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State and Local responses to Global Warming – GreenTown session

September 12, 2010

The second part of the afternoon track (Climate Strategies for Sustainable Communities) was entitled the Future of Energy Efficiency and GHG Inventory – Case Study: City of Grand Rapids. There were two presenters for this portion of Track 1 – Amy Butler and John Eberly.

John Eberly (Senior Electrical Engineer – Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber Inc.) spoke first. Eberly says that Grand Rapids was the recipient of $1.9 million from the federal government’s Energy Efficiency & Conservation Block Grant. Eberly’s company was part of the development and implementation of that grant-funded project.

The first thing this plan looked at were ways to reduced energy use in the 275 city run buildings, the city street lights and the city-owned vehicles – police, fire, etc. The data collection showed the bulk of Green House Gases (GHG) in energy use for the building and fuel consumed by city-owned vehicles.

The City is attempting to measure these GHG generators and develop strategies to reduce them through what are called Energy Conservation Measures (ECM). The EMCs identified would cost nearly $10 million to implement, so they decided to begin with low cost/no cost projects and used ICLEI software.

What they identified in the research was that the main contributor to green house gases (GHGs) was transportation usage, followed by what they called commercial use, which was GHGs produced by businesses. Unfortunately Eberly provided no concrete information on what the City of Grand Rapids will do to reduce green house gases from the thousands of vehicles that move about in the area daily or the GHGs produced by commercial businesses.

Amy Butler, the Director of the Bureau of Energy Systems – MI Department of Energy, spoke next. Butler showed that Michigan has a huge energy challenge. Michigan currently imports 100% of its coal, 99 % of its oil and 70% of the natural gas it consumes.

What that means for the average Michigan household is they are spending $4,600 a year on energy. Butler said this means there is a lot less money that doesn’t benefit the state, since that money leaves the state and goes into the hands of private corporations. What she doesn’t identify is who is benefiting from this energy consumption, specifically private energy companies like Enbridge, DTE and Consumers Energy.

To respond to this energy import challenge the state has implemented some weatherization programs, appliance rebates, energy efficiency funding, a decrease in electrical use in government run buildings and improvement in building codes, which seem like pretty modest responses considering the data that was provided.

The State is also providing loans for energy efficiency programs for both local municipalities and for private companies, which means that taxpayers are subsidizing for-profit entities.

Butler also addressed how the federal stimulus money factored into the state energy efficiency programs, which included lighting audits, efficiency upgrades, recycling, bike & pedestrian pathways and some renewable energy pilot projects.

During the Q&A we asked a question based on the data provided on energy sources that are being imported currently. “Since the bulk of energy resources are currently being imported, what kind of reaction do you anticipate from the corporations that are currently profiting from energy exports to Michigan if the state reduces energy use and transitions to renewable resources?”

Butler responded that this change will not happen over night, but the goal is to move towards using energy produced within the state. Butler never addressed how the corporations might react and what kind of resistance they are likely to engage in since they would stand to lose a great deal in profits if the State did move in the direction of energy self-sufficiency.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 12, 2010 9:20 pm

    These two presenters are so lame as to be embarassing. We are in a climate emergency that directly affects our energy supply, our immediate economic future, and our social order. When I ask an MSU energy rep at the Pierce Creek Center about the “emergency”, he said “Well, at MSU we don’t consider it an emergency. We consider it just a problem.”

    This kind of smugness borders on criminal neglect or just gross stupidity.
    When we are going to stop DTE and Consumers from dictating our energy policy?
    When are we going ro take immediate action to save our state from what is coming?

    The Canadians believe that $250 a barrel oil is just months away.
    That translates into $7/gallon at the pump.
    Of course, they are just Canadians. We are smarter, right.

    When the disaster happens we are gong to hold these myopic corporate jerks responsible for their greed, stupidity, and just plain callousness towards the majority of the people in this state.

  2. September 12, 2010 9:37 pm

    Chris, I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for your comments and additional information. It was painful to sit through this conference, but felt it was important to keep tabs on what the so-called private/public partnership sector is doing.

    We are in an emergency situation and it continues to amaze me that people who claim to have some expertise continue to perpetuate the status quo.

  3. September 13, 2010 9:56 am

    Jeff, I would like to sit down with you and anybody you think relevant and talk about this situation.
    I can come to Grand Rapids. How about breakfast on Wednesday, September 22nd.
    I am going to Lansing that day and could stop around 8:30am in GR. Let me know.
    Hope you are doing well.

    Chris

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