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Energy for Michigan: why must the “Third Coast” follow the West Coast?

By Aaron Kleinheksel

November 21, 2022

Michigan is Rich in Natural Beauty & Resources

I’ve spent a lot of time cycling around the lower peninsula this summer, and it reminded me that Michigan is a state rich in natural beauty and potential. We are blessed with natural resources and the basic ingredients for human flourishing (fresh water, fertile farmland, wildlife, and fossil fuels), coupled with relatively benign weather and no major fault lines to worry about. Yet it is impossible to travel around this state and not notice that we are far poorer than we should be.

The Innovation of Harnessed Energy

Human civilization muddled along relatively unchanged for thousands of years. Life for most people was poor, dirty, violent, and short, with little time for recreation. Then, in the last 200 years or so, the rate of growth and change skyrocketed. The industrial revolution brought technological advancement and civilization growth, both in population and standard of living. Why? Harnessed energy propelled innovation: steam for locomotives and farm machinery, kerosene and gas for light, refined oil products for engines and manufacturing, and electricity for it all.

Government Undermining our Energy Supplies

This is not new information, yet as we look around our country, we see our government at the federal and state level, often working with moneyed interests of one type or another, actually undermining our energy supplies. The magnificent west coast – the great State of California – is a case study in madness.

Imagine receiving this text on your phone, then imagine this text as a regular feature of your life:

Mind Games of Madness!

There is NO reason California should find itself in this situation. After all, it’s a one-party Democrat-ruled state governed by self-proclaimed intellectual elites. Yet it does. If we are honest, most of us know exactly why it does. In its infinite wisdom, on August 25, 2022, California banned all sales of gasoline-powered cars after 2035. Then, on August 31 California asked its residents not to charge their EV’s over the weekend because of fears for the stability of their power grid to supply adequate electricity. Parody is now our reality. California is now quickly changing course on the planned shut down of Diablo Canyon, the state’s last operating nuclear plant. Go figure. Regular brownouts are now a feature of our most technologically advanced and economically powerful state, as it tries to meet its power demands by buying it from neighboring states.

Energy Shortages are Not Limited to California

California, you might argue, is unique. Is it? What is happening right now across Europe? Energy bills are soaring, governments are rationing power, and previously shuttered coal and nuclear plants are hastily being put back in service. Do your own search on YouTube and Twitter for the news and eyewitness video that our networks don’t seem interested in covering. Public demonstrations have been going on for months in most major European cities – over energy. It wasn’t as if they had no warning. Even Donald Trump warned them to their faces in 2018 - and was laughed at by Eurocrats who believed they were far smarter than the buffoonish, uneducated, and crude American President.

Direct Correlation Between Energy & Wealth

There is a direct relation between energy production, national security, and economic strength. Cheap, plentiful, and dependable energy attracts industry to a region, and it attracts people. It is a necessary ingredient for growth and human flourishing. Almost everything we rely on in our advanced age flows from it. Global populations over the last 50 years have witnessed stunning decreases in poverty and hunger due to ever expanding access to energy. Indeed, there is a correlation between increasing wealth through energy availability and a cleaner environment, because as people grow in wealth they have time to worry about their immediate surroundings instead of where their next meal is coming from. Needless to say, burning wood and dung are not good for health or air quality and nobody wants to live in a dirty, polluted environment.

Michigan's Zero Emission Future

Let’s turn our focus back to Michigan. How are we doing? Well, not to be outdone by California, “Health and environmental groups are asking the Michigan Legislature to set a target of 100% emission-free new car sales by 2030.” Gov. Whitmer is charging full speed ahead with her plans for a zero-emissions future, both with EV incentives, renewable energy initiatives, and attacks on fossil fuels:

  • Line 5, an important petroleum & LNG pipeline that runs from Canada through Michigan and which helps provide energy and jobs to the entire region, is in Whitmer’s crosshairs. It doesn’t matter to her that Enbridge (the company that operates Line 5) worked out a deal to build a $550 million tunnel that will add to the safety of the pipeline along the four miles it passes through the Straits. Nobody who is knowledgeable about the engineering thinks Line 5 poses any danger, but the 540,000 bpd of light crude and 55% of Michigan’s propane would be severely missed, not to mention the associated jobs.

  • Coal plants have been getting closed down one after another over recent years as pressure from groups such as the Michigan Environmental

  • Council bears fruit. Consumers Power plans to close all its coal plants by 2025. To give an idea of the mindset of these groups, listen to Leah Wiste, the Executive Director of Michigan Interfaith Power & Light: “Michigan Interfaith Power & Light inspires people of faith to take action as stewards of the earth. This is why our members joined dozens of organizations and thousands of people across the state calling for a more responsible, equitable power plan from Consumers Energy. We celebrate this historic agreement that highlights the power of community and proves that real change can come when we stand in solidarity for climate justice.”

  • Palisades, one of three remaining nuclear power plants in Michigan, shut down on May 20 – taking 6.5% of Michigan’s electricity generating capacity and 15% of the state’s clean energy with it. Gov. Whitmer made a last-minute public attempt to keep it open by appealing to her friend, former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, the current U.S. Dept. of Energy Secretary – but it was too late, as she certainly well knew.

  • To compensate for all this lost power, Michigan has been investing in more solar panels and wind turbines. These sources of power are orders of magnitude less efficient and suffer from uneven power generation since they are dependent on, well, wind and the sun. They take up FAR more land area than any other types of power plants and require significant effort and cost to lay the transmission lines and build up the necessary battery capacity. On top of that, the environmental cost of both production and disposal is substantial and rarely discussed.

  • Moreover, the state has ambitious EV goals. Consumers Energy states they will be able to support 1 million EV’s by 2030. An internet search returned extensive studies that both supported Consumer’s claims, and strongly refuted them. What is the truth? Who knows? The expert disagreement is not reassuring.

A Future of Energy Shortfalls

Several new natural gas power plants are being brought online in the state to help compensate for all the lost power generation. However, in this report from April 14 of 2022 we learn that “Michigan is also part of a larger regional grid, and a red flag for the region appeared this week when the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), the organization that operates the electric grid for 15 Midwest states including Michigan, announced a 1,230 MW shortfall in capacity in the north/central region, which includes Michigan. The shortfall exposes the area to a ‘slightly increased risk’ that power providers would need to implement load shedding, or temporary power outages to reduce power demand, in an emergency situation, according to MISO. The report notes ‘the region needs to address loss of high-reliability sources like coal and nuclear and their replacement with sources like solar and wind.’

Do We Still Live in Michigan?

If Michigan had the energy capacity it needs, would I have received a mailer at the start of summer from Consumers Energy informing me to expect higher electricity costs at certain times of the day and asking me to shift my electricity use, along with helpful tips on how to do so? Reading between the lines, I expected brownouts in the event of an emergency. I had to check my address to make sure I still lived in Michigan, and not California. Michigan has the highest electricity rate per kWh in the nearby six state region.