Legislative Forum Series: Fueling Our Future

Fueling Our Future: Land Use Solutions to Rising Energy Prices

The MSU Land Policy Institute and the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research held the legislative forum on "Fueling Our Future: Land Use Solutions to Rising Energy Prices" on Tuesday, September 27, 2006, at the Mackinaw Room in the Anderson House Office Building near the Capitol in Lansing. The Forum explored land use solutions for Michigan.

Senator Patty Birkholz and Representative Chris Kolb were the legislative hosts for this event. Forum panelists shared information and policy recommendations on alternative energy, mass transit and the greening of communities.

Forum Panelists

Dr. Simon Ng, Wayne State University
Dr. Simon Ng is a professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at Wayne State University (WSU), founding director of WSU's Graduate Programs in Alternative Energy Technology, and director of WSU/NextEnergy's National Biofuel Energy Laboratory. He has also served as a visiting scientist with General Motors Research Center. Professor Ng's research interests include alternative fuels, environmental and fuel conversion catalysis, polymers, smart sensors and biomedical devices. He has received funding for his work from several agencies, including the National Science Foundation, 21st Century Job Fund, Michigan Life Science Corridor, NextEnergy, Ford, GM and Exxon, among others. Professor Ng has received several awards for excellence in research and teaching.

Matt Carpenter, IBI Group, Canada
As a transportation consultant, Mr. Carpenter advises communities on strategic infrastructure decisions and develops detailed action plans for transit, traffic, freight and technology projects. Currently, he is working with industry and government to build a new bridge between Michigan and Ontario, and he is helping deploy advanced technology on buses in Flint. Previously, he worked for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) in Detroit. Mr. Carpenter has a Master's degree in urban planning from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Ed Bobinchak, Great Lakes Capital Fund
Ed Bobinchak is the assistant chief underwriter for the Great Lakes Capital Fund. He reviews investment proposals from Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Illinois and provides technical assistance to both for-profit and nonprofit developers to assist them in structuring the financing on their affordable housing projects. Mr. Bobinchak also coordinates technical assistance to developers interested in the Michigan Green Communities program. Prior to joining the Great Lakes Capital Fund, he worked at Local Initiatives Support Corporation in Detroit, Neighborhood Services Organization and the WARM Training Program.


Facts of Interest

Hybrid Vehicles

  • Hybrid-electric vehicles combine the benefits of gasoline engines and electronic motors, achieving improved fuel economy, among other things. Energy from the wheels, normally wasted during coasting and braking, is converted into electricity and stored in the battery for future use. The gasoline engine is automatically turned off when the vehicle comes to a stop, preventing wasted energy during idling. Unlike all-electric vehicles, hybrids don't have to be plugged in to be recharged.

  • Qualified hybrids may be eligible for a federal income tax credit of up to $3,400.

  • The most popular hybrid on the market is the Toyota Prius, introduced in Japan in 1997 and in the U.S. in 2001. EPA estimates that the Prius achieves 60 mpg in the city and 51 mpg on the highway.

  • Hybrid technology may still be too new for the cost savings on gasoline to outweigh the initial cost of the car, which tends to be at least $5,000 more than gasoline-only counterparts.

  • Learn how hybrid vehicles can help Michigan citizens reduce fuel costs at www.fueleconomy.gov/.

Green Communities/Green Building

  • According to the U.S. Green Building Council, buildings are responsible for over 60 percent of the U.S.'s total electricity consumption, roughly 30 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and 136 million tons of construction and demolition waste produced in the U.S every year.

  • Unfettered growth not only has adverse environmental impacts, but it discourages human physical and social activity.

  • Green building seeks to address these and other issues by advocating for building methods that conserve natural resources and energy, protect and link to the environment, and advance healthier and higher-quality living options.

  • The Michigan Green Communities program, begun in 2005, is making $750,000 in grant money and flexible financing available for green affordable housing across the state.

  • For more on Green Communities in Michigan, visit www.greencommunitiesonline.org/Michigan/.

Public Transit

  • Transportation is the backbone of smart growth. The structure of a transportation network is the skeleton that supports smart growth or sprawling development. Transit-oriented development puts transit at a community's center. Housing, offices, and shops within walking distance,give people greater opportunity to live or work near transit and to run errands on foot on the way to or from the transit.

  • Smart growth communities are designed first for walking, with a grid street pattern that makes it easy to make direct connections on foot, while sidewalks, traffic circles, and other devices slow traffic and create a safe walking environment.

  • Gas prices have increased 100 percent since January 2003. Using public transit to commute to work can save a person up to $3,000 per year. By replacing a car in favor of using public transit, savings can be as high as $11,100 annually.

  • Transit use saves more than 855 million gallons of gasoline every year. If the U.S. used public transportation for roughly ten percent of daily travel needs, it would reduce dependence on imported Persian Gulf oil by more than 40 percent.


  • Bioenergy is stored energy from the sun contained in biomass, such as plant matter and animal waste. Biomass is considered renewable because it's replenished more quickly compared to millions of years needed to replenish fossil fuels.

  • Biomass fuel sources include agricultural residue, pulp/paper mill residue, urban wood waste, forest residue, energy crops, landfill methane and animal waste.

  • Part of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the National Bioenergy Center (NBC) was established in 2000 to support the science and technology goals of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Biomass Program. NBC unifies DOE's efforts to advance technology for producing fuels, chemicals, materials and power from biomass.

  • IEA Bioenergy is an international collaboration that aims to accelerate the use of environmentally sound and cost-competitive bioenergy on a sustainable basis, thereby, achieving a substantial contribution to future energy demands.

  • Visit www.nrel.gov/biomass/national_bioenergy.
    or www.ieabioenergy.com/Index.aspx to learn more.

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