Partners in Liberty: Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Published January 15, 2020

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a Michigan-based free-market think which, when considering whether to take up a policy issue in the state, asks, “If not Mackinac, who?”

Environmental Policy Initiative

In 2016 Mackinac saw Michigan lacked an effective, local, free-market voice to guide the state on environmental and energy policy issues. The Center founded its Environmental Policy Initiative with the goal of monitoring energy and environmental legislation and regulation throughout the Great Lakes Basin and informing the public, media, and other state-based groups about important issues; analyzing the efficacy of current environmental programs; challenging common assumptions about environmental policy through legislative briefings, public events, publications, and media outreach; and advancing policy alternatives to the centralized, command-and-control regime currently in place.

There is a great deal of confusion over what constitutes a free-market perspective on environmental matters, with many so-called conservative or free-market groups promoting the notion that to have an effective environmental platform, conservatives must advocate regressive policies such as a carbon tax. Others effectively turn a blind eye to rent-seeking as they encourage the government-mandated development of heavily subsidized renewable energy as a supposedly competitive option.

Those policies only harm the environment and expand energy poverty as they take energy options away and raise prices on those who can least afford to pay for them, stealing choices from consumers and empowering government to shuffle limited tax dollars into the pockets of crony-capitalist renewable energy developers and monopoly utilities.

A clear-headed, free-market voice, by contrast, recognizes the value of personal responsibility on environmental matters and supports competitive energy technologies such as natural gas from fracking. Open competition in energy ensures reliable, affordable, and clean and safe energy.

Bad Example

Michigan serves as an excellent example of the problems that arise when states limit free-market options. Without competitive pressures on our monopoly utilities, Michigan’s residents are forced to pay electric rates well above the national average and higher than those in any other Great Lakes state. Worse, we pay those higher rates for unreliable electricity service that ranks in the top five nationally for the most outages.

Making things worse, Michigan’s monopoly utilities are doubling down on ineffective policy options, most recently proposing to spend billions of ratepayer dollars shuttering the state’s large, reliable, baseload generation plants while imposing less-reliable, more-expensive renewable energy technologies as an attempted replacement.

Mackinac Center’s Environmental Policy Initiative provides a strong and effective voice for serious free-market energy and environmental policies, without which Michigan’s residents would be forced to accept limited and unreliable energy choices and the higher prices they bring.