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Amway, part of coalition that opposes Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs ballot initiative

August 30, 2012

Last week, MLive ran a story with the focus on West Michigan groups that oppose the Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs November ballot proposal.

The story tells readers that Amway and other West Michigan businesses and business associations are formally opposed to the Michigan constitution mandating that 25% of Michigan’s energy must be renewable energy by 2025. This business group believes that is a bad approach and that it will not result in the amount of jobs the ballot initiative proponents are claiming.

The only source used in the MLive article was an Amway spokesperson, although the article does link to a previous article about Ottawa County Democrats who support the ballot initiative.

The MLive article fails on many levels. First, it does not explore the main reasons for organized opposition to the November ballot initiative. Anyone who knows the philosophical nature of the Chamber of Commerce and many businesses like Amway, would know that they are opposed to most forms of government intervention in the economy. This is an ideological issue, which the MLive writer does not acknowledge or explore.

Second, there is no indication that this is an organized effort to opposed the Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs November ballot initiative. The West Michigan entities identified in the MLive article are part of a coalition known as CARE – Clean, Affordable, Renewable, Energy. This coalition is made up of more than just West Michigan businesses and business association, including:

• Acemco Inc.
• Agape Plastics
• Amway
• Betz Industries
• Eagle Alloy
• The Frederick Douglass Foundation of Michigan
• Grand Rapids Area Chamber
• Great Lakes Die Cast
• Master Finish Co.
• Metal Components, LLC.
• Montcalm Alliance
• Montcalm Commission on Aging
• Montcalm County Panhandle Area Chamber of Commerce
• Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce
• Rothbury Steel
• Steve’s Antique Auto Repair
• Sunrise Acre Farms
• Trendway Corp.
• Wyoming-Kentwood Area Chamber of Commerce.

In addition, there are numerous current and former politicians in Michigan who oppose this ballot initiative such as Ken Sikkema, Frank Kelly, Bill Schuette and local state Rep. Dave Agema. Agema has this to say about his opposition to the Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs ballot initiative:

This will lead to huge increases in your energy bills. Once again, someone will be subsidized with your tax dollars making huge profits at your expense and not producing the jobs they claim. It’s an artificial stimulus program that will not work. Since our energy costs will skyrocket, businesses will locate elsewhere to avoid these costs. Instead of creating jobs, we’ll lose them. This does not create an environment for businesses to want to come to Michigan. This is a recipe for lost jobs and higher energy costs for all involved. Follow the money and watch who gains.

Lastly, the MLive article fails readers in that is does not seek out any independent or third party voices/perspectives. The lack of a third perspective limits the debate to whether or not to support this particular ballot initiative and omits any possible discussion about any serious energy policy that might operate outside of the current industrial mindset. Serious environmental consequences are not even part of how the debate between these two opposing forces has been framed.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 30, 2012 5:37 pm

    This is probably one of the more important, misunderstood, and least debated issue facing Michigan. Both sides, in my mind, are equally egregious. No one doesn’t want clean, affordable energy and no one can argue the terrible health and environmental effects our dependance on coal has had on our state and it’s people. Having said that, Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs is not a friend of consumers and does not have their benefit in mind.
    The 25% by 2025 Renewable Energy Mandate is not a citizen ballot initiative. It is a corporate wind industry initiative, written, organized and paid for by a conglomeration of wind industry and energy industry corporations and organizations.
    There are too many questions still unanswered to quickly be seduced by the idea of clean wind fueling our electrical needs. Michigan currently has about 300 plus industrial size (500ft tall) wind turbines around the state. It is estimate that Michigan utility companies are on track to reach the 10% by 2012 but no where near it yet. It has also been estimated that to reach the 25% mandate the burden of renewable energy will fall to wind and that there may need to be over 3000 industrial wind turbines located in the most windy areas of Michigan which are the western shoreline and the thumb area. I recommend that anyone who wants to know what a industrial wind farm will look like in the environment to drive north on US31 into Ludington and view the 50 turbines that fill the ridge line as you approach. Then try to imagine what the Michigan landscape will look like when the western shore is filled with these machines.
    Now the argument has always been that to reduce Michigan’s energy dependance on coal we may just have to adopt this new look. I might agree if that could be shown to be the case. I’m not defending the current corporate energy culture but I ask you to take a long hard look at who are the new energy wind saviors? Heritage Wind in McBain is nothing but a extension of Terra OIl and Gas in Traverse City. The big 102 turbine project that was thankfully shot down in Benzie and Manistee Counties was Duke Energy, a large national energy company.
    We as consumers need to be provided with answers to important questions concerning noise, bird kills, property values. Also how many wind turbines will it take to replace one or two of our aging coal plants? Will they be removed or will they just produce less emissions? How much less ? Try to find the answers to these questions and you will be surprised. And are we in fact replacing one corporate culture with another? If wind is so plentiful,if it is everyone’s nature source of energy why then don’t we subsidize individual wind generation? Why are we subsidizing big corporations to sell our wind energy back to us?
    The biggest problem Michigan faces is the lack of a cohesive plan. We need a plan to update our energy infrastructure and coordinate the different producers. We need a plan that includes real energy conservation not simply a plan focusing on generating more energy. We don’t have that. What we have now is a corporate land grab by the wind industries and the 25% mandate is for their benefit not yours or mine.

  2. August 30, 2012 5:57 pm

    Excellent points Richard, this is what I meant about there not being a third perspective in the MLive story.

  3. Craig Brainard permalink
    August 30, 2012 9:24 pm

    Oh, where to start…
    First, building wind turbines does NOT increase the cost of power. They cost less to build than any other utility-scale power source. And once they’re built, there are no ongoing fuel costs, just maintenance. Also, no social costs like global warming, mercury poisoning, asthma-related deaths, coal-ash spills, fracking disasters or nuclear meltdowns.
    The wind farm I visited recently near St. Louis, MI, was erected by Rich Vanderveen’s company, Macinaw Power, a small company headquartered in Lowell. They have a 30-year contract to deliver power at 3/4 the current price of coal. The wind farm in the Thumb is delivering power for 1/2 the price of coal.
    That’s current price of coal: coal and all fossil fuels are becoming more expensive every day. Imagine what coal will cost in 30 years- those people in the Thumb and near St. Louis will still be paying the same as today.
    The 25% by 2025 campaign WAS a citizen-sponsored, organized, and collected effort; I know, I was one of those citizens. Yes, there was backing from Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, League of Conservation Voters and many other green groups, and from some unions, most notably United Steelworkers, who want the jobs erecting wind turbines and solar installations. But what’s wrong with that? Better to give jobs to Michigan union members than keep sending 1.7 Billion dollars a year out of state for coal: keep that money here. Aubrey McClendon and the Koch brothers don’t need another billion.
    The 133 wind turbines near St. Louis (spread out over maybe 30 square miles) are built mostly in farm fields, and the fields are still producing corn and soybeans; they’re tilled right up to the base pads. This means the farmer’s land is actually more valuable and more productive. And because the proper wind and siting studies were done beforehand, according to Mr. Vanderveen, these turbines will be making power 98% of the time. Standing 50 yards away, the sound produced by one of these turbines is little more than a whisper, barely louder than the ambient wind. And according to a recent MSU study, bird mortality is 2.3 birds per year, per turbine. Regrettable, yes, but far fewer than the number of birds that die by flying into tall glass buildings. And new turbine wing designs produce power at slower speeds, so that mortality number may be too high. Locating turbines away from migration routes is important, of course.
    So this Republican argument that we shouldn’t be subsidising renewable energy is complete and total misdirection, meant to draw your eyes away from the billions we dole out to the energy conglomerates annually- coal and gas and oil interests, who give politicians millions of dollars every year to keep those billions coming- and to keep the EPA off their neck. Why do the Republicans want to kill EPA, anyway: ask yourself that, and why do they oppose renewable energy? And why do they continue to circulate these lies about clean power, like the ones Richard is regurgitating? It’s because they’re paid to do so.
    I would agree with Richard that we need a plan for energy in Michigan. 25% by 2025 is only the first step in that plan, and it should be accompanied by incentives to spur energy efficiency first and foremost. The cheapest kilowatt is the one that never needs to be generated, and there is ample room for efficiency improvement.
    Finally, another, very recent MSU study says that 25% by 2025 will create up to 94,000 good jobs in Michigan, and keep us abreast of other nearby states, who have this kind of standard already. Iowa, by the way, right now, gets 23% of their electricity from wind. And Germany, every square inch of which lies north of Grand Rapids, Michigan, gets almost 20% of it’s electricity from solar. They can do it, we can do it better, I say.
    Vote yes on 25% by 2025.
    (Jeff- I think this is the perspective that was missing from the MLive story.)

  4. richardkooyman permalink
    August 31, 2012 1:58 am

    Craig, You and I agree that the effects of our use of fossil fuels is something that cannot continue. The problem is that our way out of that dependance, our real and functional solution to our electrical needs is to be found somewhere other than the easy sound bits that both side of the issue are using. These are two corporate cultures fighting over your consumer dollars. I’m sorry but the 25%/2025 was not a citizen initiative. THey may have gotten you to donate your time but compare how quickly this ballot proposal was written, canvased, promoted and sent to Lansing to any other true citizen driven initiative and you will see that there was some real money behind this ballot proposal. That in itself doesn’t make it a bad thing. What is more important is what are the true facts?

    Jobs? We can come up with all kinds of important causes from high speed rail, bicycle roads, improved small scale farming that could create jobs from ballot proposals.

    Costs, noise, health effects… let’s not be disingenuous and claim that either side holds all the correct answer to those questions.

    The bottom line for me is that to achieve a 25% renewable rate you are going to have to be willing to see a whole lot more that 50 -500 ft industrial turbines here or 130 turbines there. You are going to see thousands. And it doesn’t really matter if they are erected in small projects like Mr. Vanderveens or Duke Energy. What matters is how many there will be. Do you know the answer to that question?

  5. August 31, 2012 10:47 am

    Craig, One further point if I may. If we take your facts and statistics concerning wind generation and apply them to a 25% mandate you are basically asking us to believe that we can generate 25% of our our electricity 98% of the time for 1/2 the cost of what coal generated electricity and create 94,000 jobs in the process.

    Who here actually believes these figures?

    Who here actually believes our electrical rates will go down? In theory if the wind did blow 98% and we increased the mandate to 50% our electricity rates across the state should go down by 25%. Who here believes that will happen? In fact if you read the language that the industry wrote in the ballot proposal item #3 states

    “Consumers shall be charged for electricity from clean renewable electric energy sources in the same manner and on the same basis as for electricity from other sources.”

    Does that mean that wind can charge the same rate as coal even if it doesn’t cost as much?

    Item #4 of the proposal states that

    “To protect consumers, compliance with the clean renewable electric energy standard shall not cause rates charged by electricity providers to increase by more than 1% in any year. Annual extensions for meeting the standard may be granted, but only to the extent demonstrated to be necessary for an electricity provider to comply with the foregoing rate limitation.”

    Does that really protect consumers or does it protect the wind industry? It basically states that electric rates can only go up 1% a year but that the 25% by 2025 mandate protects the industry in that if it doesn’t achieve the 25% by 2025 it can be extended. So in theory if the 25% level isn’t reached until 2030 our electrical rates could be 18% higher than they are today? How can that be good for consumers?

    Again, I’m not defending the fossil fuel industry. Their plan is no better, maybe even worse. But the 25%/2025 is no energy plan. It’s an industrial wind turbine industry free pass.

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