Energy policy has become a hot political topic again in the U.S., with issues surrounding oil and gas fracking, renewables, and environmental stewardship top-of-mind for a growing percentage of legislators, corporate interests and voters. And with energy issues come front groups paid for by energy companies. We hear messaging from front groups frequently during elections, but it may be hard to recognize them and even harder to know who is behind them these days.
This summer, in most parts of the country, average pump prices have been nearly a dollar per gallon lower than the previous three years. But the price of oil can be quite volatile, and so what do consumers say they'd do if gasoline became unaffordable?
Personal vehicles are a staple form of transportation for most U.S. consumers, whether for traveling to work or escaping to distant places. Moreover, cars have a long-standing symbolic link with Americans’ sense of independence. Not surprisingly, pressures to reduce car use often evoke psychological resistance.
Since its inception in October 2013, the University of Michigan Energy Survey has asked U.S. consumers, in an open-ended format, about what they would do differently to get around if gasoline prices reached a level that they thought would be personally unaffordable. Understanding consumers’ responses can shed light on this important energy-related aspect of decision making.
"Mark Barteau, director of the University of Michigan Energy Institute, said the EPA Clean Power Plan could significantly boost renewable energy in Michigan. But he said the state should aim for even loftier goals.
Earlier this year, the Energy Institute issued a report that outlined opportunities for significantly increasing electricity production from wind and solar sources, Barteau said.
Michigan utilities met the state's standard this year, generating 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources. Now, to reduce carbon emissions, some people in the state want to see the bar raised to 20 percent or higher, but paying for it remains controversial.
“What we found is that doubling our RPS would add about $1.70 per month for a typical consumer,” says Jeremiah Johnson, a professor at the School of Natural Resources at the University of Michigan.
UM set to open driverless-car test site Mcity on Monday
The University of Michigan will officially open its new testing site for connected and driverless cars on Monday. The 32-acre testing grounds, called Mcity, are designed to simulate urban and suburban roads with a network of controlled intersections, traffic signals, streetlights, sidewalks, construction obstacles and more, the university said in a release. The $6.5 million test track is operated by UM’s Mobility Transformation Center.
Voters are long familiar with Michigan’s big issues each election — jobs, education, infrastructure and taxes are perennial defining platforms for Michigan candidates. Energy is poised to join that short list, with issues surrounding energy choice, oil and gas development, renewables, and environmental stewardship top-of-mind for a growing percentage of legislators, corporate interests and voters. And with energy issues come “front groups” paid for by energy companies.