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Posted on Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 9:07 a.m.

Proposal 3 requires unrealistic changes to existing clean energy mandate

By Letters to the Editor

I stand with the 4,000 members of the Michigan Utility Workers union who oppose Proposal 3, which would constitutionally require utilities to go well beyond an already existing clean energy mandate for our state, a proposal funded with a lot of out-of-state money whose backers stand to benefit from alternative energy providers.

One of the canards used by Proposal 3 backers is that Michigan's major utilities -- CMS Energy (previously known as Consumers Power) and DTE Energy -- import coal from out of state. Well, yes, as do most utility companies in this nation that don't have coal-producing states as their locale.

But as a former employee of, and now a retiree of, CMS Energy I can speak from my experience in the media relations and employee communications department how hard Consumers Power has worked to provide some of its electricity generation through alternative energy sources. Case in point: groundwater pumps in semi-rural or rural locations, which use the constant temperature of ground water to provide air-conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter, were actively encouraged by Consumers Power.

Second case in point, for more than at least the last three decades, CMS Energy has provided customer service representatives with engineering experience to businesses and industries to help them reduce electricity costs through conservation, which is the best" green power" there is. Third case in point: CMS Energy has supported windmill technology at every point in its evolution and development, even experimenting at one time in the 1980s with a windmill along Lake Michigan to test its cost relevancy and its ability to keep producing power even in the extreme climate and wind conditions of Michigan's western shore.

I was surprised that former Gov. William Milliken recently came out in support of Proposal 3, even though that is consistent with his environmentally positive record as governor. I'm sure he remembers that during his tenure as governor he promoted the use of renewable resources to power a electricity-generating plant by CMS Energy. He rightly wanted to use waste lumber — like broken pallets — and dead or dying trees from Michigan's sometimes too-thick forests as fuel rather than coal in a new, small plant. Of 10 or 15 possible Michigan cities where such a plant could be sited, Hersey (near Reed City in Osceola County) was deemed the best location. But no plant was ever built there, or elsewhere, because the proposal met opposition from manufacturers and vendors of the wood stove industry, who saw the potential for wood supplies being diminished; the Pileated Woodpecker Society, which saw a threat to the bird from a reduction in the number of dead or dying trees in their Michigan habitat; and most significantly, from NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) residents of Hersey and other possible sites because of their dislike of thousands of trips by log-bearing trucks traveling up and down the roads near their communities.

Former Gov. Milliken and other in-state backers of Proposal 3 are correct that reducing the use of fossil fuels is a good way for Michigan to go. I doubt whether any of us disagree with that. But Michigan in 2008 passed a well crafted and carefully considered law to require CMS Energy and DTE Energy to achieve 10 percent of their electricity generation from renewable resources by 2015, and both utilities are well along that path. The law received support from many sources — regulators, customers and utilities. In 2015, the Michigan Public Utitilites Commission, utilities and groups representing residential and industrial customers can review where generation and costs are and move another step along that path toward green power.

But to lock Michigan into a position by constitutional amendment at this time seems premature and unnecessary. That's why thoughtful voters of this state might do well to stand with the 4,000 men and women who work in all kinds of weather to keep our lights on and our homes heated. Their livelihood depends on sound energy policy, not a proposal funded primarily by out-of-state energy providers such as a hedge-fund billionaire in California.

Bob A. Wischmeyer

Ann Arbor



Mon, Oct 29, 2012 : 6:42 p.m.

It guarantees rate increases no more than 1% to pay for this. I can afford a 1% increase on my electric bill, so we can burn less coal and thus dump less mercury on us and the Great Lakes. I vote yes.


Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 8:06 p.m.

I'm baffled by this letter. It says the 25% goal is "premature and unnecessary" but doesn't actually support that claim. It gives examples of existing clean energy efforts, but all that tells us is that the utility companies are doing some of the right things, it doesn't tell us what, if anything, is wrong with the "25 by 25" goal. The story of the unsuccessful wood-burning plant just doesn't seem related to the question at all. Proponents of Prop 3 know that lots of states import coal from other states ("import" isn't limited to national boundaries). Their point is that by importing the energy source, we lose jobs and money that could stay in Michigan if we used local energy sources. instead.


Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 3:14 p.m.

Bravo! Hard to mount an honest rebuttal to your points.


Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 2:28 p.m.

The reference to coal as "imported" is dishonest. The US Constitution bars restraint of trade between states. Illinois coal is not "imported". What is imported, from China, is solar panels and wind turbines. American producers of these have been wiped out by Chinese government-subsidized real imports.


Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.

The official argument presented by the proponents of Prop 3 includes some definitions which I found mind-boggling. It classifies fuels as renewable or fossil. It lists the renewables as solar, wind, and biodiesel. That clearly decouples "renewable" from "green". Biodiesel is a hydrocarbon fuel that produces more pollution and greenhouse gases than do gasoline or natural gas. There are arguments for using biodiesel, but they have nothing to do with its being "green". It lists fossil fuels as coal, oil and gas, and nuclear. Calling uranium and hydrogen fossil materials is amazing scientific illiteracy. It leaves out a number of other sources of energy (some of them in substantial use) such as ethanol, geothermal, wood, dung, tidal waves, etc. In short, the proponents capriciously like some sources of energy and not others, and repeat a cultish mantra unrelated to any scientific or environmental logic.

Dog Guy

Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 6:43 p.m.

Oil and gas are abiogenic, as shown by D. Mendeleev ca. 1875. They are called fossil fuels by politicians, con-men, and know-it-alls secure in their scientific illiteracy . . . no offense meant, demistify

Laura Jones

Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 2:13 p.m.

Well said, and this type of issue should be legislation, now constitutional.


Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 2 p.m.

Thanks for points to ponder, and a lack of animosity and vitriol.


Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 2:30 p.m.


Jim Walker

Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 1:59 p.m.

When the costs of wind, solar, and other alternative energies become competitive with existing sources, then they should be welcomed as growing parts of the mix. But Michigan's citizens should NOT be subjected to the higher costs these uncompetitive sources require, mandated by the Constitution. James C. Walker, Ann Arbor, MI

Dog Guy

Thu, Oct 18, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

Your informed and well-written review of Prop 3 has pulled me off the fence, Wischmeyer.