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Opinion | Michigan's energy future relies on Enbridge's Great Lakes tunnel

Mark Griffin

Continued arguments about the future of the Line 5 pipeline, particularly the small section operating safely in the Straits of Mackinac, seem to miss the main point of the issue: Michigan needs the energy and the jobs it provides. Those who want to shut down Line 5 also overlook the lack of meaningful alternatives for obtaining the affordable fuel that we rely on every day.  

There’s good news, though.  A high-tech solution is already in the works – building the Great Lakes Tunnel.  A private company – Enbridge – is already paying the full $500 million cost to build the Tunnel which means there is no cost to taxpayers, so let’s end the stall tactics, move forward with the project, and get Line 5 out of the water.  

Whether you’re gassing up your car, turning on the lights in the morning, or using a toothbrush before bed, you’re probably taking advantage of the fuel Line 5 delivers without even knowing it.   

Related:

The Michigan Petroleum Association and Michigan Association of Convenience Stores represents more than 15,000 Michiganders working at more than 400 small businesses in most of Michigan’s 83 counties that are connected to products that safely move through Line 5. Our members operate more than 2,500 retail locations across the state and rely on the energy from Line 5 to both run their businesses and make a living supplying that energy to Michigan residents.  

Those are big numbers, but they’re just a fraction of the jobs and families that are counting on the latest Line 5 infrastructure project to make a safe pipeline safer by getting it out of the Straits, and burying it deep below the lakebed in a state-of-the-art tunnel. 

Without energy from Line 5, the energy that Michigan residents and businesses rely on would be much more difficult to obtain and much more costly, as well. Cutting off this essential energy supply would be devastating to Michigan’s economy, and that includes Michigan’s gas stations and convenience stores.  

We don’t do ourselves any favors if we aren’t honest about the challenges the state will face without the Great Lakes Tunnel. 

Gas prices will go up.  Transportation costs will increase.  Families will pay more to heat and power their homes.  Manufacturers will see energy price-spikes, which means customers will pay more for the Michigan products they rely on.   

Efforts by some in Lansing to block the tunnel would also mean fuel being transported more expensively by truck and railroad, increasing pollution and driving up the risk of spills, accidents, and disasters across our communities. 

The alternative?  Lansing should get out of the way and let Enbridge build the Great Lakes Tunnel.  Let them pump $500 million into our state’s economy.  Keep energy prices affordable.  Support the union and local jobs the project creates and protects.  Make the risk of a spill in the Straits “unquantifiably low.”  Defend the local fish and wildlife by building the tunnel deep below the lakebed.

As our state works to recover from a global pandemic, we need every tool in the toolbox.  The tunnel is essential to Michigan’s economic comeback.  Instead of bigger bills, we need reliability and certainty. That’s why Michigan’s petroleum providers and convenience store owners urge state and federal regulators to move forward as quickly as possible with permitting for the Great Lakes Tunnel. Our energy future depends on it.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Ron French. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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