I’m a 20-year-old student at the University of Michigan who suffers from asthma. I’m one of more than 800,000 people in the state with this disease. Michigan also happens to be one of the most coal-dependent states in our nation — 60 percent of our electricity is generated from coal-fired power plants that fuel global warming, pollute our air with soot and smog and poison our water supply with mercury. Recent studies have shown that pollution due to coal is a leading source of asthma attacks. Clearly, it’s not a coincidence that Michigan has such a high number of asthma patients.

If we care at all about the public health of our state, we will end our addiction to this dirty source of energy. Proposal 3 does just that by requiring utility companies to get 25 percent of Michigan’s electricity from renewable sources, like wind and solar, by 2025. The Michigan Nurses Association even endorsed Proposal 3, calling it “the most important public health initiative in decades.”

The reality is DTE and Consumer’s Energy have pooled more than $5 million to make sure that we stay reliant on dirty, polluting sources of energy, airing television advertisements against the ballot initiative. Overcoming the influence of our coal-burning utilities is not going to be easy.

By this point, I’m sure you’ve seen their misleading TV advertisements and mailings, stating that Proposal 3 will cost consumers millions. For those skeptical about who will be paying for all of these changes, rest assured, it won’t be us. There’s actually a clause in the proposal to protect consumers that caps an increase in electrical bills to 1 percent. A 1-percent increase is estimated to cost $1.25 per month, only about one-fifth of the cost of a “late night special” at Pizza House.

Furthermore, we can expect decreases in our electricity bills within the next five years. This has been proven in the 31 other states already reaping the benefits of similar proposals. I understand that some of us are fortunate enough to not have to worry about our own electricity bills at this point in time, but within the next four years it’s something that will affect all of us.

As a Program in the Environment concentrator at the University, I am obviously excited to see Michigan detox from years of coal pollution. Knowing that my energy bills will be decreasing at the same time is simply an added bonus.

Whether you are a flaming liberal, extremely conservative or anywhere in between, this proposal is something we can all agree on. The truth is that renewable energy is no longer the future. It is the present and we cannot be left behind.

As college students, it’s critical that we make it to the polls. But we can’t just vote for our elected officials. We must also turn over the ballot and vote on nonpartisan issues like Proposal 3. I urge you to vote “Yes” on Proposal 3 because not only will it clean our air and water, but it will also save lives.

Ben Lerner is an LSA junior.

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