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Petroleum coke dust blows around in July 2013 in the Detroit area.
The right wing, which has fought against renewable sources of energy since Ronald Reagan ordered the solar thermal panels off the White House roof and gutted the Department of Energy's budget for solar and wind research and development, has been coming around in some places. In Iowa, for example, which is generating 27 percent of its electricity with wind turbines, Rep. Steve King is an avid backer of federal wind power tax credits. As is Rep. Jerry Moran in Kansas.

But these men are energy turncoats in the eyes of real Republicans.

Check out, for instance, the wacked-out proposal of State Rep. Aric Nesbitt of Michigan. The state has a modest goal of getting 10 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2015 and appears likely to do so. But that's using sensible definitions of what constitutes renewables. Nesbitt wants to transform that definition to include the burning of plastic waste and petroleum coke, a byproduct of oil refinery coker units. One source of petcoke in massive amounts is from refining the bitumen of Canada's tar sands deposits. Given that it is 90 percent carbon, petcoke is valuable as a fuel. Millions of tons of it are sold abroad every year, a business no reader should be surprised to learn that Koch Industries is involved in waist deep. The stuff is already used in some Michigan coal-fired power plants.

It is more polluting than coal, 30 percent to 80 percent more, in fact.

Katie Valentine writes:

The Michigan League of Conservation Voters has spoken out against the bill, saying burning “hazardous waste and calling it clean is downright indefensible.

“Unbelievable as it may seem, if this bill passes, burning petcoke—the dirtiest byproduct of the oil refining process—would qualify as clean, renewable energy,” Lisa Wozniak, Executive Director for the Michigan LCV, wrote in an op-ed. “The incineration process emits carcinogenic toxins and harmful air pollution that put the health of Michiganders and our air and water on the line.”

If the bill does become law, Michigan wouldn’t be the first state to include unconventional fuels in its [Renewable Portfolio Standards]. West Virginia’s Alternative and Renewable Portfolio Standard, which has no mandatory minimum requirements for renewable energy, includes coal, natural gas and tire-derived fuels in its definition of alternative energy resources.

If you haven't guessed already, yes, Nesbitt is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council. Nationwide, ALEC has sought to muck with the future of renewables by adding surcharges to people who install solar panels on their roofs and by reducing or eliminating RPS, the standards that require a state to obtain a certain percentage of its electricity from renewables by a certain date. So far, only Ohio has reduced its RPS requirements. But ALEC always seems to have another ace up its sleeve when it runs into obstacles.

Getting a bill like Nesbitt's onto the books in a few states would make a mockery of renewable energy goals. If petcoke, natural gas and solar are all counted as renewables, the goals will have become meaningless. Which would make ALEC supremely happy.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Fri Jun 13, 2014 at 12:53 PM PDT.

Also republished by Motor City Kossacks, Michigan, My Michigan, Climate Change SOS, DK GreenRoots, and Daily Kos.

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