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Lawmakers in fight to pass legislation that could thwart 2040 energy goals: 'Very clearly a nightmare'

The bills' opponents say a few small changes would assuage their concerns, and negotiations are currently underway.

The bills' opponents say a few small changes would assuage their concerns, and negotiations are currently underway.

Photo Credit: iStock

Michigan lawmakers are on the brink of passing legislation that environmentalists say would thwart the state's climate goals, the Guardian reported.

What's happening?

The publication explained that Michigan has climate legislation in place that would require the state to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2040. Meanwhile, state lawmakers are poised to pass legislation that would offer tax incentives to attract big tech data centers — major water and electricity consumers — to the state. 

The climate bills, passed in November 2023, have a built-in safety net that keeps oil and coal plants running if renewables cannot support the grid's load, according to the Guardian. Because the data centers use massive amounts of energy, environmentalists say that they would trigger this exception, thereby foiling the state's renewables goal.

Why are these bills important?

Opponents fear that if the bills pass as written, residents' utility rates could increase as they could be forced to subsidize the tech companies' electricity use and infrastructure buildout.

Plus, these data centers would draw millions of gallons of water per day from Lake Michigan, which supplies 95% of the nation's freshwater. 

Environmentalists are also concerned that they could completely derail Michigan's climate goals. Similar centers have already had that effect in Virginia, according to the Guardian.

The publication added that data centers suck up 50% more energy than typical office buildings, making them a major threat when it comes to planet-warming pollution. As our world continues to overheat, we will experience devastating consequences like increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters, which threaten communities and food security.

"These (bills) are very clearly a nightmare, because they use so much energy and water that without mandatory protections for ratepayers and guardrails that require renewable energy buildout, we are not going to be able to cut emissions like we want to," Christy McGillivray, legislative director for the Sierra Club of Michigan, told the Guardian.

What's being done about dirty energy?

The bills' opponents say a few small changes would assuage their concerns, and negotiations are currently underway. These include requiring tech companies to utilize renewable energy sources, protections for ratepayers, and stipulations against evaporative cooling, which requires massive amounts of water.

Either way, it's important to continue to move away from dirty energy sources like coal, oil, and gas. Luckily, communities across the world are catching on. For example, towns in rural Virginia are adding over 1 million new jobs by focusing on clean energy instead of coal. Tokyo is requiring most new buildings to have solar panels, and Wales is banning most new roadway projects to cut down on carbon pollution.

You can cut your carbon output by making changes at home. Unplugging energy vampires and switching to LED lightbulbs are simple ways to save energy and cut monthly bills. You can also take advantage of community solar programs, which don't require you to invest in your own panels.

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