Just over a month after an energy blackout left six million Michigan residents and 70 percent of the state’s manufacturing facilities in the dark, President Bush traveled to the Monroe power plant to gather support for his energy policy yesterday.
His ideas were met with mixed reactions on campus and in Congress.
During his speech, Bush cited the need to upgrade power plants – such as the one in Monroe, one of the nation’s largest coal-fired power plants – which would help in job creation.
“When we talk about environmental policy in this Bush administration, we not only talk about clean air, we talk about jobs,” Bush said during his 11th trip to Michigan since his election.
According to the National Audubon Society, several of the nation’s power plants pollute at levels that have gone unchecked by the Federal Clean Air Act of 1977.
Bush said his energy bill, which is currently under review in Congress, will facilitate upgrades of power plants and decrease the amount of pollutants emitted by plants like the one in Monroe.
The bill would impose emissions checks on nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide – which cause smog and soot – and calls for the first regulations on mercury discharges.
“It makes sense to change the regulations,” Bush said before a crowd of several hundred listeners. “The rules put up too many hurdles.”
Referring to Bush’s energy policy, leaders of the University of Michigan College Republicans said Bush is on track. “He’s looking to rewrite the rules for the right reasons,” said Steve MacGuidwin, external vice president of the College Republicans. “Pollution controls need to be enforced.”
MacGuidwin added that overhauling the nation’s electrical grid would provide ample stimulus to the job market in time for next year’s presidential election.
“Revamping the electrical network is definitely a huge step in the right direction,” he said.
“He’s been working in the right direction for a policy less dependent on foreign oil,” College Republicans Treasurer Danny Tietz said.
But U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Detroit), citing heavy losses in the state and national job market, said Bush has led the economy astray.
“One out of every six factory jobs has been lost in Michigan since this president took office,” Levin said in a written response to Bush’s speech. “We need to see some real action from this administration that helps to put the people of Michigan back to work and turns this economy around.”
Adding to criticism of Bush’s energy policy, some environmentalists said Bush’s strategy of pollution reduction falls short of seeking valuable sources of renewable energy.
“Bush likes to talk about how much (the energy bill) will reduce pollution, but it actually undercuts the Clean Air Act,” said Megan Owens, a spokeswoman for the Public Interest Research Group of Michigan, an environmental advocacy group. PIRGIM set up an inflatable power plant near the Monroe plant and picketed Bush’s visit with signs that said “Clean Air Now” and “Clean Air at Risk.”
– The Associated Press contributed to this report.