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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.

A Complex Web of Foolish Games

The energy grid is an extremely complex web, and even most of the experts who will talk and write about it don’t have a handle on the entirety of it or what the ripple effects would be of this or that policy. Environmental groups pour money into opposing any kind of fossil fuel development while working to shut down the fossil fuel use that already exists. They find willing servants with the Democratic Party, who are only too eager to take their money without really understanding the consequences of their policies. It may be true that taking an individual plant offline, or mandating EV use, or transitioning to more windmills in isolation have small or not immediately noticeable effects, but when ALL of these actions are going on simultaneously, the aggregate danger they pose is worrisome. Energy is too utterly and foundationally important to engage in foolish games that could compromise its availability and affordability and risk the resultant decline in economic growth and standard of living.

Largest Natural Gas Storage Capacity

The simple fact is that we are blessed in this state and we don’t need to keep the coal plants open. Michigan has the largest underground natural gas storage capacity in the nation at nearly 1.1 trillion cubic feet, which is almost one-eighth of the U.S. total. The state has 44 natural gas storage fields, the second-largest number after Pennsylvania. Let’s take advantage of it!

Have We Been Propagandized into Fear?

Our entire country has been terribly propagandized by our mass media in concert with environmental extremists and certain business interests. We were all raised in fear of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. Do you know what the death toll from the result of radiation is of those incidents? It is zero! There have been far fewer lost lives from nuclear accidents than from petroleum-related deaths. More have died installing solar panels and from wind turbines. Ask anyone you know who served on a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier or submarine how worried they were about it. How worried would you be about it in their place? Nuclear power is environmentally friendly, clean and produces zero emissions.

We Must Pursue Nuclear Power

In addition to natural gas, we MUST pursue nuclear power. Michigan is uniquely positioned for nuclear power, with plentiful access to fresh water for cooling, and none of the geological or weather concerns of other states. The new Gen III nuclear reactors of today are incredibly safe, efficient and produce very little waste. There are a variety of designs, with the EPR and small modular reactors (SMR’s) both boasting unique advantages. I encourage anyone interested to read up on them and imagine what a greatly expanded nuclear power infrastructure would do for Michigan’s economy. Encouragingly, Graham Filler, Republican-St. Johns, agrees and said “the Russian invasion of Ukraine underscores the need for U.S. energy independence, which nuclear power can help provide without the emissions of fossil fuel-burning plants. Modern technology in the nuclear energy field allows for much smaller reactors and better safety features. There’s a lot of potential there that we should be exploring as a state.” He has sponsored MI House Bill 6019 that made it to the state Senate and was approved on September 27 of 2022.

It Holds Together, Until it Doesn't

We have a two-party state. Unfortunately, we have only one party at the moment who seems willing to take the energy problem seriously, and that is the Republican party. Under our previous President, America was energy independent for the first time in many of our lifetimes, yet it took only one afternoon of signing executive orders for President Biden to end that. Now we find ourselves paying outrageous prices at the gas pump and in our stores, while our strategic petroleum reserves are depleted for short-term political gain. Many of our so-called “elites” seem to believe that what has always “just worked” and provided power on demand will always work, regardless of how many times they prostrate themselves to the environmental and green lobbies, or to the World Economic Forum. Our energy grid is like a spider web. It is extremely complex and when any one section is disturbed, it sends vibrations through the rest of it. It holds together, until it doesn’t. Why do we insist on playing games with it?

We Can Regain our Legacy!

Most of us grew up with abundant and cheap energy as a dependable feature and expectation of our daily lives as American citizens – and there was no reason NOT to expect that to continue. After all, we have far more available energy resources than we need, and technological advancement is constantly making energy delivery safer, more dependable, and cleaner. Maybe the current relationship between our state government and Consumers Power and DTE needs to be re-examined. Power delivery is unique, and having cheap, stable energy is a necessity and a pre-requisite for all that we do and all that we strive to do. For Michigan’s economy to be strong and vibrant, we must have cheap, abundant energy. The kind of advanced manufacturing, industry and jobs we want to draw to this state depends on it - why should casinos, marijuana dispensaries, and nursing homes be our major growth industries? We need to follow the example of the peninsula to the south, Florida - and not that of California. In World War 2, Michigan was known as the “Arsenal of Democracy” for our massive production of planes, machines, and weapons for the war effort. Michigan can do better than just provide for its own prosperity, it can and should produce a surplus of energy. With bold and comprehensive investment in energy production of all types, we can regain our legacy and be the Engine of Democracy.


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