2012-10-18 / Local News

Lines drawn on Prop 3

By Alan Campbell of the Enterprise staff

The two candidates vying to represent Leelanau County in the state house have opposite views on Proposal 3.

The Constitutional amendment, if approved, would require the state of Michigan to rebuild much of its electrical infrastructure and ramp up the production of renewable energy — especially wind energy over the next 13 years.

State Rep. Ray Franz, a Republican, says he has nothing against renewable energy, and acknowledges that “clean” sources of electricity will likely become more important to the state as time goes on. But he believes requiring 25 percent of electricity used in the state to come from renewable sources by 2025 will greatly increase the price paid by consumers and businesses.

His opponent, Allen O’Shea, a Democrat, has spent his career in the wind energy business. O’Shea believes the 25 percent level for clean energy is achievable, and would help drive the state’s economy. He said the state is on track to meet a goal set in the Granholm administration to ramp up renewable energy sources to represent at least 10 percent of electrical usage in the state by 2015.

“That’s a big challenge,” O’Shea conceded of the requirements contained in Proposal 3, also known as “25 by 25.” “But what a lot of folks don’t realize is the 10 percent law is included in the 25 percent. So we are already 10 percent down the road toward the 25/25 (mandate).”

O’Shea said the amendment is needed to keep Michigan ahead of other states in its production of clean energy. Otherwise, he continued, Republicans now in office would never push to move the present energy infrastructure, which relies largely on coal-burning power plants, to a higher level of green energy use.

“I’ve been down there to that committee,” he said, referring to the state House’s Energy and Technology committee, “and that’s never going to happen — until I’m there.”

O’Shea said that the wording on the proposition is not perfect, but many of the details will be worked out as the use of green technologies grow and more technologies become available. Government grants and subsidies — which in Germany have upped the country’s percentage of green energy to more than 25 percent — will help America increase it’s use of clean energy, he said.

“It’s an incentive to encourage clean energy for an industry that’s in a new start-up base,” he said. “We do not require the coal companies or nuclear energy to pay for the back end.”

As to whether such a provision should be placed in the state Constitution — no other state has made clean energy levels constitutionally required — O’Shea said the “Republican majority” is to blame. In all, Michigan residents will decide the fate of five proposed Constitutional amendments and one referendum of a state law.

“I’m fine with it because they are using a legal vehicle to do this,” said O’Shea. “Normally you could sit down and talk to people and work out these things.”

O’Shea pointed out that the biggest opponents to Proposition 3 are Michigan’s major energy companies including Consumers Energy and DTE. “What’s their intent? Control,” he continued.

Franz said placing 25/25 requirements in the state Constitution would limit the types of energy sources the state can pursue in the future — even those that have yet to be invented.

“The biggest thing is it’s in the Constitution instead of a referendum of a law. Once it’s in the constitution, it would basically eliminate the use of an alternative that may come up for energy in a future,” he said.

Also, the cost of the proposal — Franz put the amount at about $12 billion, mostly for new windmills — will drive up the cost of electricity, and make Michigan less competitive for manufacturing, he said.

And he’s concerned about the rhetoric being used to convey Proposal 3 as a job producing benefit for Michigan.

“It’s a lie that it will create jobs,” said Franz. “There is no other way to put this. It is a lie. We have seen dozens of companies across the country that claim job productions that never occurred. From Solyndra in California to right here in Michigan, where these battery jobs that were promised never did exist.”

In Spain, he said, “for every green job created studies found it actually reduced employment by 2.2 jobs. That’s also the case in Germany, Denmark and many of the studies in the United States. That’s really going to devastate this state. (People) really don’t have a clue. They think those windmills are good until they have one in their back yard.”

Franz said the state will be able to hit the 10 percent level for renewable energy by 2015 only because the parameters allow hydroelectricity, which produces about one-half of the clean energy goal. “Future hydro is not available. I don’t see how we can possibly reach 25 percent by 2025 — especially if we start growing the economy.”

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