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Gov. Snyder outlines state energy goals in annual address

By Katie Burke, Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 28, 2012

BATTLE CREEK — After nearly getting kicked in the face by Mitch McGary at Tuesday night’s men’s basketball game at Crisler Arena, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder kicked off his new energy and environment initiative here Wednesday morning.

Snyder spoke at Michigan State University’s W.K. Kellogg Biological Station to a small crowd of government, trade union and university officials. He outlined his long-term goals for energy efficiency and affordability along with environmental protection, urging repeatedly “we can do better.”

Snyder said one of the biggest problems the federal government faces today is not having extensive legislation for alternative energy.

“If you look at the federal government, this is true not just of the recent administration but for many years, we lack a comprehensive natural energy policy,” Snyder said.

He added he hopes to continue the practice of hydraulic fracturing — also known as fracking, a process used to extract petroleum or natural gas from the ground — as long as it is still done carefully.

“We have an asset, that I think we’re underutilizing on the energy front,” Snyder said. “And that’s our natural gas resources in this state.”

The fracking process involves injecting water, sand and chemicals into the ground to release natural gas deposits by breaking the rocks that contain them, according to a University press release. The state will be working with the University’s Graham Sustainability Institute to ensure the process is carried out in the safest and most effective way.

Snyder noted that he plans to connect the energy resources of Michigan’s peninsulas to help lower the excess transmission reported in the Upper Peninsula.

“None of us is an island, we’re two peninsulas, and we need to do it together,” Snyder said. “Let’s turn this dialogue into action.”

In an interview following the address, Snyder said he expects integration of the Upper Peninsula to take up to a decade.

He added that the failure of Proposal 3 — a ballot initiative that asked for energy companies to utilize renewable sources for 25 percent of their functionality by 2025, while maintaining upticks of consumer costs to less than 1 percent — to pass in the Nov. 6 election will allow for the state government to pass more comprehensive legislation.

“That’s the balancing act, it’s not time for me to pick some number or some percentage, it’s time to say that is a factor that we’ve learned from, that we should be gathering data to say when you put all these variables together, what’s a good outcome,” Snyder said.

Public Policy Prof. Barry Rabe said Snyder’s address lacked notable changes from the state's current energy policy.

“(Snyder) covered a wide range of areas, but I’m not sure that we really heard any major new additions or dramatic departures,” Rabe said.

Rabe said Snyder’s policy on fracking was vague and likely to spark some disapproval among Michigan residents.

“There really wasn’t a lot of specifics to (the fracking policy),” Rabe said. “So that would suggest he’s not necessarily looking at new legislation or themes or directions, though fracking has become increasingly controversial in the state.”

He added he felt Snyder did not put enough emphasis on the state’s reliance on coal and the question of renewable energy for the future.

LSA junior Chris Takahashi, the founder and president of Students for Clean Energy, said Snyder’s position on Proposal 3 and renewable wind energy was a big oversight.

“Proposal 3 would have been a huge boost for our economy and is well within reach for us to achieve,” Takahashi said.

Takashi said much of the policy Snyder outlined was “safe” and was not nuanced enough in establishing policy to innovate the state’s energy methods moving forward, adding that coal is a critical issues that the governor should put more focus on.

“Coal is imported into the state of Michigan, it’s costly, it’s terrible for public health and that’s something that, as a group, we’re advocating that we need to stop relying on coal at the University level and in the state of Michigan,” Takahashi said.