Successes, failures for major green energy ballot initiatives

Michael Bastasch | Contributor

Michigan and California both had ballot initiatives aimed at promoting green energy and green jobs, with voters in Michigan voting overwhelmingly against a renewable energy constitutional amendment and a wide majority of California voters approving a proposition to fund energy efficiency projects and clean jobs.

Michigan voters overwhelmingly opposed Proposition 3 which amends the state constitution that requires 25 percent of its energy to be generated from renewable sources like wind, solar, and biomass power by 2025.

“The defeat of Proposal 3 is a win for the consumers of Michigan, who would be locked into a perpetual energy rate increase and a public policy that would destroy jobs,” Lisa Camooso Miller,  vice president for media relations at American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

ACCCE is part of The Clean Affordable Renewable Energy (CARE), a coalition against the mandate.

Had the amendment passed, Michigan would have been the first state to have a constitutionally mandated renewable energy generation levels. Most of the increased renewable generation is expected to come from wind power.

Wind power only made up 0.3 percent of the state’s total net electricity generation in 2010, according to the Energy Information Administration, with renewables only producing 3.7 percent of the state’s net electricity generation in 2010.

Fossil fuels still make up the vast majority of Michigan’s energy portfolio, with coal representing 54 percent of Michigan’s net electricity generation in 2011 and nuclear power making up 30 percent.

“Our coalition is very large, it’s very bipartisan and we’re not going to give up until we can make a positive change in Michigan energy policy, ,” said Mark Fisk, campaign spokesman for Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs — the coalition which supported the mandate that includes the Sierra Club, the American Wind Energy Association, and the Michigan Environmental Council.

“This is just the beginning of our fight to increase renewable energy in Michigan,” he said.

A report by the MEC estimates that between 2016 and 2025, the mandate would drive residential utility rates 50 cents per month on average, but by 2030, customers would save more than 80 cents per month on average. Another study supported by the MEC projected the amendment would create 74,495 jobs and require $10.3 billion in investments.

A study by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy showed that by 2025 the mandate would cost the state 10,540 jobs, increase the average annual household electric bills by $180, and impose net costs of $2.55 billion on the state economy.

According to Ballotpedia, Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs spent $1.8 million in support of the mandate and CARE spent more than $5.6 million.

In California, voters approved Proposition 39 which changes the tax liability for multistate businesses as well as dedicate funds to the Clean Energy Job Creation Fund which would support energy efficiency projects and expand alternative energy use.

Supporters of the measure funneled $31,400,000 into campaigning for the measure, with California hedge fund manager Thomas Steyer coughing up the lion’s share — $29,580,000 — and the Californians for Clean Energy and Jobs, a coalition of business, health, and environmental groups, putting up $1,143,227, according to Ballotpedia.

“This is the beginning of a new comeback for California,” Steyer told a crowd of labor volunteers at a victory party. “This is a loophole that should have been closed. This win means sometimes people have to stand up for themselves.”

No formal opposition campaign materialized, but some businesses spent a small amount to defeat the measure — $45,000 — with General Motors being on of the lead donors throwing in $20,000.

The proposition is expected to raise taxes on some multistate businesses in the state and is expected to raise state revenues by $1 billion annually starting in 2013 and 2014, half of which — up to $550 million — would be transferred to the Clean Energy Job Creation Fund for five years.

“Government should not use the most hurtful means to collect taxes,” writes the Orange County Register Editorial Board. “Taxes should be minimal and few, and never used to reward faddish political projects that ebb and flow in popularity.”

“Do we really need more $520 million Solyndras and $49,000-per-car subsidized cars in California?” says the Orange County Taxpayers’ Association.

California is already ranked 48th in the Tax Foundation’s tax climate index, as the state has one of the most burdensome tax regimes in the country. CNBC also ranks the state 40th out of 50 on their list of the best states to do business in.

“The last thing voters in a state with such dire fiscal problems should be doing is locking in more than $500 million a year in spending for a program that is undeniably worthy – but not necessarily the highest priority,” writes the San Francisco Gate Editorial Board.

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