A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Proposal 3 on the Nov. 6 ballot, dubbed the “25 by 25' renewable energy standard, refers to a mandate that would force the state’s utilities to produce 25 percent of their electricity sold from “renewable” resources by 2025. These resources, as stated on the ballot, include wind power, solar power, biomass and hydropower.

A casual glance at this list suggests serious challenges. Water power is under-endowed in Michigan. Biomass evokes the primitivism of bygone England where dwellings required thatched roofs because the woodlands were being ravaged into fuel. Wind power founders because most of the time those giant windmills stand as still as statues. Solar power is victimized by the rotation of the earth.

So why are these inept alternatives being considered as serious energy sources to meet our modern-day needs?

The question arises as to why a “13-Year Plan?” Why not a slogan of “22 by 22”? Or “18 by 18”? Why not a favorite of central planners, a genuine 5-Year Plan of “17 by 17”? The alternatives fall flat; “25 by 25” has oomph. As the marketing masters understand, the dialect of the dialectic demands punchy catchphrases.

But back in reality, inefficiency’s effects can be seriously damaging. The term “renewable” in relation to energy is blending into a synonym for “erratic” and “unreliable.” The wind lobby boasts about the astounding number of megawatts its contraptions generate. Yet when the wind is not blowing, the megawattage fizzles down to defunct. What are we supposed to do when a bastion of our energy production irresponsibly bails out? Obviously it has to have reliable backup. That is, a reliable energy system must be permanently in place and instantly on call to handle peak loads. Proposal 3 is asking permission to pay for a frill.

The enshrinement of energy inefficiency may have worse consequences than punitive redundant costs. Under green doctrine the searing heat of summer 2012 will be regularly repeated. Windmills during hot spells are typically afflicted with total paralysis. Without adequate peak-load provisions, air conditioning will be cut back or cut off. Last summer, those without air conditioning were advised to take advantage of cooling centers. What if there aren’t any?

History has taught us that centralized economic planning leads to unplanned consequences. Proposal 3 points backward toward malfeasance and human suffering. Passage will eventually trigger a torrent of blame-shifting, a contest over who’s at fault.

      Answer: The voters.    

St. Lawrence University economist Steven Horwitz discusses how the minimum wage was used to block immigrants from taking scarce jobs during the depression era. See more at "Raising the Minimum Wage, Lowering Opportunity."


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