Michigan's energy needs and its business recruitment efforts will be harmed by environmentalists who continue tilting at windmills. They want to ban the construction of new coal plants in the state but haven't come up with legitimate alternatives.Coal is the enemy of choice, and if a newly created special interest group comprised of environmental activists has its way, Michigan will never see another coal plant built in the state. That would be bad for Michigan's future and hasten its economic decline.
The fact of the matter is that demand for energy in Michigan is increasing about 1.2 percent a year, and neither wind nor solar power can satisfy that demand. Coal, like nuclear power, must remain an option. Technological advancements have made the production of energy from coal much cleaner.
Though not free from carbon dioxide emissions, which aren't classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as pollutants but are considered major contributors to greenhouse gases, clean-coal plants are nothing like the soot-spewing plants of the past.
Recent reports suggest that Michigan needs as many as four new base-load power plants operating by 2015 and as many as nine by 2025. Some of that can, and should, be reduced by conservation, renewable resources and alternative energy. But all is not possible.
If Michigan doesn't manage its own energy needs by building new power plants, it will have to import energy from neighboring states, which will increase costs for everyone. Similarly, legislating renewable energy benchmarks will drive up costs too because the state's semi-regulated electricity industry makes it hard for companies to recover their capital investments.
You can't change enough light bulbs or harness enough wind, and certainly not enough sun in Michigan, to make the state completely green. Reasonable debate needs to continue, and it needs to focus on coal and nuclear power generation.
A clear example of what happens when that door is shut is evident in Kansas. The state's top energy regulator there, prompted by the governor, rejected a plan to build a 700-megawatt coal plant in western Kansas.
Global warming was cited as the main reason for rejecting the $3.6 billion plant that would have added thousands of jobs and enticed business to the struggling farm region. Transmission lines from the power plant would have supported, of all things, wind farms.
Instead, taxpayers there will be burdened with lawsuits because the company wanting to build the plant met all environmental requirements and negotiated with the state in good faith. Any businesses that were looking toward the new power plant as a reason to locate there will move on.
If that sounds familiar that's because it's already happening in Michigan. Turning the lights out on new coal plants will ensure that it continues.