The Michigan Conservative Energy Forum spoke to the University’s chapter of College Republicans on Thursday about energy policy and its relationship with bipartisanship.
The event, held in the Michigan Union, focused on the activities of the MCEF, which was formed in 2013 in response to the impending expiration of a number of energy bills.
MCEF Program Director Katie O’Connell said the goal was to give conservatives a voice at a time when the discussion on energy policy was led by Democrats, and to remove stereotypes that Republicans don’t prioritize taking care of the environment.
In particular, she said a lack of education led to inefficient political and legislative efforts in energy policy, especially when it came to new technology developments.
“You get a lot of loud characters that just say whatever they think is true at the highest decibel possible,” O’Connell said. “One of the big things we run into are people who know the technology from 2005. Well, in the past 10 years, solar, wind, biomass and hydro have all take off because we’ve given them a great opportunity.”
The organization encourages the adoption of an “all of the above” approach to energy policy, aiming to diversify Michigan’s energy portfolio by including multiple sources of renewable energy.
O’Connell said the organization believes expanding renewable energy resources and increasing energy efficiency will result in improvements in several areas, including jobs and the economy, national security and health.
The College Republicans established a partnership with MCEF last year.
Information senior Madeline Jursek, chair of the College Republicans, said she plans to continue to foster this discussion and take part in sustainability and environmental groups across campus.
She added that she also hopes to collaborate with the University’s chapter of College Democrats on this issue.
“I think it’s really important, especially as young republicans, to show that we do care about the environment and are looking for clean energy opportunities and sources,” Jursek said. “I think it’s really strong that we show the community on campus that we can be Republicans and still care about the environment.”
LSA senior Gabriel Leaf, who serves on the MCEF Leadership Council, said misinformation and misunderstanding from both parties are the cause of many barriers in energy policy.
“Most hurdles come from people’s misunderstanding of what we’re doing, energy policy as a whole and conservative energy and how that can work towards more of a workable future for everyone,” Leaf said.
In addition, several members of the College Republicans noted they believe the public’s view of Republican energy policy is not representative of the majority’s sentiment.
LSA freshman Jake Roodvoets stressed the importance of the MCEF in promoting the issue, which he said was vital to the state and national economies.
“Most of the time, Republicans focus more on money or the military, tax cuts and less spending regulation, but there are more priorities we have to look at,” Roodvoets said. “I think it’s a good thing this group is looking at that and promoting a solution many people like myself can agree with.”
O’Connell said she thought young people in particular had an important voice on the issue, expressing the importance of younger citizens in instigating change in policy priorities.
“Young people are the powerhouse that makes things happen,” O’Connell said. “We need people who are passionate, and that starts at the grassroots level.”