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Michigan is working towards clean energy, but is still very dependent on coal

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DTE's St. Clair Power Plant in East China, Michigan. The plant burns a blend of low-sulfur western coal and high-sulfur eastern coal. Coal-burning power plants are one of the biggest sources of man-made mercury pollution.

There’s a huge disconnect between our use of electricity and the burning of coal. The average American’s use of electricity in a day equals 20 pounds of coal, that’s what you burn on average.

In Michigan, all the coal we use is imported from out of state.

Skiles Boyd, vice president of environmental management and resources at DTE Energy, and Tiffany Hartung with the Sierra Club, organizer for the Moving Beyond Coal campaign, joined us today to discuss our dependence on coal.

“Coal is a valuable resource that has really fueled the industrial development in this country,” said Boyd. “There were a lot of coal plants built in that time because that was the most economical approach to supplying energy, and so any kind of move away from that will take a little bit of time and will have to be balanced with the increased cost.”

DTE Energy’s Monroe power plant is one of the largest in the nation. Currently, the Monroe plant has been working on reducing its emissions. However, DTE’s plants are lacking widely available modern pollution controls.

“Coal is a domestic fuel, but it’s not Michigan domestic fuel,” Hartung pointed out. “That’s an unnecessary fuel cost that we have. Michigan families are paying for that both with our pocketbooks and the added cost of bringing in an increasingly expensive fuel from out of state, but also with our health. There are a lot of issues around pollution and health effects from coal fired power plants.”

DTE Energy recently lowered their renewable energy surcharges for customers, an acknowledgment that the cost of renewable energy is going down while the cost of coal is going up. But, if more steps are not taken towards clean energy, Michigan and the U.S. will be at a competitive disadvantage.

-Michelle Nelson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Listen to the full interview above.

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