Traverse City Record-Eagle


May 8, 2014

Forum: An energy 'mix' is the right balance

What will you have? Natural gas? Coal? Nuclear?

Some will immediately reply, “energy conservation.” To those, I will point out that Cherryland Electric Cooperative worked with its membership to conserve enough energy to effectively take more than 400 homes off the grid in 2013.

Still, energy sales went up last year. People are still moving here and people still want to use all their electric “stuff.”

Others will say, “renewable energy.” Solar energy has dropped in price but it is still far from the solution.

Don’t give me the Germany example. Electricity rates in Germany are almost four times higher than what we experience in Michigan. Wind has dropped in price as well. What happens to this product when the federal tax credits go away? Hydroelectric power is the cheapest form of non-polluting renewable energy but it’s hard to find any clean air groups promoting more dams or picketing for upgrades on the hydro dams presently in place.

Do we keep working on renewables? Absolutely.

They will always be part of our energy portfolio and I believe the percentage will grow. Our Cherryland community solar project is a statement on our commitment toward renewable energy. We just can’t pretend it is the single silver bullet that saves the day.

This leaves us with the “Big 3” — coal, natural gas and nuclear.

It is my professional and personal opinion that we have to do all three better than ever. We can do coal cleaner than in the past. We can’t do it affordably under present Environmental Protection Agency regulations, however. We need to make small steps to a cleaner future. Yes, I believe we have time. What we lack is the ability to agree on the incremental steps.

If you won’t discuss coal, then surely, you have to consider natural gas that produces 60 percent less carbon dioxide than coal generation. Fracking? We have been fracking for decades in Michigan with no problems. Now that we have an abundant supply of gas to keep prices somewhat in check, fracking is bad.

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