senate students Michigan Green EconomyOn February 23, 2010 I was privileged enough to  be a part of a conference call that took place between students from college campuses around Michigan and the environmental liaisons from Senator Stabenow and Senator Levin’s office.  The conference call took place to discuss important environmental concerns from students all over Michigan, and what their policy makers are doing to move Michigan’s economy forward.  My environmental economics class was able to draft a series of questions for the senators offices and listen to the senators position’s on these issues.

By: Nicholas Varilone, The Green Economy Post

SENATOR STABENOW’S POSITION: CLIMATE AND ENERGY

Chris Adamo, Environmental Liaison to Senator Stabenow began the conference call with an overview of the senator’s position on climate and energy.  The senator believes that the passage of a climate bill will not only be an environmental bill, but an economic bill as well.  By promoting the usage of clean renewable energy technologies and further diversifying the energy supply, we are creating new markets, technologies and jobs all while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  However, without the proper government policies in place we run the risk of a reliance on foreign manufacturers of clean energy technologies such as wind turbines and solar panels.

The Senator’s office understands that the climate and energy debate is a relatively young issue.  Without the proper empirical evidence, it will be difficult to pass major legislation in this arena.  However, progress is being made.  The United State House of Representatives has passed the H.R. 2454: American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.  This bill proposes a cap and trade system, whereby the government sets a limit (cap) on the total amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted nationally. Companies then buy or sell permits to emit these gases.  Senator Stabenow has been closely involved in the climate issue.  The senator has organized stakeholder meetings to develop a statutory framework for sequestering carbon dioxide outside of the proposed cap and trade system.

SENATOR LEVIN’S POSITION: Climate and Energy

Alice Yates, Environmental Liaison to Senator Levin’s office shared with us the importance of climate action on a global scale.  Senator Levin held a similar position as Senator Stabenow on the climate issue.   Levin believes that the passage of a climate bill is not only necessary from an environmental standpoint, but it is important from an economic standpoint as well.  Clean energy jobs have grown by 9.1% nationally and 10.1% in Michigan, compared to a growth of 3.7% nationally in other sectors.

Alice was adamant about stressing the fact that Senator Levin believes in the science behind climate change.  She said that in order to move forward, the policy-makers must believe in the science.  The senator’s office is striving to structure legislation that will help reduce the problem, not just displace it.  This is a global problem and legislation designed to move greenhouse gas emissions from one place to another is not a viable solution.  Alice went on to say that in order to see growth in Michigan’s economy we must, “invest in assets that embrace new technologies thereby becoming a powerhouse for a new generation of industries.”

The next segment of the discussion focused on questions students in my environmental economics class developed as well as questions from students from colleges across Michigan.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FROM SENATOR LEVIN’S OFFICE

The first question for senator Levin’s office dealt with the underutilization of Michigan’s workforce and the Senator’s proposals to bring manufacturing jobs to Michigan.  Senator Levin believes that there are great opportunities for developing and manufacturing next generation fuel efficient vehicles in Michigan.  The problem Michigan has been facing is distributing loans and capital (especially to small businesses).  The Senator is working on streamlining these loans to small manufactures and is working hard to bring $2 billion to the state for the manufacture of advanced batteries to revolutionize the automobile industry.

The next question focused on which policy the Senator favors, Cap and Trade or Cap and Dividend legislation and why.  A cap and trade system would set a limit on the emission of greenhouse gases in the U.S. and emitters would have to buy and sell GHG permits to emit these gases.

Alternatively a cap and dividend system would put a cap on C02 emissions requiring emitters to purchase carbon permits and then redistribute the revenue from the permits, back to the people.  Senator Levin believes that a cap and dividend system may unfairly burden the economically depressed state of Michigan.  The cap and dividend system would raise utility costs and does not address regional disparities.  Before this bill can be passed the bill needs a different allocation scheme to address regional disparities, making sure costs are fairly allocated.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FROM SENATOR STABENOW’S OFFICE

Our first question for Senator Stabenow’s office dealt with whether or not the senator would support EPA regulation of carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act in response to a failure in the passage of cap and trade legislation. The Senator does not support EPA regulation under the Clean Air Act.  The CAA does not have a very wide ranging authority when it comes to regulating different emission standards, and because of this it leaves to much room for lawsuits.   The costs are simply too high in allowing the EPA to regulate C02.

The next question for Senator Stabenow’s office dealt with the motions that are being put into place to keep businesses in the U.S. in the face of environmental restrictions that will increase energy and production costs.

Senator Stabenow is committed to keeping jobs in the U.S. through a series of tax incentives.  The most important direction the senator is moving in is developing tax incentives for businesses that practice clean energy policies.  The 48C: Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit is one example of the direction the senator is moving in.  This tax credit is designed to award $2.3 billion in tax credits for qualified investments in advanced energy projects.   This would generate a tax credit of up to 30% for manufactures in this industry.

CONCLUSION

I believe that this conference call has been one of the most beneficial, interesting, and rewarding experiences of my career as a student at MSU.  I express my sincere gratitude to Dr. Robert  Richardson, professor of environmental economics at Michigan State University, for organizing this conference call.  The fact that teachers like Dr. Richardson go above and beyond the traditional call of duty and engage students in real world discussions with decision makers;  is the reason why students (like myself) flock to MSU by the thousands in pursuit of a premier institute for higher learning.  I have gained more practical knowledge from this experience in one afternoon than I would have from an entire semester reading a textbook.

While I do not agree with everything the Environmental Liaisons to Senators’ Levin and Stabenow have presented, I do believe they are making a determined effort to understand and develop effective climate and energy legislation.  This legislation will be the cornerstone of the direction our country needs to move in the 21st century.  Hopefully as a result of this conference call more senators, policy makers, and concerned students alike will move to become more active in climate and energy legislation.  I sincerely appreciate the time and effort Chris Adamo and Alice Yates put into this discussion and hope to further communication between concerned citizens and policy-makers in the future.

Photo link: http://www.senate.mi.gov/dem/Photos/08/01-RBSmokeFree091608blog.jpg


© 2010, Nicholas Varilone. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Nicholas Varilone (6 Articles)

I am a graduate of Michigan State University with a Bachelor's of Arts in Economics. I am currently pursuing a specialization in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics and will be applying to the graduate program in Environmental Economics at Michigan State University. I am an avid outdoorsman and conservationist. I am mostly interested in studying the impact we are having on global climate change. I have extensive knowledge in cost benefit analysis of government environmental programs. I am a member of MSU's student sustainability organization as well as the MSU chapter of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. Email: nicholas.varilone@gmail.com. On Facebook.

  • Jerry Toman

    Nicholas,

    Michigan happens to be one of the areas in North America that is richest in renewable energy resources. Specifically, I am referring to Convective Available Potential Energy (CAPE), which is the energy source that powers thunderstorms ( see http://tornadochaser.net/capeclass.html ), and the energy content of the warm surface waters of the Great Lakes, which can not only be harvested directly but also be stored for use in winter in underground aquifers, plentiful in the State.

    A device to harvest this energy has been invented by a neighbor of yours, Louis M. Michaud, P.Eng. (aka The Wizard of On) living across the border in Sarnia, Ontario. Contact him through http://vortexengine.ca where you can also find a link to his latest articles published in POWER Magazine, and Energy Manager of India. There you can also find a presentation given by him at Wayne State University a few years ago.