Citizens for Enervating Michigan’s Economy II

There are a few lobbyists styling themselves “Citizens for Energizing Michigan’s Economy” who are hammering the radio with political ads criticizing legislators who support expanding energy choice. CEME is, in fact, dependent for funding upon Detroit Edison and Consumers Energy. These guys have been around for awhile, so their pedigree is clear:

Touting A ‘Looming Energy Shortfall,’ Utility-Connected Nonprofit Spent $7.4 Million Last Year (2015)

The $4-Million Push To Influence Michigan Energy Law (2015)

Utilities spend $1.6M to influence Michigan energy policy debate (2015)

Michigan Big Energy firms working together to steer legislation to fatten their profit statements (2015)

Consumers Energy confirms affiliated PAC donated to Rep. Gary Glenn’s election opponent (2018)

Consumers Energy contributed $43.5 million over four years to Citizens for Energizing Michigan’s Economy (2018)

Utilities-backed dark money group sparking energy debate in Michigan This article describes ““Citizens for Michigan’s Energy Future,” which is just another front for the same lobbyists. (2015)

One of the current ads claims that opposing energy company plans is the same as “outsourcing Michigan jobs” in the utility industry. Well, it might be true that there would be fewer Michigan utility jobs. However, job creation should not be a utility company’s prime objective. They should reliably deliver electricity at reasonable rates. Which means no featherbedding.

Besides that, they don’t tell you they are in favor of outsourcing electricity generation in order to help meet Michigan’s ill-advised* renewable energy goals; This Michigan Utility Is Planning Your Energy Future: “[Consumers Energy] expects to rely heavily on electricity from out-of-state generators by 2040.” Lots of Michigan’s energy is planned to be purchased from other states, while Consumers’ own solar arrays will cover “between 25,000 to 35,000 acres by 2040.”

They neglect to mention that they lobby furiously to eliminate energy supplier choice (now capped at 10%), dramatically increasing costs for public schools. See also; Consumers Energy-funded group running ads against electric choice/deregulation

TOC mentioned “Citizens for Energizing Michigan’s Economy” in 2014, when they were last found trying to increase your electricity costs by opposing consumer choice in electricity supply. They ran deceptive advertising then. They are doing it again.

Lobbyists have a First Amendment right to petition the government. I think you should have a balanced view of their agenda, and who these “citizens” are working for.

According to Consumers Energy’s spokesperson Katie Carey, “Our contributions to Citizens for Energizing Michigan’s Economy came from the company’s general funds and were not reflected in utility customer rates.” Well, since money is fungible – and could have been used to reduce rates, or pay dividends – I’m skeptical.

*Oh, by the way, here’s how windmill power worked out for Ontario: Ontario Wind Turbines

Lobbyists

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s recent rant about lobbyists in the Trump transition team (just before they were all sent packing) brings me once again to editor David Rotman’s MIT Technology Review article Capitalism Behaving Badly. Specifically this:

[W]e should admit that markets are created and shaped by government policies, including government support of innovation.

If we are to admit that markets are created and shaped by government, we also must admit that lobbying is created by government as a protective reaction to that regulatory manipulation ‘market’ creation and shaping.

Don Boudreaux puts it well at Cafe Hayek

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is upset that President-elect Trump’s transition team includes many corporate lobbyists (“Elizabeth Warren Criticizes Donald Trump Over Lobbyists in Transition Team,” Nov. 15). Well now. Sen. Warren is second-to-none at empowering Uncle Sam to exercise broad discretionary powers over corporate affairs – powers that, if exercised one way, yield that company hundreds of millions of dollars in additional profits or, if exercised another way, saddle that company with hundreds of millions of dollars of additional costs. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that corporations work diligently to have their voices heard among the din of everyone clamoring for the new emperor’s attention.

For Sen. Warren to be upset that Trump’s transition team is filled with hordes of corporate lobbyists panting for political favors is akin to a Madam being upset that her bawdyhouse is filled with hordes of men panting for female favors.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
and
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030

Lobbying is protected by the First Amendment. Even absent Constitutional protection, lobbying would continue at a level commensurate with the degree to which government creates and shapes markets, only it would be more nefarious – say like the Clinton Foundation pay-to-play shenanigans.

Meanwhile, the House GOP beat back a plan by some of its own members* to restore internal super-lobbying by reinstating earmarks.

*Who should now be Primaried.

Update 1:15PM: In the interests of naming names, “Reps. John Culberson of Texas, Mike Rogers of Alabama, and Tom Rooney of Florida are listed as sponsors of the amendment.”

Dear Consumers Energy,

Why asking me for $1.50 per month to help you build more windmills is ridiculous:

A new study from Utah State University found that, as of 2013, Michigan’s renewable energy mandate, enacted in 2008, has cost families and businesses here a bundle: $15.1 billion overall, or $3,830 per family, compared to what we would have experienced without the mandate.

According to the study, the economies of all states with a renewable portfolio standard, or RPS, have suffered harm. Among the negative effects are a nearly 14 percent decrease in industrial electricity sales, plus losses in both personal income and employment. A key finding was that an estimated 24,369 jobs have been lost in Michigan because of the mandate, which is in effect a mandate for wind energy.

And, just for a bit of juxtapositioning on the “science is settled” front this morning:
MASSIVE GLOBAL COOLING process discovered as Paris climate deal looms

Update: 5:54PM
More unsettling science – WELL RATS: OCEANS NOT DYING AFTER ALL

Open letter to Consumers Energy

I recently received from you a mailing asking me to contribute $1.50 per month to something called the Green Generation program. According to that letter, my contribution would support “projects like the Michigan Wind Farm in Ubly, which generates enough enough electricity to power every home in a city the size of Battle Creek for one year.

You neglected to mention how much standby generation by conventional means is still required. At least a third of us know that, “Wind is so undependable that fossil fuels have to be available to supplement it over 50 percent of the time.” Maybe I’m part of a less green, as in naive, generation – because your appeal did not inspire me.

I suppose it is in your interest to avoid mentioning wind power reliability when asking me directly to support your latest attempt to suck up dwindling Federal subsidies for windmills. Especially since Consumers Energy is statutorily allowed profit margins of 10 to 12 percent annually, and is guaranteed a 90-percent share of the market by the State of Michigan, while you spend money on misleading advertising about electricity choice: To make sure we don’t have it.

If Solyndra had your deal, they’d still be in business.

Would supporting projects like the one in Ubly include contributing to monopoly maintenance advertising? It’s a reasonable question. Any reasonable answer would include reference to the word “fungible.”

Your letter reminded me that a good part of your past profitability is related to money you’ve already received from me via taxes and surcharges. This realization did not produce the effect I think you desired, since it prompted me to check on how bad that damage has been and continues to be.

In 2011, you bragged about $29 million in property tax revenue a wind farm project,

“…is expected to provide to Mason County over the first 20 years of operation. The Mason County Planning Commission approved a special land use permit application for the $232 million Lake Winds Energy Park project last week.

What was left out of the press release was that “the project is expected to receive $72 million in federal tax credits from the federal stimulus program, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Consumers Energy spokesman Dennis Marvin said the $72 million in federal tax credits is expected to come over a 10-year period.”

That’s net $43 million for Consumers Energy from Federal taxpayers, after $29 million in redistribution pass-throughs. And how’s that lawsuit about this wind farm working out for you?

From 2009 through 2011 you charged me $2.50 per month as a Renewable Energy Surcharge. I already paid for constructing the damn windmills, but, as we’ll see, maybe not for the maintenance.

Now you’re asking me to give you just $1.50 of my own volition. Why didn’t you ask the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to put that back on my invoice? You’re running sort of a poll, I guess, anyone dumb enough to contribute probably voted for the guy who said he’d make electricity rates involving coal “skyrocket,” and the results might be able to be used to pressure the MI legislature.

In November 2014the MPSC approved a settlement agreement authorizing Consumers Energy to recover $9,752,187, with interest, in deferred major maintenance expense.” That’s one way to ensure your profit margins stay in double digits. What interest rate was used?

In December 2014, Consumers Energy requested of the MPSC “an electric rate increase of $163 million in its electric rates. On June 4, 2015 Consumers self-implemented a portion of the requested increase, $110 million, subject to refund, as authorized by the MPSC. The rate increase reflects major company investments to maintain and improve service.” Maintenance again, how much of it is for windmills?

In September of this year you charged me $1.41 for the income taxes you pay on your “securitization charge” – charges for which you billed me an additional $2.49. So, I’m paying $3.90 a month, over a third of which is your taxes, so you canreplace traditional financing with low-interest bonds, lowering overall costs for customers.” Thanks.

In September I paid $4.14 for “Energy Efficiency” “that helps recover costs associated with the company’s Energy Efficiency Programs required by the 2008 energy law.” Maybe not your fault, but I can’t recall any lobbying against it. Certainly nothing reaching the level of your fight to maintain your 90 percent monopoly.

From June through September you charged me extra for usage over 600 kWh becauseThe tiered pricing structure reflects the higher price to buy and produce electricity during the summer. This is primarily because of the increase in customer demand (load on the system) associated with air conditioning… Consumers Energy does not make a profit on the cost of fuel or purchased power.

OK. I guess you are more likely to purchase power (Ontario?) when the wind isn’t blowing. And, of course, you’re using fuel to keep your standby generators turning anyway. That’s like me paying twice.

I realize this green idiocy is not all your fault. We have more than enough fools in the State and National legislatures. However, they didn’t force you to waste money on that mailing insulting my intelligence, and you’re more than happy to take ‘their’ money. Unfortunately, the money isn’t sufficiently laundered. I know a bunch of it came out of my pocket.

So, while I appreciate the opportunity to further the green propagenda, I think I’ll wait until you’re begging me for funds to dismantle windmills instead of building more. Then I’ll laugh. Until the legislature lets you bill me for it.

If you’d really like some help, I could get behind a big effort to build some nuclear plants. I’ll bet there’s enough concrete in those windmill pads to have built a couple already.