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Truth Squad: Pro-Proposal 3 ad gets technical foul for jobs language


Who: Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs — Pro-Proposal 3 group

What: TV ad

Truth Squad call: Technical foul

Questionable statement: “Michigan is falling behind in the clean energy race. Thirty other states have already passed measures similar to Proposal 3.”

The forward ad cites a July 6, 2012, Crain’s Detroit Business story (paywall protected) that stated this:

“More than 30 states — including Illinois, Ohio and Iowa — already have adopted renewable energy standards similar to Michigan’s proposal and are higher than Michigan’s current standard of 10 percent.”

CARE, the opposition ballot group to Proposal 3, stated via a press release that “no other state has a similar measure” — a statement tied to the matter of placement in the constitution.

Crain’s, after learning from MTS that the statement was being used in an ad, added a clarification to its July 6 report.

A Citizens Research Council of Michigan analysis on Proposal 3 says there are renewable portfolio standards in place in 29 states (including Michigan), while an additional eight states have renewable goals. (See map 1 of the report.) Thirteen states, the report says, have neither.

Questionable statement: “In Illinois, clean energy is creating jobs while reducing costs.”

The ciitation for this claim is for the Illinois Power Agency, March 30, 2012

An IPA report from April 1 does say that the renewable energy prices for customers of Illinois’ two major utilities were on downward trends.

And it states, “Renewable resources, in particular wind, have played a dramatic role in reducing electric energy prices in Illinois and the entire Eastern Interconnection, as measured by the impact on Locational Marginal Prices (LMPs).”

On jobs, the report states, “The Illinois Power Agency has been presented with evidence that the Illinois Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) appear to have enabled significant job creation and economic development opportunities as well as environmental benefits.”

The report continues, however, that “Care must be taken, however, to not optimistically extrapolate these results without limit, as factors such as market prices for energy, transmission constraints, and uncertainty in the load serving responsibility will affect the cost-effectiveness of near term future additions to the renewable resource generation stock in Illinois.”

Questionable statement: “Proposal 3 will create 94,000 jobs.”

As previously reported by Truth Squad, the 94,000 figure comes from a study paid for by the Michigan Environmental Council, a Prop 3 proponent, done by researchers at Michigan State University.

That study actually projects 94,000 “job years” — a research term that means one full-time job for one year. Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs says that the terms “jobs” and “job years” are commonly interchanged. However, the 94,000 figure in the study does not mean Michigan will add a net of 94,000 new, ongoing jobs to its economy.

Overall impression: The ad correctly quotes the July 6, 2012, Crain’s story. A viewer’s impression would turn on the interpretation of the word “similar.” Is a constitutional requirement for renewable power “similar” to a statutory requirement for one?

The ad’s use of the IPA report is consistent. The report does say renewable energy prices were heading down and renewable energy was creating jobs in the state.

The ad, however, does continue to repeat the “94,000 jobs” claim that is not so clear-cut.

Foul or no foul: As with a previous ad, Truth Squad is calling a Technical foul on the jobs statement: “A typical viewer is likely to think of a ‘job’ being a ‘job’ – something that will last, not something that ends in a year. Equating the word ‘job’ with the economist term of ‘job year’ certainly ‘deserves additional explanation.'”

5 comments from Bridge readers.Add mine!

  1. RM

    It looks like the Truth Squad is attempting to pick the fly dodo out of the pepper. Stipulating “94,000 jobs” instead of “94,000 job years” seems a pretty trivial complaint, since both stipulations represent a lot of jobs. Spending precious campaign dollars on attempting to explain the difference between “jobs” and “job years” in a 31 second ad seems like a huge waste of advertising time.

    1. LH

      Stipulating “94,000 jobs” instead of “94,000 job years” seems a pretty trivial complaint, since both stipulations represent a lot of jobs.

      This isn’t a trivial complaint. If the average job lasts 16 years (about half a career’s length), then the number of jobs, J = 94,000 / 16 = 5,875 jobs. Hence, the actual number of jobs will likely be much less than the advertised 94,000 (by at least an entire order of magnitude).

  2. Charles Buck

    If Michigan’s Proposal 3, 25 By 25, passes, a Toledo Blade editorial warns Ohio’s wind turbine manufacturing jobs will move north.

    A check of the U.S. Department of Energy latest year to date data as of July 2012 on state electricity generation shows Iowa and South Dakota already produce 25 percent of their state’s electricity from renewable resources and are at that level from just wind farms alone. Their average residential retail price for electricity? Lower than Michigan’s.

    TOP 10 wind energy producers as a percent of total electric generation
    State, % wind generated, average residential retail price (cents/kilowatthour)
    South Dakota, 25.5%, 9.80
    Iowa, 24.5%, 10.76
    North Dakota, 15.2%, 8.86
    Minnesota, 14.7%, 11.24
    Kansas, 11.3%, 11.10
    Colorado, 11.0%, 11.24
    Oregon, 10.6%, 9.84
    Idaho, 10.5%, 8.35
    Wyoming, 9.9%, 9.66
    Oklahoma, 9.3%, 9.38
    Michigan, 0.66%, 14.06

    I have no doubt Michigan can ramp up wind energy production to meet the 2025 goal. It would take the introduction of roughly 2.0-2.4 million MWh of new generation annually, a feat that is currently being exceeded by four states: California, Iowa, Texas and Oklahoma, according to a comparison of 2011 and 2012 U.S. Department of Energy data. Establishing a high production goal will also support Michigan’s strategic job growth objectives for luring wind turbine manufacturing jobs to the state. Establishing the goals within the state constitution also gives manufacturing plant investors additional security that the mandate will be unaffected by changing political winds in the state Capitol.


    1. LH

      TOP 10 wind energy producers as a percent of total electric generation
      State, % wind generated, average residential retail price (cents/kilowatthour)
      South Dakota, 25.5%, 9.80
      Iowa, 24.5%, 10.76
      North Dakota, 15.2%, 8.86
      Minnesota, 14.7%, 11.24
      Kansas, 11.3%, 11.10
      Colorado, 11.0%, 11.24
      Oregon, 10.6%, 9.84
      Idaho, 10.5%, 8.35
      Wyoming, 9.9%, 9.66
      Oklahoma, 9.3%, 9.38
      Michigan, 0.66%, 14.06

      Each of your TOP 10 states produces about 1/2 or less the electricity that Michigan generates. Also, with the exception of Oregon, each of these TOP 10 states have average wind speeds that are 75% to 100% greater than Michigan’s average wind speed (on land). The power of wind is proportional to wind speed raised to the third power. Hence, the TOP 10 states are getting 5-8 times more power per wind turbine than Michigan (on average). Consequently, Michigan, constrained by the laws of physics, would have to build 5 to 8 times more wind turbines than a TOP 10 state in order to achieve the same electrical generation. Since we need twice the electricity, Michigan will require 10 to 16 times more wind turbines than the average TOP 10 state in order to supply a given percentage of the state’s electrical generation.

      This of course, only applies to land based wind turbines. If we are looking to build on water, then we can match the TOP 10 in terms of wind speed, but it will cost much more.


  3. KK

    The truth squad really blew this one. They missed the real point about the MSU study which is that it is based upon a flawed and biased model. It only counts the positive impacts and doesn’t consider the negative aspects of having to pay for the whole thing.

    It assumes 10 billion dollars just drops from the sky. This model will predict job growth from any type of activity no matter how foolish. If the proposal was about digging and refilling ditches with hand shovels it would still predict jobs growth.

    The model also fails to consider other investment options like transportation, education or tax cuts. When we spend money on turbines we are reducing the money available for other possible investment that could have a higher return.

    The model also ignores the impacts of money leaving the state. We as a state do send significant amounts of money out of state to buy coal but under this proposal we will have more money leaving the state in the form of payments to out of state and foreign wind developers/manufacturers. Every revolution of the turbine represents money leaving the state.

    The truth squad also failed to notice the misuse of the word “investment”. It is not us making an investment it is the wind developers. Our role in this is to pay them back with interest. It is the developers that are earning the ROI not us.

    The MSU study used the JEDI model for estimating jobs impacts. Here’s a link that explains its limitations.

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