Embracing Michigan’s Future Without Coal

Prior to his State of the State address, a press release from Gov. Rick Snyder’s office contained the following lead quote: “Reinventing Michigan demands that we break the bad habits of the past and embrace opportunities for our future.”

Writing as a guest writer for the Detroit Free Press, Martin Kushler, director of the utilities program for the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, is eager to see how Gov. Snyder’s statement might contribute to the controversy over promoting coal-fired power plants in Michigan.

According to Kushler, if we are talking about bad habits, supporting coal-fired power plants is about bad as they come:

Coal is the dirtiest of all electric fuels, producing several types of toxic pollutants. Coal plant construction costs have doubled in the past decade, coal fuel prices have risen substantially, and everyone knows there will eventually be costs associated with the carbon dioxide released by burning coal […]

Michigan has to import every ounce of coal burned here, already costing us billions of dollars a year. Building a new coal plant now is like tying a tether around our ankle, locking us into 50 more years of dependence on coal from states like Wyoming. Coal is one bad habit from the past that we clearly need to break.

Though the prospect of jobs may seem appealing to Michigan residents, Kushler assures that building a new coal-fired power plant would only be a temporary fix:

Admittedly, building a large coal plant would create a few thousand temporary jobs (although an internal consultant’s report projected that only half of those would go to Michigan residents). Once built, only a couple hundred jobs would remain. More important, those coal plant proponents need to be pressed on the question: At what cost?

So what are Kushler’s suggestions for “reinventing Michigan” and “embracing opportunities for the future”?  The following are three priorities that Kushler believes Michigan would do well to undertake:

Energy efficiency programs should be our first priority resource, as they can save electricity for one-fourth the cost of a new power plant. The second priority needs to be Michigan-based renewable energy, which is already becoming competitive with coal-fired power plants.  The third priority should be advanced design natural gas fired power plants.

Learn more about Michigan’s bad habit by reading Martin Kushler’s entire guest commentary here.

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