Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 13, 2012

Another View: 'No' to energy policy

By the Lansing State Journal

---- — There's little question that moving away from fossil fuels will protect the environment or that increased renewable energy production in Michigan will help strengthen the state.

But there's much to question about the wisdom of locking a rigid energy policy into the Michigan Constitution. On balance, doing so could hurt the state more than help, so voters should say "no" to Proposal 3.

The amendment would require the state to produce 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025. Michigan currently has a statute calling for 10 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2015, which was approved in 2008. That is low among the 29 states that have renewable portfolio standards in law. But — and this is vital — no other state has mandated that energy companies, municipal utilities and energy cooperatives dramatically change their business models as part of its constitution. Michigan should not become the first.

The constitution was designed with mechanisms for amendment; it is a living document meant to be altered from time to time. The process of initiated ballot proposal was deliberately designed to be arduous. The state's foundation document should not be changed quickly. As such it is not the best place for matters more appropriately handled in legislation, which can be more easily altered and updated.

The Citizens Research Council's white paper on Prop 3 also raises valid concerns that many of the state's electric cooperatives and municipal utilities won't be able to produce 25 percent renewable energy themselves, forcing them to purchase renewable energy at the mercy of the market place — something that could endanger their financial futures.

Lansing Board of Water & Light has no position on Prop 3.

But its board has already approved rate hikes to pay for a new natural gas plant. Despite language to limit rate hikes caused by the renewable requirement, it will add costs.

Another challenge: Michigan doesn't possess natural traits to get best renewable energy results.

The Plains are best for wind, the mountainous states for hydropower, the Southwest for solar energy. Michigan can draw energy from all of those options, but it's unlikely to be a top producer in any of them.

That said, Michiganders should push for a more ambitious standard than the state's current 10 percent.

But push lawmakers for the higher standard via legislation — not as a constitutional amendment.

-- Lansing State Journal