Drilling and the Great Lakes


Detroit – Michigan is a leading American indicator not only for auto manufacturing but also for energy issues. With its vast Great Lakes water resources and coastline, it is at the forefront of debates on offshore oil drilling and wind power.


With gas at $4 a gallon and the state hemorrhaging jobs (unemployment here is a nation-leading 8.3 percent), state advocates for mining the lakes’ oil resources are getting a hearing. Writing in the Lansing State Journal, former Michigan Deptartment for Environmental Quality director Russ Harding (now a fellow with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy) urges the Wolverine State to overturn the state ban on Great Lakes drilling enacted in 2002 and the federal ban that followed in 2005.


“Banning directional drilling was bad energy policy then, and it’s bad energy policy now,” writes Harding, citing a study by the Michigan Environmental Science Board that concludes “there is little to no risk of contamination to the Great Lakes bottom or waters (from) directionally drilled wells.”


But, as in Pelosi’s Washington, Michigan has its own fanatical Mrs. No No No in power: Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm (and her Democratic statehouse chorus).


And as in Washington, these pols refuse to lift the drilling ban on the grounds that the reserves don’t amount to much relative to world supply and would not make an immediate impact. “We would gain virtually nothing,” says Hugh McDiarmid, an activist (and ex-Detroit Free Press reporter, natch) with the state’s influential Michigan Environmental Council.


But, as Harding points out, that dog don’t hunt.


According to a state Senate Fiscal Agency report in 2002, if not for the ban (which shut down eight existing wells and forestalled 30 more), Great Lakes oil would have brought an economic benefit of approximately $1 billion (this in a state where Granholm just raised taxes $1.4 billion to cover revenue shortfalls). “Adjusted for the price of oil today,” notes Harding, “the economic benefit of tapping Michigan’s Great Lakes reserves would be $3 billion to $4 billion.”

Ironically, even as she opposes drilling, Gov. Granholm is touting a wind RPS as the state’s energy and jobs future. However, wind is only sustainable with big state-government tax breaks. And at its higher cost per reliable kW, it would inhibit the state’s ability to attract more manufacturing – an economic sector that is highly sensitive to electricity rates.

In defending the governor’s position, green activist McDiarmid told WJR radio’s Frank Beckmann Tuesday that “drilling would not get us out of the mess of high oil prices” and would aesthetically impact a “spectacular natural resource.” So, by supporting wind mandates, he’s for getting us into the mess of higher electricity prices while choking Michigan’s shorelines with windmills?


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