Wednesday, July 02, 2008

"Why is the GOP-led Michigan Senate so out-of-step?"

My answer - I hold that they are petulant, arrogant, egotistical people driven by a party ideology that says if they can't get their way on every single issue, then they damn sure will mess everything up for everybody else. They don't care about Michigan jobs, consumers, or the environment; all they care about is clinging to this stubborn notion that they are always right and they should never, ever, appear as if they are compromising or listening to reason, because obstructing Democrats in the name of allegiance to the Republican Party always comes before the good of the state and its citizens.

How did I do?

Fortunately, Martin Kushler at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy is more mature than I am, and he has a few specific things to say about the Senate's actions on the efficiency portion of the energy legislation the Senate Republicans screwed up last Friday. First of all, he noticed the stealth aspect-

At a time when the prices of all types of energy are soaring, and Michigan citizens are desperate for solutions to help them reduce their energy costs, the Michigan Senate astonishingly voted, on a virtual straight party-line GOP vote, to deprive Michigan citizens of much needed utility energy efficiency programs.

It is significant that this vote, to pass a weak and deceptive substitute bill, was snuck through late on a Friday night.

Yes. It is your first clue that something is dreadfully wrong. The House had held open meetings for months, the Senate Republicans met in secret and told no one of their plans. Interesting that Republicans call for more transparency in government, but have to make their legislation behind closed doors. Why is that?

The House plan is based on the expertise of professionals in the field, was argued over in the light of day by folks on both sides of the issue, and is projected to save Michigan consumers money in the long run.

The House legislation was patterned closely after the Michigan 21st Century Energy Plan produced by the Michigan Public Service Commission in 2007. It showed that requiring energy efficiency programs would avoid the need for two large power plants and save Michigan ratepayers more than $3 billion. That's because energy efficiency programs have already been proven to save electricity for about one-third the cost of building, fueling and operating a new power plant.

And for proof that this is simply partisan games on the part of the Senate? Not only did it pass our House with strong bipartisan support, 81-18, Republicans in other states have had no problem with efficiency legislation, and most go farther than this bill does.

The action to kill the energy efficiency requirements by the Republicans in the Senate is all the more astonishing, because support for energy efficiency in other states has been extremely bipartisan. In just the last two years, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Ohio have all passed legislation to require utility energy efficiency programs that are even stronger than those the Michigan House approved. In every one of those cases, the legislative votes have been overwhelmingly bipartisan to near unanimous.

So, it really does come down to obstruction in the Senate after all.

In 2006, Michigan ranked 33rd in efficiency programs. We probably have slid further down the list as more states have passed stronger energy policy/renewable portfolio standards in the past few years. This goes back to the House now - let's hope they hold strong and put those measures back in.

If not, be prepared to pull out your wallet pay a whole lot more for your energy use in the future. And when you do, be sure and remember how the Republicans were more concerned about pleasing the extremists in their party than they were with saving you money, creating jobs, and keeping pace with the rest of the nation.