For Mich. right wingers, more green energy makes sense

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

It's hard to think of Right to Life as the progressive branch of the conservative movement. But that's how Ed Rivet, legislative director of an organization that has been the very definition of right wing, describes the anti-abortion group's position on green energy.

"This is the one area where conservatives are progressive," says Rivet, of a joint effort by some of the state's staunchest conservatives to lobby for strong renewable energy policies in the state's new energy law.

What they want is a commitment to continue moving power production to green sources such as wind and solar at the rate of 1 to 1.5 percent a year; encouragement of micro-grids that allow individuals to produce their own electricity through solar panels and windmills without plugging into the mainstream power system, and a reduction in reliance on out-of-state fuel sources, namely coal.

"We buy more than 60 percent of the materials used to produce energy from outside Michigan," says Keith den Hollander, chairman of the Christian Coalition of Michigan, a member of the Michigan Conservative Energy Forum.

The group draws its mission statement from President Ronald Reagan, who in 1984 said, "What is a conservative after all but one who conserves ... ."

Or as den Hollander puts it, "We are charged with being good stewards of the earth."

If all that sounds a lot like the Sierra Club or the Natural Resources Defense Council, it's because their platforms are quite similar.

They, too, take the position that measures requiring the use of cleaner energy sources actually create jobs, contrary to the standard conservative line that such mandates kill jobs.

But den Hollander is quick to clarify that the forum is not as fanatical as some of the traditional environmental groups.

"We are careful to worship the Creator, and not the creation," he says.

So they are open, as executive director Larry Ward says, to a complete portfolio energy approach, including nuclear and natural gas. But they aren't so crazy about coal.

"Again, we don't have coal mines in Michigan," says Ward. "So we are shipping our energy dollars and jobs out of state."

Michigan lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder are working on a comprehensive energy policy to replace the expiring 2008 law. Snyder wants a greener bill that includes provisions to continue developing renewables and to make the state more energy efficient.

Legislative leaders want the market, not mandates, to dictate the growth of renewables, and are seeking to re-regulate electricity production to end the limited competition now in place.

The conservative energy forum stands much closer to the governor than it does to the pro-business legislators on this issue.

It is an odd shuffling of alliances. If the players weren't so clearly defined, I'd suspect a wolf in sheep's clothing.

But these are real deal, buttoned down conservatives mouthing the talking points of the granola greenies. Every time you think you've got Michigan politics sorted out, something like this comes along to scramble it all up again.


Follow Nolan Finley at, on Twitter at @nolanfinleydn, on Facebook at nolanfinleydetnews and watch him at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays on "MiWeek" on Channel 56.