Michigan Gas Gift | NRDC
The Michigan legislature is currently considering a massive giveaway to gas utilities, hidden in the state budget. This offer would allocate $ 250 million of taxpayer dollars to pay for the expansion of gas utility infrastructure, without specifying how many homes this would serve or benefit. While the proposal claims to be driven by improving energy reliability in the Upper Peninsula, it does nothing to implement the many suggestions that stakeholders in the region have explicitly requested through Governor Whitmer. Upper Peninsula Energy Working Group. Instead, this blank check would lock in another unsustainable fossil fuel source, imposing substantial health and climate risks (and potential cost risks) in the process.
Prioritize the The Upper Peninsula’s own recommendations
But not only would this proposal be costly for taxpayers, this is not a good policy. It does not address the very real concerns of energy reliability and affordability of the Upper Peninsula. Residents of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula face a dual energy challenge: some of the highest electricity rates in the country, combined with an uncertain future to meet home heating needs and other energy needs, like the transit from line 5 in the Great Lakes (and propane from the UP heat source) draws to a close. To help address these concerns, in 2019 Governor Whitmer asked the Upper Peninsula Energy Task Force to make recommendations to ensure the region’s energy needs are met from reliable, affordable and clean sources. . The working group considered the two ways to improve propane reliability and affordability in the event of a supply disruption, as well as longer term strategies to ensure a reliable, affordable and environmentally friendly energy supply. The working group presented a set of 30 recommendations in total, inspiring solutions such as energy storage, help with energy bills and consumer protection measures, energy efficiency and modernization of buildings, changes in the design of tariffs, renewable energy, coordination between energy suppliers, focus on energy and justice environment, and the commitment of local communities to inform policy and promote economic development. Nowhere in the process did the task force recommend that public funds be used for polluting gas infrastructure.
The money that is planned to be handed over to the gas industry could rather be used to meet those other critical needs. As an example, the funding could be used both to help provide high efficiency cold weather electric heat pumps for customers and to insulate homes to reduce overall energy use and ensure that new heat pump technology offers optimum performance and comfort. Assuming the program pays the full cost of a heat pump (estimated at $ 10,000 per home) for low-income households (as defined by the ALICE Criteria), covers half the cost for all other households and the cost of weatherizing houses (assumed to be $ 5,000 per house), the state would have the ability to modernize and electrify heating for 22,989 households (on the 27,500 propane-heated households in the Upper Peninsula) for less than the proposed cost of gas infrastructure expansion (approximately $ 217.5 million). There are many other factors to consider before going ahead with using public funds to renovate homes in this way, but it is a useful exercise to consider alternatives for these funds and how. they could be redirected to detach the future from the heating needs of the UP from health. – harm and pollute fossil fuels.
The disadvantages of gas
Instead of meeting the stated needs of the Upper Peninsula, the expansion of gas infrastructure in the Upper Peninsula imposes an unhealthy and unsustainable source of energy, which customers will struggle with for decades. The continued use of gas as an energy source has many drawbacks. The combustion of fuels, including gas, releases harmful pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter (PM2.5). PM2.5 pollution in particular can lead to a variety of negative health effects, including cardiovascular and respiratory disease, stroke, asthma and premature mortality. Therefore, a meta-analysis found that children living in homes with gas stoves are 42% more likely to have asthma symptoms. Recent research of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health finds that in Michigan, air pollution from burning fuels in buildings has resulted in around 841 premature deaths, and $ 9,419 billion in health spending in 2017 alone.
In addition to harming the health of our communities, the continued use of fossil fuels like gas promises to intensify the climate crisis. In order to avoid catastrophic climate change and the devastating human impacts that ensue, we must start phasing out fossil fuels in buildings in favor of efficient electrical appliances powered by clean energy. While it’s important to recognize that the transition to gas in a cold climate like Michigan, which relies heavily on fossil fuels for home heating, will take time, we need to start today. And we cannot meet our climate goals if we continue to develop and invest limited resources in gas infrastructure.
Part of a larger pattern
The gas expansion fund proposal exists within the framework of a wider tendency for the gas industry to fight to keep its customers as more and more communities begin to move away from this unhealthy fuel. Across the country, and particularly in the Midwest, the American Gas Association is support a multi-state campaign to prevent cities from adopt their own energy codes to meet residents’ health, energy and economic needs. These “gas pre-emption bills” prevent local jurisdictions from adopting energy codes that discourage the use of gas in buildings. They were introduced in twenty states so far this year, including Michigan. Several proposals already have was enacted in the Midwest – Iowa, Indiana, Missouri and Kansas – because the AGA uses this region as a testing ground to maintain its business interests at all costs.
Go beyond gas gifts
Ultimately, using taxpayer dollars to expand gas infrastructure ignores a range of alternatives for the Upper Peninsula, in favor of giving money to a “solution” with substantial health and environmental drawbacks that will last for decades to come. Other parts of the country that depend on delivered fuels such as propane and wood (i.e. San Joaquin Valley in California and, as an even more relevant example, northeastern United States with his equal frigid climate) are choosing to move beyond gas, moving directly from expensive fuels like propane and wood to cleaner, healthier electric alternatives. If Michigan passes this budget proposal, it loses the opportunity to do the same.
Instead of by engaging with the residents of the Upper Peninsula and working to meet their immediate needs, as well as taking into account the recommendations proposed by the Governor’s Task Force, this proposal locks in a dirty source of energy and unhealthy for decades to come, shifting taxpayer dollars into the pockets of the fossil fuel industry in the process. We urge Michigan policymakers to reject this proposal and instead seek better and healthier alternatives to fossil fuels (such as energy efficiency and electrification) that can meet the energy needs of the Upper Peninsula that are sustainable for people. decades to come.