Conservatives focus on clean energy

MARQUETTE – Conservative political beliefs and energy efficiency don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Larry Ward, executive director of the newly formed Michigan Conservative Energy Forum, spoke to the Northern Michigan University College Republicans, which hosted a discussion on energy policy and national security at NMU’s Mead Auditorium.

The discussion came on the heels of Gov. Rick Snyder’s December energy announcement in which he called for transitioning from coal to clean energy sources, making electricity rates more affordable and eliminating energy waste.

Ward said liberals have been taking all the discussion points on energy policy, with people been telling him conservatives had no one to turn to when it came to energy in Michigan.

“It’s energy,” Ward said. “It doesn’t need to be Republican-Democrat, but we need to have voices from all sides talking about it.”

The forum, he said, has a policy that includes multiple forms of energy such as natural gas, biomass, wind, solar, nuclear and hydropower. Most of the state’s energy comes from coal, according to Ward, but Michigan spends $1.2 billion per year to import coal from other states.

He also pointed out that for every $1 invested in energy-efficiency programs, $4.05 is saved in energy costs.

From a national security standpoint, Ward pointed to a statistic that indicated the United States loses about 10 percent of its military just in the line of protecting fuel as it transports it around the world.

“When you think about that, 10 percent of military people are giving their lives to this country, all in the protection of fuel or the transportation to and from where they’re going,” Ward said.

That’s one reason the military has taken an active role in renewable energy, according to Ward. Many bases have been expanding the use of solar power, he said, and are trying to be less dependent on lines of fuel so their power sources are coming from something that can be contained and controlled independently.

Brigadier Gen. Michael Stone, assistant adjunct general for installations with the Michigan Army National Guard, also spoke at the event.

The military, he stressed, is looking for ways to be energy-efficient and stick to basic business principles.

For example, Stone said old armories are “energy hogs,” plus there’s going to be pressure to close armories because of budget cuts.

“What we want to do is operate and move towards regionalization strategy, finding larger, more regionalized armories and generally stay in the same communities,”?Stone said.

Anyone interested in keeping up with forum activities can visit it at www.facebook.com/michiganconservativeenergyforum.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.