warning: More power plant emissions could drop lake levels
By Mike Magner
WASHINGTON -- Michigan
environmentalists today kicked off a campaign against
global warming with a report warning that a continued
rise in power plant emissions could mean a continued drop
in Great Lakes water levels.
A coalition of groups,
led by the Michigan Environmental Council, faces an uphill
battle on the issue, though.
Only two Michigan members
of Congress -- Democratic Reps. Lynn Rivers of Ann Arbor
and John Conyers of Detroit -- are backing legislation
to mandate emission cuts, the environmentalists said.
"We know what we need
to do to clean up power plants, and we have the technology
to do it," said Megan Owens, field director for the Public
Interest Research Group of Michigan. "Now our elected
leaders need to act."
Rivers, Owens and representatives
of the Michigan Environmental Council and the Union of
Concerned Scientists were to urge Michigan lawmakers to
support mandated cuts in utility emissions at a news conference
in Detroit this morning.
Coal-fired plants run
by Michigan's largest utilities -- Consumers Energy Co.
and Detroit Edison Co. -- produced 74 million tons of
carbon dioxide in 2000, or about 13 percent more than
they emitted in 1995, the groups' report said. The increased
emissions are mainly due to higher energy usage.
Carbon dioxide is abundant
in the atmosphere, but manmade sources of the gas -- primarily
from burning of fuels -- is believed to be a major cause
of climate change. Government scientists reported in March
that this past winter was the second-warmest on record,
exceeded only by the winter of 1998.
The result is less ice
cover on the Great Lakes, which in turn means more evaporation
of the water, said Isaac Elnecave, policy specialist for
the Michigan Environmental Council. One study predicted
that average lake levels, already near record lows, could
drop a foot with global warming, he said.
"Michigan coal plants
must begin to take responsibility for the damage caused
by their pollution," Rivers said in a statement prepared
for this morning's news conference. "The technology exists
to reduce carbon dioxide emissions."
Rivers is co-sponsoring
a bill that would require utilities nationwide to reduce
carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels, or by about 14
percent, by 2007.
The Bush administration,
however, is urging Congress not to mandate cuts but to
allow utilities to voluntarily reduce emissions over the
next 15 years.
Lawmakers worried that
mandates could boost energy prices tend to support Bush's
plan, though Elnecave argued that costs could be kept
down by developing renewable energy sources and by promoting