The Alpena News. Nov. 25.
Green energy doesn't live up to the hype
"Green" energy sources such as solar and wind power are the answer to all our needs, ultra-liberals claim. If Americans would just use more of them, we could shut down all our coal-fired power plants, claim some opponents of fossil fuels.
Californians had an opportunity to demonstrate the wonders of solar power this year. In February, the largest solar power plant of its type in the world opened in their state. It includes solar arrays spread over nearly five square miles of land.
Proponents of the facility, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, claimed it would produce enough power to serve 140,000 homes.
But the bragging has died down. Since the power station began operating, it has generated only about half the promised electricity. The California Energy Commission explains that "factors such as clouds, jet contrails and weather have had a greater impact on the plant than the owners anticipated."
As you may have expected, we taxpayers have a stake in the facility. The federal government provided $1.8 billion in loan guarantees for it.
Rational people understand energy sources such as solar and wind power can never be more than back-ups for dependable, low-cost electricity generated with coal. Instead of pouring money into "green" energy, Washington should be devoting more to technologies such as clean-coal power plants.
The Grand Rapids Press. Nov. 24.
After vote to raise gas tax, Lansing should tap brakes to debate other road fix plans
At long last, Lansing is beginning to move toward a long-term fix for roads.
As Michigan's second largest city, Grand Rapids stands to gain — and, should inaction continue, lose — plenty from whatever proposal to fund those fixes prevails.
It's been past due for lawmakers to vote on different funding proposals, and we're heartened to see that occurring.
The state House will soon consider a measure passed last week by the Senate. The plan would gradually replace the flat 19-cent tax on fuel and 15-cent tax on diesel with a percentage-based levy tied to wholesale gas prices.
This is a good start. But lawmakers in the House should give serious consideration to other proposals before all is said and done.
The risks of tying road funding to the state gas tax must be weighed. According to an analysis from the nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency, the Senate-passed measure could net anywhere from $781 million to more than $1.5 billion each year for road fixes.
That's an awfully large question mark on how much money the state could expect from a gas tax increase. The amount taken in will depend on the wholesale price of gasoline, which is very volatile, and rises and falls based on many external factors.
Critics of the plan say it would make our state's gas tax highest in the nation. If passed, Michigan's gas tax could top 40 cents by 2018.
At a time when gas prices are hotly debated among residents and businesses, that dubious honor could be quite problematic. The potential hardship the proposed rate would impose on some residents is worthy of discussion.
Of course, legislative leaders have acknowledged that the Senate's move is just the opening salvo. Things could change by the time the lame duck session ends.
Another proposal narrowly defeated by the Senate would have asked voters to decide whether to increase the state sales tax to fund road fixes.
We believe this an option worthy of consideration and debate in the House, despite its defeat in the Senate. Based on the Senate Fiscal Agency analysis, this option would generate $1.1 billion in its first fiscal year and $1.6 billion in the second. But like the proposed gas tax increase, a hike in the sales tax should be debated for its impact on residents' own finances.
As they move forward, lawmakers should keep Grand Rapids in mind when deciding how to raise money for roads.
Last May, voters resoundingly approved a plan to hold city income tax rates steady for 15 years to pay for local infrastructure improvements. Legislators should take that result as a bellwether of Michigan residents' willingness to help pay for fixes.
Lansing is finally moving in the right direction by acting on the demands of their constituents. But with significant concerns over a gas tax hike, it would be prudent to tap the brakes just long enough to give consideration to all options on the table.
Battle Creek Enquirer. Nov. 22.
Obama is right on immigration, but what about Congress?
President Barack Obama's immigration initiative may or may not be good politics, but it is good policy, and it's the right thing to do. Our hope is that it marks a beginning, rather than a derailment, of efforts to reform U.S. immigration policy.
Admittedly, that hope is remote. The GOP response has thus far been both predictable and discouraging, which is why many Republicans who support immigration reform, and even some Democrats, have suggested that Obama's sweeping action may have dashed any chances of Congress passing a bipartisan bill.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is promising a forceful response to Obama's order. The possibilities range from the defunding of government agencies to a legal challenge.
Other Republicans have been less nuanced in their remarks.