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The Business Press and the money making potential of Michigan Energy Projects

December 16, 2011

The most recent issue of MiBiz included one of their quarterly publications known as MiEnergy. The insert consisted of a look at what the editors named Michigan’s Top Energy Projects of 2011, along with ads for “energy companies.”

The insert begins with comments from the publication’s managing editor Joe Boomgaard who says, “The MIBiz editorial team, with input from energy insiders, developed a list of 10 energy developments taking shape in 2011.” Unfortunately, the editorial staff didn’t provide any specifics on whom these “energy insiders” are.

The first two projects identified were a wind energy project in Gratiot County and a proposed project in Holland, MI. The two short articles identify how wind energy production is on the rise around the state. Unfortunately, the article doesn’t address clearly what all the energy is being produced for, but it is clear that it will primarily benefit private companies like Consumers Power. The only person sourced in the article is from GVSU who states, “This is a multimillion or even multibillion dollar business opportunity in terms of sales, manufacturing value and economic development for the area.”

A third project identified is the new battery production facilities in Holland and Muskegon, in order to meet the “demand” for electric vehicles. We have addressed the flaws in this production in a previous article, where we point out the unsustainable nature of such production.

There are additional articles on some test cases for a smart grid in Grand Rapids and an article about US Department of Energy grants going to GVSU to do more research on the viability of wind energy generation and its impact on wildlife. The DOE gave $1.4 million in grant money, which was matched by $1.33 million coming from the State of Michigan. In neither of these articles is there any discussion about the need to reduce the energy consumptions by both the private and public sector, thus adopting a mindset that believes that we can continues to consume energy at an increased level without much concern, since it will be “renewable energy.”

This perpetual growth mindset is also reflected in an article about the growth of car battery charging stations around the state and another article that touts bio-fuels as a solution. The bio-fuels article presents the idea that we can produce an adequate amount of agriculture-based fuel, even though that a great deal of research has shown that bio-fuels are not a viable solution, particularly because of the impact it is having environmentally and socially, causing a serious rise in food prices globally.

Another story features the energy efficient steps that the Van Eerden Foodservice Company has taken at its Grand Rapids warehouse. While energy efficiency is generally important, this narrow view of the context is misleading. Van Eerden is a food distributor. They don’t focus on locally grown foods, rather they participate and profit from an agri-business food system that is extremely damaging to the environment and is heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Highlighting their decision to make the warehouse space more energy efficient, a warehouse that stores food from the agri-business industry, doesn’t really promote energy efficiency.

One last article is about a project called the Better Buildings for Michigan initiative, which is a two-year, $30 million state program funded from tax money. Part of the project is designed to provide energy audits to homeowners, but there is no indication if money will be provided to help people upgrade their homes to be more energy efficient.

The business press insert not only takes a superficial look at energy issues it presents primarily energy projects that will primarily benefit the private sector. Not surprising considering the source, but many of these projects are also being embraced by more liberal sectors of society and environmental groups that are only interested in mildly reforming the system instead of creating a new system.

The most interesting omission from this insert is the lack of any larger context on energy issues and its relationship to global warming. How can such an analysis be excluded, especially on the heels of the dire warnings coming from civil society after yet another failed Global Climate Summit? One major reason for the omission is that the insert was 50% ads by energy companies and business associations, which are positioning themselves to be the beneficiaries of most of the new “energy projects” featured in the insert.

One Comment leave one →
  1. richardkooyman permalink
    December 17, 2011 2:30 am

    There is a corporate run on wind energy in this state. In state and out of state corporations, oil and gas corporations that are now dress to be environmentally friendly all are running to build industrial wind turbines across Michigan. Consumers Energy alone needs to build roughly 800 industrial wind turbines to meet the state renewable energy mandate. Then there are the other half dozen electrical companies that need to meet the mandate.
    The landscape of Michigan will never be the same once this federal and state energy sponsored corporate wind privatization is done.
    Why is this bad? Because with the present electrical infrastructure and the lack of means to store wind energy none of these thousands of turbines spread across our state will close one coal fired electrical plant. Clean wind energy, with the current technology we have, and no improved storage capacity on the horizon, is a myth.
    What should we do instead? Put our efforts and resources into conservation. What would it take to reduce our states energy consumption by 25%, 30% even 40%. With the technology we have now it can be done. Why doesn’t the state invest in personal home size wind generation systems, energy conservation and mandatory energy reduction levels? Because there is money to be made wind.

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