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Low-carbon fuels standard cited a 2009 legislative priority in Lansing

Aim is to reduce global warming pollution, stimulate state's alternative fuels economy, reduce dependence on foreign oil
One of the Michigan Environmental Council’s legislative priorities for 2009 is the adoption of a low-carbon fuels standard that will help diversify Michigan’s economy, protect the environment and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels from other states and nations.

Such a standard would require fuel providers to increase the amount of reduced carbon fuels they sell. That might include next generation ethanol from agricultural and forestry “wastes” and perennial grasses, or electricity used in “plug-in” or all-electric vehicles. This approach would grow Michigan’s economic ventures into the areas of cellulosic fuels and electric vehicles, which hold the most promise for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and gasoline usage.

The Ecology Center, an Ann Arbor-based MEC member group, is among those at the forefront in developing model low-carbon fuel policies for legislators to consider. The edited press release below is what the Ecology Center said in January after legislators took tentative first steps in that direction:

“The recent signing of 11 bills to advance renewable fuels in Michigan moves the state slightly forward in efforts to become a next generation alternative fuels leader. However, far more needs to be done to ensure that Michigan leads the nation in developing low-carbon, sustainable fuels for the 21st Century.

“These bills are an important first step and represent some of the low-hanging fruit in moving towards advanced, sustainable fuels production,” said Charles Griffith, Ecology Center’s Auto Project Director and a member of the state’s Renewable Fuels Commission. “However, our legislature will need to be far more aggressive and focused on cleaner, low-carbon fuels to truly establish a leadership role for Michigan.”

The 11 bills implement several recommendations of the Renewable Fuels Commission, including: creating tax incentives for machinery to harvest biomass and to convert fuel pumps to biofuels (PA 314, 332, 334 & 335), establishing tax-free renaissance zones for cellulosic ethanol plants (PA 329), providing basic alternative fuels funding mechanisms, standards and promotional materials (PA 321, 322, 313, 320 & 330). PA 333 extends the life and expands the scope of the Renewable Fuels Commission.

“Given the increasing urgency of addressing global warming and energy independence as well as the intense backlash from traditional corn-based ethanol, Michigan has a unique opportunity to be an innovative, job-creating leader in clean, low-carbon fuels,” said Ecology Center Policy Director Mike Shriberg. “These bills may be helpful, but are far too limited in scope and direction to provide the push needed for Michigan to rise above other states and countries.”

The Ecology Center also strongly supports measures to ensure environmental performance in the production and use of renewable fuels. Such measures are essential for ensuring public benefits, such as biodiversity, soil and water conservation, and clean air. For example, the state should establish standards that forbid production of bio-energy crops on environmentally sensitive lands or the conversion of natural ecosystems that protect biodiversity and capture CO2.

“Energy from renewable and low-carbon fuels will be a key to both environmental sustainability and economic prosperity for Michigan and the country,” said Griffith. “However, the kinds of feedstocks used, and the technologies employed to extract the energy embodied in those fuels, is critical to Michigan’s ability to address global warming, a lagging economy and our environmental quality. Michigan needs to take bold steps to become more energy independent while making major strides to reduce our carbon footprint.”
RELATED TOPICS: climate change, renewable energy
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