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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Wind versus natural gas

Environmental group and governor on different pages on energy

by Sam Inglot
(From left) Virginia Shannon of Environment Michigan with Damon Glei, farm manager of Glei\'s Orchards and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero. On the right are the wind turbines that will be installed on several Lansing rooftops. Sam Inglot/City Pulse

Wednesday, Nov. 28 — In a special message on energy and the environment today, Gov. Rick Snyder hyped up natural gas as a mainstay for Michigan’s future energy needs. It was a different vision than of those in front of the Capitol this morning who touted wind energy as the saving grace of the state’s energy portfolio. 


In a prepared speech, Snyder mentioned wind energy one time — and it happened to be in the same sentence as natural gas.


Snyder’s special message on energy came on the same day Environment Michigan, a statewide environmental advocacy group, released a report titled, “Wind Power for a Cleaner America: Reducing Global Warming Pollution, Cutting Air Pollution and Saving Water.”


The report was discussed at a press conference in front of the Capitol Building this morning. It outlined how wind power is a growing source of energy around the country and how it is a better alternative than burning fossil fuels. The report concludes, “Power plants produce 40 percent of America’s energy-related global warming pollution,” while the renewable energy of wind turbines reduce the country’s global warming pollution by 68 million metric tons a year, which is equivalent to the emissions of 13 million cars.


The report also compares the burning of coal and natural gas. While burning coal releases more carbon dioxide, a pollutant that contributes to climate change, natural gas also contributes to the problem through the release of methane gas.


During his speech at the Michigan State University Kellogg Biological Station about an hour southwest of Lansing, Snyder said natural gas extraction — hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in particular — has always been a safe process in Michigan.


He didn’t go into detail about how it affects climate change, but he did briefly mention climate change and how it’s affecting the state’s Great Lakes.


“People may not agree about why climate change is happening, but it is certainly affecting Michigan,” Snyder said. “Historically low — maybe all-time low — water levels in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, last year’s drought and limited winter ice cover, and overall changing weather patterns across the country have stressed our lakes and groundwater.”


The wind power report related low water levels with the burning of coal: “More water is withdrawn from U.S. lakes, rivers, streams and aquifers for the purpose of cooling power plants than for any other purpose.” If water is in shorter supply, then turning to wind energy is a good option because it uses no water, the report said.


While Snyder didn’t address the potential of wind energy, which is a controversial energy source particularly on the west side of the state, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero did today at the Capitol.


“This is the place to talk about wind,” Bernero said. “In the shadow of the Capitol.” (He was referring to the area in front of the Capitol that often feels like a wind tunnel.)


Bernero went on to say that small wind turbines will be installed on the rooftops of City Hall, the Lansing Center and the Board of Water and Light Cogeneration plant in Reo Town before the end of the year.


Bernero said the manufacturing “prowess” of Michigan and Lansing should be harnessed to produce more green energy technology. He said it was “vital” to turn “wind power” into “economic power.” He announced Monday night that an Italian “green energy” manufacturer plans a $9 million investment, bringing 80 new jobs, to Lansing. See here for more on that.


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