If you listen to DTE Energy and Consumers Energy tell the story, Michigan is perched on the precipice of an impending energy crisis of epic proportions. New ads running television – over 400 in the past two months – tell us that, thanks to federal regulations, many of our coal-fired power plants will be shut down. The result, they suggest, will be a critical shortage of electricity in Michigan.
These are the sorts of ads you’ll see:
There’s another one HERE.
This media blitz is being put forth by a group called Citizens for Michigan’s Energy Future. The “facts” in the ad are based on a “policy brief” paid for by Consumers and DTE. The ads feature several recurring elements:
- Multiple power plants are about to be shut down
- We need a “Michigan first” energy plan from our state legislature
- This energy plan should be “affordable, reliable, and clean”
- Michigan energy should be produced in Michigan by Michigan workers
On the surface, this all seems pretty reasonable. I mean, after all, who doesn’t want affordable, reliable energy that is clean? I sure do.
But this campaign is not what it seems. It’s actually a rebranding of another Big Energy-backed group called Citizens for Energizing Michigan’s Economy. This group worked hard to oppose deregulating Michigan’s energy sector. Why? Because it would allow the state of Michigan to use more energy produced outside of Michigan by removing an existing 10% cap. And that is something Consumers and DTE absolutely do not want.
They aren’t too subtle about it either. Check out their corresponding logos:
As the Sunlight Foundation points out, there is a LOT of overlap between the two groups:
[A] glance at CMEF’s annual report — available on the Michigan Secretary of State’s website — shows DTE employee Daniel Mahoney, Democratic political strategist Howard Edelson and communications consultant Chris Dewitt direct the organization.
Publicly available TV ad contracts list Eric Doster, former counsel to the Michigan Republican Party as the “Director and Secretary.” Doster wrote the book on Michigan campaign finance law — literally — and also serves as registered agent for “Citizens for Energizing Michigan’s Economy,” which ran similar ad campaigns in 2014.
And while its nonprofit arms try to rally public support for an energy overhaul, state political action committees associated with DTE Energy and CMS Energy — of which Consumers is a subsidiary — have been active players on the campaign trail, doling out thousands to friendly state legislators and party committees.
The legislation from 2013 – House Bill 5184 – that would have deregulated Michigan’s energy industry and removed a 10% cap on energy purchased from outside of the state never moved in the state legislature. This new effort seems to be aimed at preventing it from being reintroduced and to encourage new laws and policies that secure their oligopolistic lock on Michigan’s energy supply.
What it is NOT is an effort to expand the use of clean, non-fossil fuel-based energy in Michigan. In fact, their ads talk extensively about the building of new energy plants in Michigan. They’re not talking about wind farms or solar arrays here. They are talking about new so-called “clean coal” plants and nuclear power plants.
Don’t be fooled by this greenwashing attempt by the utility companies to ensure their oligopoly continues in Michigan. And don’t forget that, every time you pay your utility bill, you are helping to fund their lobbying effort to ensure their profits continue to flow unabated and unchallenged by competition. Because, in the final analysis, that is exactly what this is all about.
[Hat tip to Eclectablog reader Liz H. for bringing this to my attention.]