Clarey: Whitmer's green agenda is a raw deal for consumers

Brendan Clarey
The Detroit News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer revealed her plan last month to make Michigan carbon-neutral by 2050. It's fantastic what she and her administration think their version of the Green New Deal can accomplish for the state.

In the MI Healthy Climate Plan, Whitmer's Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy recommended a 30-year transition to a brave new world powered by clean energy and bigger government that's sure to make life harder for residents of the state.

The plan aims to mitigate severe weather, spur economic development, protect our natural resources and make Michigan energy independent and a leader in climate action by achieving carbon neutrality through policies that replace fossil fuels with renewable energy across the economy.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer revealed her plan last month to make Michigan carbon-neutral by 2050, Clarey writes.

There is no mention of what it would cost taxpayers or consumers. Perhaps that's because going all-in on renewable energy instead of planning on fossil fuels or nuclear will likely mean higher energy prices for future electricity consumers and taxpayers.

Michiganians are already bearing the costs of President Joe Biden’s war on conventional energy at the pump, with gas prices hitting record highs in March. Add on the effects of skyrocketing inflation, and it's easy to see why family budgets are growing smaller.

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And we can reasonably expect energy prices to increase with the implementation of Whitmer’s agenda as even moderate commitments to renewable energy are already raising consumers' electric bills

Michigan doesn't need to imagine how much more it will pay for renewable energy costs. Look at sunnier California, which generated almost a quarter of its energy from solar: Residents in that state paid 55% more for energy than the national average, and more than double what Oregon and Washington were charged. 

Whitmer’s administration seems aware that costs will go up. Provisions in her climate plan prevent low-income families from paying more that 6% of their annual income on energy and heat for their homes.

The logic is staggering: Let’s further subsidize highly subsidized energy costs which the government made more expensive in the first place by requiring reliance on energy that is less reliable.

Jason Hayes, director of environmental policy at the Mackinac Center, says that even without putting Whitmer’s plan into place, Michigan could see rolling brownouts later this summer because of power shortages caused by the state turning away from coal or thermal energy.

Hayes also notes that to power the state with renewable energy, it would take an incredible amount of land for both solar and wind-powered energy generation — think the entire Thumb of Michigan covered in wind turbines, or the Metro Detroit region covered in solar arrays.

Those are steep environmental costs. And for what?

It’s nearly impossible to prove Whitmer’s green raw deal would tangibly move Michigan toward a calmer climate immediately or in the future. Some have argued the total effects of the entire nation moving to carbon neutral would be negligible.

“Whitmer’s administration has several objectives that they list, and, if you walk through them, they fail on each one,” Hayes says. “They ignore all the other issues except CO2 emissions. The only way that they can achieve these objectives is by ignoring other environmental concerns.”

Hayes argues that the plan leaves out other primary pollutants which are much lower now than they were before the Clean Air Act in 1970.

Indeed, the combined emissions of the six common pollutants — particles, ozone, lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide — have dropped by 78% in the last 50 years, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

“This progress occurred while U.S. economic indicators remain strong,” the EPA adds.

That is progress. It also demonstrates we can get a cleaner environment without putting our economy at risk.

Whitmer instead seems bent on throwing caution to the wind and hoping voters don't look too closely. 

Brendan Clarey is the opinion editor at The Detroit News.

Twitter: @BrendanClarey