Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Your handy guide to translating the fringe arguments against offshore wind energy development in the Great Lakes

What turbines would look like, from left, at 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 miles

Michigan has vast potential to generate energy from wind. Most of that potential is in the offshore waters of the Great Lakes. Now, the state is poised to adopt the first comprehensive rules for wind development in the Lakes.

It won’t be easy. Not everyone likes the idea of altering the view of our spectacular Great Lakes with wind turbines. Others don’t mind the view, as long as it’s not in their back yard – or more accurately, in front of their pricey lakefront properties.

Now Michigan’s anti-government bloggers are also up in arms about wind turbines. Their reasons run the gamut. They include cost (a debate worth having). Details over how to regulate them (again, a worthwhile discussion). And environmental concerns (Fringe Right bloggers mourning for the environment? Sweet Jesus! Has that EVER happened before. OK, we’ll get to that in a moment!)

Honestly, those in the distant hinterlands of conservativism will never support offshore wind turbines for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with cost or environmental concerns.

So, in order to prepare for the upcoming onslaught of doublespeak, I’m offering some translations for the arguments you will hear. But first, a note on costs.
Costs for wind energy keep going down while costs for conventional energy keep going up. In fact, Massachusetts regulators just OK’d a 15 year power purchase agreement for Cape Wind, the nation’s first offshore wind energy development.

The Massachusetts approval came after exhaustive review: 13 days of hearings, more than 1,300 exhibits and 3,000 pages of transcript. The conclusion: "[I]t is abundantly clear that the Cape Wind facility offers significant benefits that are not currently available from any other renewable resources. We find that these benefits outweigh the costs of the project." (and if you click on the link, don’t neglect to read the part about the 1,000 jobs created).

Now, the translations:
--- Wind energy shouldn't need taxpayer subsidies means (=) We have never raised a peep about the massive subsidies for conventional, polluting energy sources, but we’re mad as hell when it applies to something environmentalists support, Governor Granholm wants, or anything new and different.

--- Plans to regulate offshore wind are not up to par = Any regulation is bad. Any regulatory agency is evil. And anyone trying to enforce regulations is a jack booted thug.

--- The Great Lakes will be environmentally damaged by turbines = We don’t give a flying fruck about the environment when we support offshore oil drilling in the Great Lakes, oppose mercury emissions reductions, fight bans on water diversions, cheer more polluting coal power plants, oppose tougher vehicle emissions standards, fight against energy efficiency programs, encourage urban sprawl, urge lawmakers to bankrupt natural resource protection, or try to bury public transit initiatives. But, um, this time we do care. Really.

--- The wind doesn’t blow all the time, so it’s unreliable = This is an awesome sound bite. Game, set and match....beeeootch! We are betting nobody besides policy geeks goes to the trouble of exploring how decentralized power grids, demand load management and natural gas backup systems make this issue manageable.

 --- Coal power is tried and true, no reason to change = We talk a good game about embracing American ingenuity, cutting edge technology and striking out boldly for new frontiers like our manly heroes of the American Revolution. But when it comes down to it we're scared.

--- We don’t have faith in the leaders supporting wind energy = We despise Gov. Granholm and everything she stands for. We will despise Gov.-elect Snyder as well, should he dare cross us. The 2010 election was clearly a mandate against offshore wind.

--- It’s those pansy ass tree huggers who want wind energy = It’s those pansy ass tree huggers who want wind energy.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Biblical stewardship of the earth and its creatures? Not in Rep. John Shimkus' truncated Bible

Rep. Shimkus: Don't worry
Not sure how I missed this, but Congressman John Shimkus of Illinois wants to be the next chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee. And Rep. Shimkus has a rather unique perspective
on climate change.

He believes that mankind is incapable of harming the planet because the Bible declares God, not man, will destroy the earth. “The earth will end only when God declares it’s time to be over. Man will not destroy this earth,” he said.

Now careful readers will note that the previous link was to the left-wing, Soros funded, Huffington Post which is part of the failed Pelosi-Huffington agenda and a tool of Statists, ecoterrorists and Communists. But Shimkus’ views were also chronicled in the New York Times, which is simply part of the liberal drive-by media and therefore more trustworthy. I guess.

Anyway, Rep. Shimkus declared that the conservative and Tea Party victories in the 2010 means that “The climate debate has, at least for two years, has ended with this election.”

In open defiance of Rep. Shimkus’ decree, climatologists across the nation apparently plan to continue to do research for the next two years. Some of these climatologists have never even slept with Al Gore. So, you see, technically the debate really isn’t over.

It also may be news to Rep. Shimkus that religious leaders across the nation and the world have called for action on climate change, through organizations like the Evangelical Climate Initiative.

Even within the modest environmental coalitions in Michigan, there are faith-based groups working toward sensible responses to climate change. Groups like the IHM Sisters in Monroe; the Michigan chapter of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life out of Oakland County and  Michigan Interfaith Power and Light in Royal Oak.

These groups have bizarre ideas about the Bible teaching us that we must be stewards of the earth and the creatures that inhabit it. Stuff like: Lev. 25:23-24. The land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants. Throughout the country that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land.

 I don’t know where Rep. Shimkus’ gets his laissez faire Biblical interpretation. But I sure as hell hope he does not inflict such dangerous nonsense on our nation from the pulpit of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Wisconsin and Ohio to feds: Take your rail money and shove it!

Here in Michigan we’ve learned the hard way not to put all our eggs in one basket. The “right-sizing” of the domestic automobile industry – which Michiganders complacently assumed would always provide the lion’s share of our employment – resulted in hundreds of thousands of lost jobs and has saddled us with the most miserable economy in a nation full of miserable state economies.

As this analysis notes, the percentage of Michigan’s gross domestic product tied to cars was 25 perecent in 1963. By 1998 it was barely 5 percent. As economist Charles Ballard notes in the analysis, “In the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, having a non-diversified economy was not a problem since the dominant industry in Michigan -- autos -- was so wildly successful. Carmakers reigned supreme for so long here that Michigan seemed to develop the mindset that the good times would last forever.”

For the same reasons we need to diversify our economy, we need to diversify our transportation options. Putting virtually all our eggs in one basket – personal vehicles driving on public roads and highways – leaves us vulnerable in lots of ways: wild fluctuations in oil prices; chronic and ongoing underfunding of roads; and shifting population patterns that demand new and bigger roads in certain places, while existing and underutilized older roads still require the same level of upkeep as they did when they were in their prime.

So it is with curiosity that we learn that our neighbors in Ohio and Wisconsin are poised to tell the federal government to Shove It when they offer to help diversify those states’ transportation systems by helping them invest in better passenger railroad transportation.

If they do, Michigan stands a good chance of getting some of that money to help reduce its reliance on crumbling roads and expensive personal vehicles.

No, we can’t abandon our roads any more than we can abandon our automakers. But we can’t pretend that roads will always and forever be the smartest and most dominant way to get from Point A to Point B.

So if Ohio and Wisconsin want to flip the bird to federal help in hedging against an uncertain transportation future, we’ll be glad to help spend that unwanted money to put a few of our eggs in a different basket. We’ve learned the hard way.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Gov. Rick Snyder as a blank slate on conservation and natural resource issues: Let's paint a picture of Teddy Roosevelt or William Milliken, shall we?

Snyder: Blank slate

Sweeping changes to the political landscape effected by voters last week are not good news for environmental protection in Michigan or across the nation. The new Republican majorities and angry Tea Party-style anti-government pols in the Michigan and U.S. Houses will be less inclined to support the bold action we need on issues like climate, transportation, Great Lakes stewardship and scaling back huge subsidies for destructive and finite energy resources like oil.

But how will Michigan’s new governor, Rick Snyder, respond to the challenges of protecting natural resources in a bankrupt economy and amid a political climate where enforcement of environmental laws is  frowned upon?

TR: Speak softly, carry big stick
Will he be the man who excelled on conservation and water issues in a primary debate last spring, who served on the Nature Conservancy Board of Directors and who was endorsed in the primary election by the Michigan League of Conservation Voters?
Or will he be the man whose recent statements on cutting regulation and oversight are boilerplate anti-government talking points; the man who wants to fast-track dirty coal plants and whose platform includes a plan to grease the skids for huge polluting factory farms owned by out-of-staters at the expense of small, locally-owned farms?

No one knows, of course. But Great Lakes environmentalist, author and historian Dave Dempsey wrote perhaps the best analysis of the Rick Snyder question mark here.

In the meantime, every word Snyder utters will be magnified and overanalyzed and probably blown out of proportion. Every appointment he makes – especially for key environmental posts like director of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, will be scrutinized and dissected and agonized about.

But for the moment….he’s a blank slate. And we can always imagine that he will become the kind of Republican environmental champion that are so few and far between these days.

There's precedent. Dearth of environmental backbone hasn’t always been so prevalent in the GOP. Republican President Theodore Roosevelt was a crusader for conservation and established our national parks system against hostile foes in his own party. Even President Ronald Reagan, the poster child for conservative principles, signed tough tailpipe emissions rules as governor of California, later stating: "I'm proud of having been one of the first to recognize that states and the federal government have a duty to protect our natural resources from the damaging effects of pollution that can accompany industrial development." Yeah, Ronald Reagan.

In Michigan, Republican Gov. William G. Milliken stayed true to his GOP principles while protecting the state’s resources. He helped establish Michigan’s pioneering “Bottle Bill” deposit on beverage containers. During his tenure he was considered a moderate Republican. In today’s climate there is no room for moderates. Right Wing bloggers – most of them too young to remember Milliken or moderate politics at all, vilify him as a liberal traitor.

Many Republicans believe conservative principles aren’t synonymous with abandoning environmental protection. They continue to keep the faith through organizations like Republicans for Environmental Protection. The group’s president, Rob Sisson is a proud Michigander and the former mayor of Sturgis.

So we'll see what the next couple years bring with Governor Snyder and a new legislature. It's gonna be interesting either way.


Monday, November 1, 2010

The National Mining Association sees Jihadists at the gates! Or is that the EPA?

“We need to elect strong environmental leaders tomorrow to defeat the pollution jihad that corporations are waging against our environment and public health.”

Imagine the howls of outrage from the ”drown government in a bathtub" crowd if environmentalists had issued this statement, comparing American corporations to Muslim holy warriors, and, by inference, terrorists.

Betting though, you haven’t heard of Luke Popovich of the National Mining Association, who called enforcement of environmental laws by the Environmental Protection Agency a “regulatory jihad” in this piece by the New York Times on the millions spent by the industry to blunt enforcement of, and elect officials hostile to environmental regulations they deem excessive.

Given the mood of the country, it’s probably ridiculous to suggest that the fossil fuel industry’s energy and money might better be spent deploying strong clean energy technologies and developing futuristic energy futures. No, better to cling tooth and nail to the status quo.

Even so, isn’t comparing pollution regulators in the U.S. to holy warriors in Islamic countries a bit over the top? Rush? Frank? Glenn?

No, I didn’t think so.