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State Bill Would Classify Burning Tires as 'Renewable Energy'

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Michigan might classify these with sunshine and clean breezes, as far as energy production is concerned. | Photo:oriolus/Flickr/Creative Commons License

California's Legislature has a national reputation for considering wacky legislation. It's mainly undeserved, but nonetheless it persists. That's why we here at Redefine are grateful to the Michigan legislature for stepping up and taking some heat off the Golden State: The Michigan Senate is now considering a bill that would classify burning tires to generate power as "renewable energy."

The bill, HB 2505, passed Michigan's House of Representatives last week in a 63-46 vote to the dismay of environmentalists.

Michigan utilities must generate 10 percent of the state's energy from renewable sources by 2015; the bill would allow utilities to count power generated by burning waste automobile tires toward that goal.

The bill would also allow incineration of other solid waste to be counted toward the state's renewable energy standards.

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HB 2505's author, Representative Aric Nesbitt, told MLive Media Group reporter Emily Lawler that he expected environmentalist opposition to his bill. "Whether it's tires or other things, that's already happening and the environmentalists, these extreme environmental groups will stop at nothing to prevent our progress toward an all of the above energy policy," Nesbitt said.

Michigan clean energy activists didn't leave Nesbitt hanging for long.

"The House should be focused on expanding true clean, renewable energy, not allowing polluters to burn tires and call it 'renewable energy,'" said Lisa Wozniak, Executive Director for the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. "House Bill 5205 is nothing more than a dangerous plan to pollute our air, land and water. It sets a dangerous precedent by changing the scientific definition of renewable energy."

"Michiganders from both sides of the aisle want more clean, renewable energy and we should be taking steps to reduce pollution, not encourage more of it," said Wibke Heymach of the group Moms Clean Air Force. "Encouraging the burning of hazardous waste will create more pollution and more health problems for Michigan kids, families and seniors."

Burning tires and other solid waste for energy in old-school incinerators can release a number of toxic substances into the air including dioxins, furans, heavy metals and particulate matter, not unlike the coal from which Michigan currently gets about half its electrical power.

For those Californians still needing a tiny smidgen of reason to feel smug, Michigan's renewable energy quota for 2015 is half the goal California set for 2010, and less than a third of the 33 percent renewable energy standard our state's utilities must reach by 2020. In 2012 Michigan voters voted on a constitutional amendment that would have set a 25 percent renewable energy target for 2025. More than 60 percent of voters rejected the amendment.

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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