Skip to main content
Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Opinion | Morality and a clean energy future

In my town, a power plant still burns the dirtiest of fossil fuels —  coal.

The people of Monroe have been breathing toxic air for over 50 years. More than 100,000 Americans die every year from soot pollution, according to the journal of the National Academy of Sciences. We breathe in these soot particles and then they penetrate deep into our lungs and bloodstream. We have eight more years to endure until, mercifully, the power plant will close in 2032. On that day, Michigan will–at long last–be free of coal-burning power plants.

Sister Barbara Stanbridge headshot
Sister Barbara Stanbridge is a member of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary environmental justice team.

Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took action to speed this transition toward a safer and healthier future. It announced new rules that will strengthen limits on air and water pollution from power plants. These changes will save 1,200 lives annually and prevent 360,000 cases of asthma symptoms starting in 2035.

My religious congregation in Monroe, the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, has long advocated for our community health and a transition to clean energy. This is a moral issue for us. God did not intend for us to poison ourselves with dirty energy. As Pope Francis says, polluting our air and water is “a sin against ourselves and a sin against God.”

DTE Energy operates the Monroe Power Plant and has tried hard to maintain good relations with the sisters and the broader community. It has taken far too long to move past dirty coal, but I do also give them credit for announcing plans for 1,000 megawatts of solar and wind each year starting in 2026.

I hope DTE’s commitments are sincere. I don’t believe other fossil fuel companies are. Despite “greenwashing” ads with wind turbines and green logos, still just 2.5% of global spending by fossil fuel companies is going to clean energy, according to the International Energy Agency.

It’s not like they are just learning that fossil fuels are dangerous to our health and our climate. Fossil fuel companies had detailed science on climate disruption going back to the 1970s. For example, we now know that the American Petroleum Institute, which represents the major fossil fuel companies, formed a secret committee in 1979 called the “CO2 and Climate Task Force.” Documents show that in 1980, the task force knew that continued fossil fuel use would disrupt the climate with likely “globally catastrophic effects” around the middle of this century.

The world is experiencing intensifying wildfires, heat waves, and floods. We are all learning more about the pollution in our bodies. The fossil fuel industry is finally making some shifts, but it is mostly because we, the people, are forcing them to change. I am grateful that the EPA is responding to this groundswell of support and is acting on our behalf for a cleaner and safer world.

This progress is encouraging, but we must remain vigilant. The day the EPA took this significant action was April 25th. Coincidentally, it was the feast of St. Mark the Evangelist, whose gospel includes the words, “Be watchful! Be alert!”

Let us heed those words. Each year, the global fossil fuel industry makes trillions of dollars while the pollution they create kills millions of people. They may feel a fiduciary duty to prioritize profit over public health, but we have a moral duty to stop them.

How impactful was this article for you?

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 David Zeman. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

Only donate if we've informed you about important Michigan issues

See what new members are saying about why they donated to Bridge Michigan:

  • “In order for this information to be accurate and unbiased it must be underwritten by its readers, not by special interests.” - Larry S.
  • “Not many other media sources report on the topics Bridge does.” - Susan B.
  • “Your journalism is outstanding and rare these days.” - Mark S.

If you want to ensure the future of nonpartisan, nonprofit Michigan journalism, please become a member today. You, too, will be asked why you donated and maybe we'll feature your quote next time!

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Pay with PayPal Donate Now