Detroit News-Vote NO on Prop. 3
October 23, 2012 PLYMOUTH VOICE.
Setting energy policy in the Constitution could cut off Michigan from new technologies
DETROIT NEWS EDITORIAL
September 26 2012
One hundred years ago, when coal was the fuel of choice for heating homes and powering America’s cities, no one could conceive that within a half-century nuclear plants would become a major source of electricity. Likewise, in the mid-20th century the idea that solar panels, bio-fuels and windmills might someday become important energy sources was purely science fiction.
Fortunately, Michigan has been smart enough not to set in stone a commitment to one form of energy over another. It has, for the most part, allowed market forces and technological advances to determine the most efficient ways to produce power.
It should continue to do so. Voters should defeat Proposal 3 on the November ballot. The measure would mandate that the state get 25 percent of its electricity from renewable resources by 2025, even if more efficient sources of clean fuel are available. And there’s no reason to believe they won’t, given the energy advances of the past century.
Prop 3, or 25×25 as its backers call it because the mandate takes effect in 2025, would commit Michigan to an energy policy that cannot be supported by today’s technology without tremendous government subsidies or far higher costs for consumers.
An industry-funded study estimated the mandate will cost $10 billion to implement, all of which will be paid for by utility customers.
But the potential cost is not the biggest issue with Prop 3. The main reason to vote no is that energy policy should not be set in the Constitution. There is simply no way to anticipate where future technologies will take us.
Currently, America is on the front edge of what appears to be an energy revolution triggered by new methods of extracting natural gas.
Natural gas is now cheap and plentiful. It is cleaner burning than other fossil fuels. And it is more reliable than wind or solar. As long as natural gas remains low-cost, renewable energy sources can’t compete.
It makes no sense to saddle Michigan consumers with far more expensive sources of energy when a clean and abundant alternative could serve as an efficient bridge to the next generation of power production.
Michigan is already on track, by state law, to get 10 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2015. The law can be easily changed if needed to adjust to new technologies or to spare consumers from unreasonably high costs. That won’t be true if the renewable portfolio standard is established in the Constitution.
Backers of the proposal claim it will create tens of thousands of jobs in green industries. But there’s no credible way to predict such job creation; previous projections attached to green initiatives have fallen well short of the hoped-for employment.
More likely, Prop 3 will kill utility jobs and place another handicap on economic growth in Michigan. That’s why many of the state’s trade unions oppose the measure.
Conserving resources and living cleanly are admirable goals that should be pursued by both government and the private sector.
But placing rigid energy policy requirements in the state Constitution is the wrong approach.
Doing so will drive up electricity costs and stifle economic opportunity in Michigan, while limiting its ability to take advantage of better alternatives for saving energy and cutting pollution.
Vote no on Prop 3.