Civility in Our Energy Debates

I had the occasion to hear Eric Baker, CEO of Wolverine Power, speak recently about the company’s plans to build a coal-fired power plant in Rogers City, on the Lake Huron shore. Given the debate over global warming today, it’s no surprise that the plant is controversial–adamantly opposed by most in the environmental community because of its CO2 emissions; supported by people in the power industry who feel Michigan will need the plain reliability that coal brings to the state’s electrical grid while we transition to greener power. He said Michigan has the second-oldest power plant fleet in the nation.

When Mr. Baker opened his talk, he said, “Before I get started, I want you to take a good look at me. I’m a fat cat. I’m in bed with big coal.” The point that the trim and affable Mr. Baker was trying to make? As the debate over the coal plant has intensified, some people who are opposed to the plant have fallen back on these sorts of cliches to help sway the debate.

That kind of schoolyard name calling is an unfortunate part of the environmental dialog, and really, the dialog is too important to take down this path. When it comes to our energy future, we have many difficult decisions in front of us, as a nation, certainly, but as a state especially.

Like the old saying goes, good people can disagree. Good people are certainly going to disagree over the path we take with energy in the coming decades, but let’s try to keep the discourse civil and let decisions be based on clear thinking and reasoned debate, not caricatures of the issues and the people involved.

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