To the editor:
Although I am an ardent environmentalist, I plan to vote against Michigan's Proposal 3, which calls for amending our constitution to require 25 percent of the state's energy to come from "renewable" sources. "Renewable" refers to solar, wind, hydropower, and biomass (plants and animals).
It's difficult to tell at this point which technology will be emphasized; however, in 2011, Michigan Renewable Energy System Vintage Credits were distributed as follows: one percent solar, 10 percent wind, 12 percent hydro and 39 percent from biomass. This emphasis on biomass is what worries me. Here's why:
Ostensibly, one of the main reasons for this proposal is to reduce carbon emissions. However, wood, our most commonly burned biomass, produces more emissions than fossil fuels. And biomass is not really renewable in our lifetime (saplings are not old growth; corn uses more petroleum in fertilizer than it saves in fuel and repeated plantings deplete soil nutrients, etc.).
If we harvest fields and forests for fuel, we destroy oxygen-producing plants that, kept alive, counter climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the air. If we burn trees, we not only lose their air-cleaning capacity and pollute air with their carbon, we also destroy the homes of resident animals.
This proposal would change our constitution, which is almost impossible to change back. However, if we wait, investigate, and become knowledgeable about where exactly our power comes from, we can decide to pass a similar proposal later.
Finally, this well-intentioned effort seems to benefit industry more than the planet (the 25 X 25 advisory council seems to be populated mostly by timber companies and agri-business). Worst of all, it discourages conversations about what should be our main strategy: how to reduce our use.