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Plugged In: With Prop. 3, Who Really CARES for Michigan?Print

Clean Energy | October 23, 2012 | By Jim Dulzo

We made a big boo-boo while vacationing recently—we watched the news on the only TV station we get at our cabin, and were mugged by this commercial against Proposal 3, a/k/a the “Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs” proposal. 

Have you seen this thing? There’s a spinning wind turbine, a doomy voice, and a meter rocketing from zero to $12 billion in 30 seconds flat—all to scare anyone who uses electricity.

Turns out it was paid for by a group called CAREforMichigan. What does CARE stand for? Why, Clean Affordable Renewable Energy, of course.

As Amy Poehler often said on Saturday Night Live, “Really?!?”

Amy and I agree: CARE must actually stand for Companies Against Renewable Energy.

Why else would their spot so totally trash an iconic machine that makes…um, well…Clean, Affordable, Renewable Energy?

Here’s why: The main companies behind the spot are DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, who are quite happy to tuck reminders into their customers’ bills about all the good things they are doing with renewables, including wind power, in Michigan: good jobs, avoided emissions, money for farmers and local communities. But they avoid mentioning that one reason they’re into renewables is because of a law passed in 2008, requiring 10 percent renewables from them by 2015—something they are clearly on course to do.

But here they are, spending nearly six million of their customers’ dollars to tell us that renewables are, well, kinda bad.

These guys think they can get away with stuff like this because they’ve been big, utterly powerful monopolies ever since the day they were born…and are selling something we can’t do without. Given human nature, that can lead to a my-way-or-the-highway attitude.

I know: They contend with a public service commission that makes sure they play fair on electric rates.

But that doesn’t stop them from saying anything they like in public; it’s not like we can take our business elsewhere. We can complain in writing to them about their misleading ad, and maybe get a nice note back, but we still have to send them our money every month.

So, here’s where we are: DTE and Consumers annually spend millions lobbying state lawmakers and financing their campaigns. Back in 2008, they used that massive, clout and alarming cost claims to make sure the Legislature made our renewables mandate among the weakest in the Midwest.

A few years go by, their “high cost of renewables” claims turn out to be wrong (Consumers cuts its renewables surcharge from $2.50 to $.52, for example), but lawmakers still refuse to revisit and up the mandate to pull even with our most ambitious Midwestern neighbors.

So, this summer, a half-million people flex their democracy muscles and sign petitions saying they would like to vote on that without lobbyists getting in the way.

The response from the Companies Against Renewable Energy? Why, form a misnamed front group and spend millions on a misleading TV ad.

Polls show Michiganders think that reaching 25 percent renewables by 2025 is a good idea, but scary spots are taking their toll.

Hopefully, most ‘ganders are smart cookies: Once they see Prop. 3’s goal is already business as usual in quite a few states, and is five points less and 13 years later than the goal Wyandotte Municipal Services will likely accomplish this year—30 percent by 2012—they will ignore the scare tactics and support it.

If you want the facts and figures on cost and all the rest, the Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs Web site does a tip-top job demonstrating just how hollow CARE’s objections to Prop. 3 are. Hopefully you’ll read the darn thing and apply common sense.

We’ve just posted a news article (not a highly opinionated blog like this!) by yours truly that looks at what’s happening in three states already doing their own 25 x 25 (or stronger) thing—and having a fine time, thanks to smart ballots or foresighted lawmakers.

Meanwhile, it’s time to strike up the band for Prop. 3!

First, please sign MLUI’s online petition so people know you get that renewables make the most economic and environmental sense, and that Michigan would be a fool to miss out on this global phenomenon.

Next, when you see CARE’s bogus ad, don’t curse your TV; given the Lions this season, your tube is already destined for abuse. Instead, how about a letter to your local paper about all that stuff Companies Against Renewable Energy are puttin’ down?

Then, forward this link to pals who are worried about cost (Did you know Prop. 3 caps renewables-driven rate increases at 1 percent annually? The utilities don’t ever bring that up.)

And forward it to friends who have issues with the Michigan Constitution’s ability to survive voter amendments. (It has survived 33 of ‘em since it was rewritten in 1963.)

Finally—avoid your TV until Nov. 7; get up off your couch; and get involved, dear friends! Democracy is not a spectator sport, although Companies Against Renewable Energy probably want you to think so, and might just be counting on you to act like it.

Jim Dulzo is the Michigan Land Use Institute’s senior energy policy specialist. Send your delighted affirmations and dark denunciations directly to him at jimdulzo@mlui.org.