Representative Gary Glenn’s talk on Michigan’s Energy Future

Representative Gary Glenn came to Northwood to speak about his thoughts on what Michigan’s energy future should look like. However, he spoke about so much more than that.

He began by explaining a little bit of the history behind the current energy situation. DTE and Consumers are the two largest energy providers in Michigan, they wanted to monopolize on a very lucrative commodity, electricity. They were able to convince Michigan legislators to pass a law that gave DTE and Consumers 90% of the market for electricity on the promise of building multiple new plants in the state. Since this promise was made and the law enacted, there has been no new plants built yet these two companies are now pushing for lawmakers to give them 100% of the market. The 10% that they do not have was free to choose alternative forms of energy and also to choose to use an independent energy provider.

Currently Representative Gary Glenn has succeeded in leading the initiative to change the laws that restrict consumers choices in energy sources. The opposition, led by DTE and Consumers, has spent millions of dollars on advertisements that campaign for allowing them to keep the 90% but also push for people to support giving them 100%, saying that they needed an even larger share for “reliability” purposes. Representative Glenn, his constituents, and his supporters in the capitol succeeded in getting the business agent for Clarkston schools to testify as to how much money they have saved by being able to choose an alternative energy provider and what it would mean for the schools if they were forced to use DTE or Consumers. Rep. Glenn has succeeded in stonewalling the opposition’s attempts at passing new legislature and although he has not succeeded in getting the current law repealed, he still counts it has a win. He stated, “although we were not able to repeal the law, we did stop a new one from being passed. And even if nothing happens, it is better than something happening that hurts Michigan’s markets or consumers.

He argues that this energy fight is a nonpartisan issue. There are people on both sides of the aisle that support applying free market principles and opening the market to competition. The opposition, led by DTE and Consumers claims that they need the market to remain closed to competition and that they are helping Michigan by “being a local provider” and by keeping jobs here. However, when Rep. Glenn spoke to independent energy providers they said that they would build in Michigan and bring jobs here if the energy rates were more competitive and they could freely compete to be energy providers here.

Representative Glenn closed with his thoughts on the issue at hand; by allowing schools, universities, and places that provide public services (like hospitals) to choose their energy source, we can in turn save taxpayers money. He believes that we should not mandate a type of energy or its source, but instead, give incentives for the diversification of energy types and production. He believes that we ought to have a diversity of supply and a competitive supply because, “by having restrictions on independent energy sources, we cause opportunities for competition to whither on the vine.”

He had asked the audience a question at the beginning of the talk, “Why should free market principles and competition not apply to this one commodity; electricity?” In the end we have to ask, can we allow monopolization of any market, does it harm more than just the corporation’s competition?