Moving Michigan Beyond Oil

Released by: Environment Michigan Research and Policy Center

Increasing dependence on petroleum-based transportation fuels is negatively impacting Michigan’s economy and environment. Michiganders send over $14 billion per year to other countries and states to import petroleum. On the environmental front, petroleum is increasing ecological degradation from global warming, air pollution, water pollution, habitat destruction and related issues. Moreover, petroleum-based products with even higher environmental impacts—such as tar sands—are increasing their market share in Michigan and throughout our region.

Fortunately, Michigan’s political leaders have begun to position our state as a leader in the manufacturing and development of alternative transportation fuels–such as advanced batteries and cellulosic ethanol. These rapidly developing, low-impact transportation options have the potential to help mitigate the economic and environmental problems caused by petroleum use and allow Michigan to emerge as a leader in the jobs-rich new energy economy. However, there is new evidence that the production of some biofuels and other alternative fuels could actually increase global warming pollution and other environmental impacts, rather than decrease them. Thus, public policy must prioritize the use of fuels that deliver the greatest benefit for Michigan and its environment.

The best policy vehicle to ensure benefits to Michigan’s transportation sector is a low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS), which sets declining targets for lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions for all transportation fuels. A well-designed LCFS stimulates demand for the production and use of locally grown biofuels and encourages the development of energy-saving technologies (such as advanced batteries for electric vehicles) that can reduce carbon dioxide emissions. An LCFS also ensures that the fuels that replace gasoline will be the least-cost alternatives, thus growing jobs and new economic opportunities while also reducing emissions.