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Chamber's Call to Action to Support Consumers Power Expansion Needs You!

Clean Coal Plant Needed to Tide Economy Over Awaiting Alternative Sources

December 13, 2008       2 Comments
By: Dave Rogers

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The Call to Action issued in this news posting by Mike Seward, president of the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, needs the support of all who care about the economy and quality of life of the mid-Michigan area.

The entire population of Bay County, down to about 100,000 or less now, will be affected if the Consumers Energy proposed expansion at the Karn-Weadock plant is sidelined.

My environmentalist friends are horrified at this stance, but there is no other choice but to support the "clean coal" proposal.

We in mid-Michigan cannot fritter away our economic base by trashing a power plant that will provide desperately needed investment and jobs.

Now that Dynengy is having second thoughts about its plan to build a new power plant in Midland, the so-called environmentalists are threatening to "turn their attention" to the Consumers plan.

Just when the Consumers plan is even more desperately needed a handful of activists want to throw a monkey wrench into the works.

We are not advocating ignoring the desire to have cleaner air and water. It is a good thing. But it cannot overwhelm the common good that power, jobs and investment (added tax base to serve the public) will provide.

There is some merit in their charge that the coal plant will add noxious chemicals to the air. So does Dow Chemical; so does Michigan Sugar; so does any other industrial enterprise like foundries that provide the jobs to make living in this area a viable option.

It is the position of this corner that a true environmentalist will support any plan to boost the local economy. Without jobs there will be no people here, or many fewer with a lower quality of life.

It's not just the jobs and investment at Karn-Weadock that is vital. Think about the fact that the Hemlock Semiconductor Plant (HSC) needs $500,000 or more in power every year. And that hundreds of jobs depend on that plant. And that spin off companies, suppliers and others, are just now making decisions on where to locate. The decision whether to build the new plant at the mouth of the river here radiates across the region, touching the economy of every community in the tri-county area.

If air pollution lowers the quality of life, what about the loss of jobs, or inability to find them?

Even more important, as we have mentioned before, what good does it do the United States to unilaterally dismantle our economy while China, Russia and other powers build coal-fired power plants at the rate of one a week?

Air quality is a worldwide issue while the local economy can only be affected by positive investment locally. The projected $2.3 million expansion of Karn-Weadock, that Mr. Seward is so forcefully promoting, is vital to our economic well being. Stopping a power plant because it emits some fumes that are quickly wafted away across Saginaw Bay is an example of poor logic.

Unless there is an international agreement to place a moratorium on coal plant construction we need to proceed to fuel our future with the necessary power that Consumers plans to create with the new plant.

Wind power is great, and local leaders like County Executive Tom Hickner and others are pushing forward on ideas to get windmills up and running.

We have the technology here to participate mightily in windmill infrastructure production, notes Cliff Van Dyke, president of the Bay County Growth Alliance.

Mr. Van Dyke noted that several local firms have interest in and expertise with technologies that go into windmills. These include Kerkau Manufacturing, Bay Cast, Gougeon Brothers, all in Bay City, and Merrill Technologies in Saginaw.

A wind energy planning session last Friday, attended by dozens of community leaders, discussed ways to develop this energy source here. The Bay County Board of Commissioners already has decided to put up a test windmill on county property in Hampton Township.

That test makes sense because we have to prove to investors that we have just as good a source of wind here as does Ubly and communities in the Thumb where windmill investment is rife.

Without the immediate boost of additional power our industries will falter. Who knows what effect the uncertainty about power sources had on the upcoming decision of Dow Corning Corp. to site its newest semiconductor plant in Tennessee.

In the recent competition for the new semiconductor plant we faced massive competition from Tennessee which has the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) pumping vast supplies of power to the Clarksville area.

Dow Corning will build its new plant in an industrial park in Clarksville that has special TVA rating. This area of mid-Michigan cannot, at present, compete with that overwhelming, and cheap, power source. That's why we need the Karn-Weadock expansion to tide us over until wind, solar, biomass and other power sources can be brought on line.

Sure, we're all for the cleanest air we can get. But there may be nobody left to breathe it unless we decide not to throw out the baby with the bathwater and agree to an economic fix that is the immediate need.

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"The BUZZ" - Read Feedback From Readers!

cindy Says:       On December 15, 2008 at 08:45 AM
I agree, it's not perfect but we truly need this expansion in so many ways.
Observer says:       On December 16, 2008 at 07:31 AM
I've always thought of myself as an environmentalist, but hopefully a practical one.

Like it or not energy is necessary for modern life and it must be generated. The viable choices for generation are limited. No matter what is selected it will have an environmental impact. The objective should be to get the highest ratio of energy to impact.

It seems that coal has the edge here, although nuclear might be better. Regardless of the amount of wind, I wonder how many windmills are needed to match the new coal plant. And Solar? How many acres of solar panels would that take.

If the plant is not built here it will have to go somewhere else because the energy is needed. Rather than fighting against the plant, environmentalist should promote it but ask for the best technology available.
Agree? or Disagree?

Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at

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