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Consumers Energy leads energy optimization in Michigan businesses and homes

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Michigan Saves makes going green easy and affordable

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Valerie Brader: Working to ensure Michigan's energy and environmental future

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Hydraulic fracturing in Michigan lowers fuel costs and could create jobs, decreasing dependence on foreign energy

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MSU's Land Policy Institute hosts renewable energy event: Michigan residents want renewable energy

"For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered.  For decades, we’ve talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels.  And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires.  Time and again, the path forward has been blocked -- not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor."  Pres. Barack Obama, June 15, 2010

With those words, President Obama became only the latest in the line of American Presidents since President Kennedy, each of whom, both Republicans and Democrats, warned us that our dependence on petroleum puts our nation at risk - financially, environmentally and from the standpoint of national security.  For the most part, each of these warning has been met with lukewarm initiatives followed by neglect, that is, until the next jump in oil prices or environmental disaster.  We've all seen this movie before - and we think we know how it's going to end.

Just a few hours before the President's speech to the Nation from the Oval Office last night about the Gulf oil spill,  I attended the Michigan State University's Land Policy Institute event at the Anderson House Office Building in Lansing - "Renewable Energy 2.0."  Speakers at this event included Representative Gabe Leland, Representative Lee Gonzalez, Jennifer Alvarado of the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association, and the Land Policy Institute's Renewable Energy Policy Manager, Charles McKeown.  Their message was one of hope and promise - the hope that Michigan can gets its ducks in a row and the promise that Michigan can be a prime mover in the coming era of renewable energy.

Representative Gonzalez spoke of the numerous bills currently sitting in the Michigan legislature that would move Michigan closer to utilizing renewable energy, including one which would create a feed-in tariff, which is driving economic development in Ontario.  Jennifer Alvarado described that industries that create the technology necessary to harvest and store energy from renewable sources manufacture this technology in markets that actually use the technology.  In short, if Michigan does not make its State conducive to the generation and use of renewable energy, manufacturers will set up shop in more welcoming locales.  Finally, Charles McKeown indicated that the people of the State of Michigan are ready and eager for renewable energy to be developed in their state.

In March 2009, the Land Policy Institute conducted a survey of Michigan residents to determine how important they believed renewable energy was to the State's economic recovery (download it here).  The full study is well worth reading, but the main point of its conclusions is that a full 76 percent of Michigan residents believe that renewable energy is "very important" to the State's economic recovery, with an addition 19 percent believing that renewable energy was "somewhate important."  The math is not difficult to do to see that fully 95 percent of Michigan residents believe renewable energy is important to this State's economic future.

In Michigan, we import virtually all of the resources needed to generate energy.  Because we import so much of our energy needs, 70 cents of every energy dollar spent on Michigan goes out of state.  While Governor Granholm has been somewhat successful in getting alternative energy companies, especially battery manufacturers, to move into the State to set up shop, we risk losing out to states and countries that more aggressively seek to attract such businesses.  Yet, these businesses represent the future of manufacturing and energy production.  The citizens of the State recognize the importance of renewable energy and its supporting technology to Michigan's economic future. It's about time our representatives in Lansing and nationally take heed of what their constituencies already know.

UPDATE: A national poll supports the Land Policy Institute's findings.  According to a June 14, 2010 poll by Pew Research Center for the People and the Press:

"Fully 87% favor including a provision in comprehensive energy legislation to require utilities to produce more energy from wind, solar or other renewable sources. More than three-quarters (78%) favor tougher efficiency standards for building and major appliances.

"By greater than two-to-one (66% to 29%), the public supports including limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions in comprehensive energy legislation. Yet about as many (68%) favor expanded exploration and development of coal, oil and gas in the United States."

The author, Saulius Mikalonis, is an environmental attorney with over 25 years of experience in the Bloomfield Hills offices of Plunkett Cooney.  He is also the author of The Green Blawg, in which he writes about environmental law issues for the non-lawyer.  In addition to practicing law, Mr. Mikalonis is an adjunct professor at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Auburn Hills Campus, at which he teaches a course entitled "Sustainable Development Law & Policy" and a Board Member of the Detroit Regional Chapter of the United States Green Building Council (USGBC).


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