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The priorities we set today will impact Michiganians for generations to come. Conservatives have a real opportunity to lead when it comes to Michigan’s energy future.

Currently, more than 50 percent of Michigan’s electricity is generated by burning coal, a resource not found locally, and one that we pay to have shipped in from other states. We must continue to transition Michigan away from coal, and toward energy forms that are cleaner, and can be locally secured. Natural gas and renewable energy both meet those criteria.

As conservatives, we feel strongly that using more renewable energy will reduce the amount of fuel we import from other nations — many led by people who are hostile to America and our way of life. No one grasps this more than our military — the men and women we place in harm’s way to keep us safe. Regrettably, 10 percent of the casualties suffered by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan were the result of transporting fuel or protecting fuel lines. Energy security will lead to greater national security and save lives. Our concern for life does not end at birth, but extends to life in its entirety.

It’s time to move toward an “All of the Above” energy policy that protects Michigan’s future and ensures Michigan has a future worth protecting. This also means taking advantage of Michigan’s vast natural gas reserves as a clean alternative to coal. Natural gas has the added benefit of near-seamless integration with renewables, allowing for reliable and consistent power. Moving from coal to natural gas, combined with increased renewables and efficiency, means Michigan is leading the way toward developing a true “All of the Above” energy approach that also protects ratepayers.

Through the Christian Coalition, we are coming together and urging Michigan’s Legislature to work with business organizations and leaders, energy experts and leaders in the faith community to move Michigan toward an energy policy that encourages responsible resource stewardship, creates jobs, spurs innovation and boosts our economy.

It’s a conversation we’re leading with legislators, faith leaders and concerned citizens across Michigan. We’re also reaching out to share our perspective with public utilities, business leaders, military leaders and veterans, to help find common ground.

Last week, a bipartisan group of legislators introduced House Bills 5967-5969. These bills will move Michigan toward a true “All of the Above” energy policy. The legislation will strengthen Michigan’s economy while improving our energy security. It will allow us to harness in-state resources rather than import coal. It will create Michigan jobs while reining in rising energy costs along the way.

The proposed biomass plant in Marquette is a perfect example of a renewable, self-sustaining energy innovation that creates jobs while protecting our air, land and water. This project adds to the many manufacturers across the state making parts for wind and other renewable energy sectors. Our state energy policies should encourage these types of projects, and clear the way for those like them in the future.

I applaud forward-looking leaders in the Legislature including State Reps. Rob VerHeulen, R-Walker, and Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, for providing bold leadership and the conservative vision to support increasing Michigan’s commitment to renewable energy and energy efficiency without increasing the burden on ratepayers. These bills give careful consideration to protecting consumers from greater costs. Gov. Rick Snyder is also to be applauded for his leadership in this area.

I look forward to working with the Legislature in the coming weeks ahead, and sharing the importance of leading on clean energy with conservatives and Christians across the state.

Keith den Hollander is the chairman of the Christian Coalition of Michigan.

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