by Governor Rick Snyder.

The findings will be assembled and delivered to policy makers by the end of this year as the basis for legislative action in 2014.

The last forum – in Traverse City – convenes, fittingly, on April 22. That’s Earth Day, the day we celebrate the planet and recommit ourselves to protecting it. What better symbolism?

A little background.

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A darn good reason for Michigan’s utilities to oppose Proposal 3′s 25×2025 clean energy standard (as long as you’re not a ratepayer)

Our state’s big utilities, Consumers Energy and DTE Energy, are spending millions to defeat Proposal 3’s 25×25 renewable energy standard even though they acknowledge renewables are creating jobs and providing homes and businesses with electricity at costs far cheaper than anticipated.

Why?

For DTE Energy – which still uses out-of-state coal to provide 70 percent of its electricity generation – a story in Detroit’s Metro Times reports a pretty darn good reason for the company to be threatened by cheaper, cleaner renewable power.

DTE is heavily invested in the coal business – shipping it, storing it, processing it and moving it across the nation.

Reports the Metro Times:

“…one of its many subsidiaries, DTE Coal Services, “is one of the largest marketers and transporters of coal to third-party customers in North America. They provide a broad range of coal sourcing, marketing, risk management, transportation, rail management and trading services nationally to coal producers, electric utilities, steel companies and other industries. DTE Coal Services is also active in trading coal, emissions and carbon in the financial and physical markets.”

And then there’s Midwest Energy Resources Co., which operates an “innovative rail-vessel trans-shipment system that handles much of the Great Lakes market for low-sulfur western coal.”

Also under the DTE umbrella is what’s known as a “reduced emission fuels” operation that treats coal so that it produces less pollution when burned. According to the company’s own estimates, that operation will generate $30 million in earnings this year and about $50 million a year beginning in 2013.”

So, what’s good for DTE’s profits and shareholders is a raw deal for lowly ratepayers.

In any other business we’d call that a conflict of interest.

In DTE’s world, it’s business as usual.

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Déjà vu

We’re a nation of champion procrastinators. That’s my conclusion after reading National Geographic’s special report, Energy: Facing up to the problem, getting down to solutions.

The piece is straightforward with hardly any breaking news. For instance, who (at least among those based in reality) doesn’t already know that the U.S. economy has been heavily dependent on cheap energy? Or that our insatiable thirst for petroleum sends countless dollars overseas and leaves us vulnerably dependant on unstable parts of world? Or that burning coal releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide, destabilizing our protective climate?

But why the unkind charge of procrastination?

Because the National Geographic special report was published way back in February 1981! (Special thanks to Chris Kolb who found it while helping his mom recycle her old magazines.) Read more

TGIF Linkaround!

Gotta make the boss happy so let’s start with this replay of MEC President Chris Kolb on last week’s Focus on the Environment show on Eastern Michigan University’s WEMU radio. Kolb, with co-host Lisa Wozniak of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, talked about Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget, the Kalamazoo River oil spill cleanup and other issues.

Next let’s visit our neighbors down south…you know, the ones we grudgingly sharedone-third of our Big Ten men’s basketball championship with this year.

Don't try this at home

They’re wrestling overhow much unregulated water users should be able to siphon from Lake Erie and its tributaries. We defer to our friends at the Ohio Environmental Council who say the proposal is getting better, but isn’t good enough. Oh, and see you in the Big Dance, Buckeyes!

Down in Brooklyn, MI, home of Pumpkin Quest (!), people turned out for a discussion on the rewards and risks of a new and more intensive wave of fracking in Michigan. MEC’s James Clift was a panelist, though he didn’t make this radio station’s audio clip report that included State Rep. Mike Shirkey, who organized the forum.

Up north, MEC ally and member group Michigan Land Use Institute has this excellent story on Consumers Energy’s solar lottery. Twice as many people applied for the program as there were slots. We think we should let more people participate, and the 25×25 ballot issue will be the way to do it. Or, we could just throw our burgeoning renewable energy industry under the bus like State Rep. Ray Franz would do.

In weather news …… WHASSSUP Springtime??!! MEC has two beekeepers in the office, and their girls were happy with the mild winter. But the loss of ice cover on the Great Lakes – 79 percent over 38 years – is no small matter. Also, we may see more nasty insects this summer as a result. Hey, maybe Grist is right and a climate change conspiracy theorists make no %$#!!& sense.

Finally, in the “we can’t make this stuff up” category, here are two things MEC is not staking out a position on:  This lunatic with a wood stove heater in his Volvo, and these people who are fertilizing soybeans with urine.

Have a good weekend, and don’t forget to spring ahead!

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‘All of the above’

It is trendy these days to champion every imaginable energy resource under (and including) the sun. Who hasn’t heard a politician, pundit, so-called energy expert or even President Obama declare support for using all options at our disposal to solve the nation’s energy problems?

This frustrates me. The trouble, of course, is that money is limited.  Money you spend to build a new baseload power plant (with a life of more than 40 years) is not available to upgrade the grid or fund energy efficiency.  At the end of the day we need to decide:  how much money should we allocate to generating energy, upgrading the grid, and to energy efficiency?

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Turning crusaders to milksops

Renewable energy sure takes a beating from free marketers like Heritage Foundation policy analyst Ben Lieberman, who said in November saying  wind power  is “a bubble which bursts as soon as the government subsidies end.”

In Michigan, bashing clean energy’s alleged dependence on subsidies is a staple for conservative activists including the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the Detroit News’ editorial board, and WRJ’s Frank Beckmann. Subsidies for clean energy make them apoplectic ( the NY Times’ 21st most looked up word!)

So why do they turn from raging champions of the free market to milksops  when the topic turns to the huge and ongoing subsidies for fossil fuels? We’ve asked the question repeatedly, including at a Mackinac Center gathering in 2010, but have yet to receive a coherent answer.

Now, President Obama has outlined a plan to eliminate $39 billion in fossil fuel tax breaks over the course of the next decade. Consistency would dictate that the Heritage Foundation and its Michigan sidekicks promptly and loudly denounce these market-distorting tax handouts and support the President’s plan to eliminate them.

Don’t hold your breath.

 

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