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A 'Cool City' or a 'Coal City'?

by Steve Rall

The American Wind Energy Association reported in January that the "wind energy industry installed 5,244 megawatts in 2007, expanding the nation's total wind power generating capacity by 45 percent in a single calendar year and injecting an investment of over $9 billion into the economy."

Minnesota alone installed 1299 MW in 2007 bringing many new jobs and clean energy to the Great Lakes region.

However, Michigan, with the second-highest wind potential in the Great Lakes region was not listed in the report. We are dead last in our region, doing virtually nothing.

But, seven new coal plants are proposed for Michigan! Oops. Now there are eight.

That's right. A few weeks ago, we were told that the Board of Water and Light has proposed a new $1 billion coal plant. Peter Lark, the CEO of the BWL, when asked why all the planning had been done without citizen input, said that this is "just the beginning of the conversation." Yet the 59-page integrated resource plan states that "preliminary construction and permitting should begin immediately."

Does this rush to coal make you suspicious? It should.

Building the proposed BWL coal plant in Delta Township will build a future that is costly, obsolete, dirty and unhealthy. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is burying their head in coal dust.

The proposed "hybrid coal plant" sounds good, but it will still burn more than 70 percent coal, spew tons of pollution, send our resources out of state, and bring no long term jobs. The price of coal is skyrocketing and the cost of transporting it from Wyoming is only going to increase.

It is an established fact that power plants continue to be a major source of carbon dioxide emission and mercury contamination.

It is equally important to know that our current supplier of coal in Wyoming operates ecologically destructive mountaintop removal mining operations in Appalachia (see www.ilovemountains.org).

Is this how we will build the image of a great capital city? Is this how we will attract young people to stay in Lansing? Do we want to be a "cool" city or a dirty "coal" city?

The demand for more wind turbines is far outpacing the supply and Michigan has the industrial base to manufacture them. How can we lose by moving aggressively to wind power for our electricity generation?

The long-term jobs are needed and the technology is here, now.

Although Lansing's electricity needs may be growing, even Lark admitted that demand for electricity in Michigan has leveled off. This is the window of opportunity we need to make the transition to cleaner energy and greater energy efficiency.

Let's not make the same mistake with energy as we did with the automobile.

BWL is a publicly owned utility. We need to take control of it before it makes one of the worst blunders in its history and a 50 year embarrassment for Lansing.

Call for a moratorium on new coal plants.

 --Steve Rall

Copyright ©2008 Lansing State Journal

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