More than a dozen Michigan Tech faculty members and researchers have gone on the record in support of a ballot initiative designed to give a big boost to the state’s renewable energy industry.
If passed by the voters in November, the initiative would require that 25 percent of Michigan’s electricity be generated using renewable energy sources by the year 2025. A July 19 letter released by the Union of Concerned Scientists supporting the measure garnered more than 140 signatures from scientists and academics throughout the state, including 15 from Michigan Tech.
Social sciences Professor Barry Solomon helped draft the letter. "We think Michigan’s current target of 10 percent [renewables by 2025] isn’t ambitious enough," he said. "There’s a lot of confidence that we can meet 25 percent, mostly from wind power, but also from biomass and solar."
Michigan doesn’t have to look far to find states that are already approaching that mark, he said. "One state I like to talk about is Iowa; it’s already generating about 20 percent of its electricity from renewables, mostly from wind power," said Solomon. "Michigan is at roughly 4 percent."
He cited several reasons for supporting the initiative. "Michigan has 88 coal-fired power plants, and Michigan sends $1.4 billion out of state every year to buy that coal," Solomon said. "Millions of those dollars would be offset by using renewable energy sources from within the state, and that would encourage millions in new investment and create thousands of new jobs." In addition, coal-fired plants are a significant source of air pollution, causing human health problems and precipitating mercury into the Great Lakes, which limits the safe consumption of fish.
In 2006, Michigan Tech became the first university in Michigan to endorse "25x’25—America’s Energy Future," a grassroots initiative calling for increased reliance on clean, renewable energy sources. Margaret Gale, then dean of forest resources and environmental science, was the University’s 25x’25 representative. "Both from an environmental and a geopolitical standpoint, this is a goal our nation should be pursuing," she said at the time. "And, as the educators of the scientists, engineers and technologists who will be developing renewable energy sources, we have a special obligation to take a stand."
In addition to Solomon, the Michigan Tech signers of the Union of Concerned Scientists letter are Brad Baltensperger, chair of cognitive and learning sciences; Leonard Bohmann, associate dean of engineering; Michael Brodeur-Campbell, a chemical engineering PhD candidate; Gale; Hugh Gorman, professor of social sciences; Sarah Green, chair of chemistry; Robert Handler, postdoctoral researcher; Claudio Mazzoleni, assistant professor of physics; Adrienne Minerick, associate professor of chemical engineering; Joshua Pearce, associate professor of materials science and engineering, and electrical and computer engineering; David Shonnard, Robbins Professor of Chemical Engineering; Christa Walck, associate provost; Adam Wellstead, assistant professor of social sciences; and Daniel Yeboah, a graduate student in applied ecology.