By Sen. Rick Outman
33rd Senate District
For nearly a decade, Republican leadership in Lansing prioritized fiscal responsibility and a strong state economy. In the first few months of the new legislative session, the new Democratic majorities have reverted back to the old playbook used by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
Since the beginning of this new term, we have seen job-killing regulations pushed through the Legislature, mandates that put taxpayers on the hook for inflated government projects, and a glaring, widespread effort to stop a tax cut for state taxpayers.
However, among the most concerning misguided policies is a new legislative effort to overhaul the state’s energy infrastructure.
In late April, Democratic state lawmakers declared their intent to restructure the state’s power infrastructure and mandate the state adapt to a clean energy standard.
We are all feeling the weight of the ever-increasing utility rates. Rates continue to go up while the service fails to keep up with the increases. In fact, Michigan pays some of the highest rates in the region.
Trying to overhaul the entire power grid will cause costs to skyrocket even more for families who are already having their pockets pinched to death by government and the state’s utility companies.
Utility companies facing pressure from the government oftentimes translates to costs being pushed onto the shoulders of paying customers. People’s bills are already too high, and the state already subsidizes a number of programs to help people with the increasingly growing rates.
At some point, we need to revisit the feasibility of the energy policies we choose to pursue.
Clean energy and reducing emissions are noble causes. However, these goals are not something that can be rushed.
Bills proposed by Democrats include requiring the premature phaseout of coal-fired generation plants, the ability to rent existing farmland for solar farms, reconsidering nuclear energy, and restructuring transportation fuel blends, among other things.
Ultimately, the issue is the feasibility of these advancements.
Michigan’s coal-fired plants run much cleaner than most others and if we close them now, we’ll never get a return of investment on the money we have already poured into them. Closing them now would simply be throwing money down the drain.
At this time, there are simply more questions than answers surrounding the reliability of some of these clean energy proposals. Wind and solar require massive upfront investments and despite their misleading marketing, are not “free” sources of energy.
The other hidden detail behind renewable energy is, at least as of now, is traditional plants must remain online because the sun isn’t always out, and the wind isn’t always blowing.
The reliability percentage of solar hovers somewhere around the high teens to low 20s and wind rates somewhere around 30-40%. That’s not a number that’s worth investing our future on. We’re simply not there with wind or solar yet, and people know this.
Worse yet, we’re seeing solar farms popping up across the state and it’s taking crucial farmland out of use, which then overbears the remaining farmland as farmers face pressure to try and maximize production. We can’t get more land and the global population is ever-increasing — packing limited acres of farmland with solar panels when other generation sources are available is a mistake.
If you think food costs are high now, watch what happens when we continue taking chunks of farmland out of production. We fought urban sprawl in the 1970s and 1980s — solar farms overtaking Michigan farmland is the new urban sprawl 2.0.
I’ve served on the energy committees in both the House and Senate and have been involved in this issue for most of my time in the Legislature. These proposals are overly burdensome and are going to send Michigan’s already high utility rates through the roof.
New requirements for gas blends, energy generation, and taking farmland out of the food supply chain will drive up costs across the board — especially on monthly bills and at the pump and grocery store.
These are three areas where costs are hurting families the most, and the Democratic majority is seeking to make them climb even higher with more government mandates.
Sen. Rick Outman, R-Six Lakes, represents the 33rd state Senate District, which includes all of Montcalm and Newaygo counties, along with parts of Ionia, Kent, Lake, Muskegon and Ottawa counties.
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