MI AG Cox Exclaims Energy Innovation

State Attorney General Mike Cox didn't directly oppose a new law requiring a shift to renewable energy when he issued a press statement last week saying energy innovation could cost Michigan more than $1 billion per year.

But he used an exclamation point to hype a written argument that strong government mandates will cost too much money and kill jobs. That, by definition, indicates Mr. Cox holds an intensely emotional opinion on the matter. And he didn't exactly urge quick action to raise wind turbines.

"Michigan would need 50 wind parks to meet the mandate for 10 percent of Michigan's energy to come from a [renewables]," Mr. Cox said. "But each wind park creates no more than 10 permanent jobs. At a cost of $1 billion per year, per wind park, that translates to $2 million per job!"

The AG also "warned" - instead of "added" - that "given these rate hikes and cost shifts, even if new jobs were to be created by renewable energy, the higher costs could force many businesses to close or relocate out of state. Michigan's economy is likely to be even worse off if this radical proposal passes the Legislature."

There's no denying that Michigan's transition to cleaner and more responsible forms of fuel will require an up front investment. And Mr. Cox, who is rumored to be considering a run for governor in 2010, is accurate to suggest that current renewable energy legislation seems to bend towards stregthening the monopoly enjoyed by the traditional utility companies rather than promoting competition and entrepreneurialism.

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm isn't telling the whole story when she says, as she did in her 2008 State of the State Address, that major companies like DTE and Consumers are prepared to invest $6 billion in energy innovation if the state enacts a modern energy agenda.

The reality is that that $6 billion would come from fee hikes on consumers, primarily residential meters, not necessarily the records profits the utilities are banking.

But it costs plenty of money to build coal-fired power plants and nuclear generators, too. The price of those and other traditional fuels is only rising. And it costs even more to clean up the economic, political, and environmental mess they leave behind.

The long term costs of wind gusts and sun shine, on the other hand, is guaranteed to remain constant: free.

So AG Cox's comments, which were covered by Crain's Detroit, serve as something of a reality check on the state's high flying renewable energy debate. But they also distance the man from Michigan's push toward modernity.

Cox is the latest, and perhaps highest ranking, agent from Michigan's dwindling army of naysayers who cling to the status quo and claim the state can't afford to embrace a new way of generating power and prosperity.

All things considered, the bottom line is that the Great Lakes State can't afford not to aggressively pursue energy innovation.