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Say What? Michigan needs coal to build its clean energy future?

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If you owned a wind or solar power production plant and were looking to expand would you be okay if it that expansion was fueled by coal?

There's outrageous headlines everyday, but as a news junkie you become immune, at least for the most part. The headline today at the Michigan's Bay City Times reads: Michigan needs coal to build its clean energy future.

Wow. I need to clear my head to figure out the logic behind this one.

The Bay City Times editorial claims there is major interest in creating a solar and wind technology hub in the State and that these new manufacturing plants will require a lot of electricity, so the answer lies in building a new coal plant to power the new solar and wind energy production plants. I'm still a little confused but I'm getting there.

They continue:

In the past year, we've seen several wind-energy projects rise in the Thumb, a lot of interest in growing a solar energy industry in the state and oodles of innovative energy ideas.

Okay.

All may become part of a new future for Michigan with an ultra-clean, renewable energy industry.

I'm with you.

Coal-fired power plants will be the bridge we can use to cross into the clean, renewable energy future.

Lost me again. There is something just too perverse in this logic. I get what they're saying, but surely there is another way to build an " ultra-clean, renewable energy industry," without powering it with the dirtiest fuel in the world. According to the American Lung Association, 24,000 people a year die prematurely because of pollution from coal-fired power plants. And every year 38,000 heart attacks, 12,000 hospital admissions and an additional 550,000 asthma attacks result from power plant pollution.

Coal production in the United States contributes 40 percent of U.S. CO2 emissions. Coal is the most carbon intensive fossil fuel. According to the United Nations Environment Program, coal emits around 1.7 times as much carbon per unit of energy when burned as does natural gas and 1.25 times as much as oil.

I could go on, but you get my point: coal is dirty, and any argument that starts with the proposition of an " ultra-clean, renewable energy industry," and ends with the expansion of coal-fired electricity production as the solution, leaves me feeling a little dirty.

This type of thinking is going to get us nowhere, there are other ways to expand electrical production without the use of coal. A couple that come to mind - just of the top of my head - are, well, solar and wind power. Another is energy efficiency, which is often overlooked as a solution. Use less power and re-direct those energy savings to the production of solar and wind power technology.

Forward thinking has the potential to rejuvenate Michigan's economy and with a little ingenuity they could attract major investors to the State, but no wind or solar company is going to endure the PR nightmare they would incur from powering an expansion of their production plants with coal.

Michigan, or at least the local editorial board at the Bay City Times, needs to think again.

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