Michigan Joins Alternative Energy Campaign

Michigan’s ambitious alternative energy leadership should serve as a wake-up call to the federal government to catch up to states’ efforts.

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm recently announced that Michigan plans to set an example for the nation by developing and using alternative fuels. Granholm has appointed a 26-member commission to create a state plan to increase production and research of ethanol, biodiesel, and other alternative fuels as early as this coming summer.

Michigan will join other states, such as Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, in committing to alternative energy efforts. In September, the Agriculture Department awarded Minnesota $4.1 million in renewable energy grants to support the state’s growing promotion and use of renewable energy. But more is to be done.

Gov. Granholm recognizes that Michigan is in an advantageous position to lead the country in this promising, new area. The state boasts ready customers for alternative energy innovations in the Big Three Detroit automakers, an expansive agricultural industry, and research universities that can accelerate the technology’s development. “I don’t want to be bypassed by other states,” Granholm said. “I want to lead the nation.”

With the U.S.’s dependence on foreign oil as strong as ever, Granholm’s goals are worth implementing on a broader, national level. Currently the U.S. imports 60 percent of its oil, the majority of which is used for transportation.

In its ongoing Kick the Oil Habit campaign, CAP’s sister organization, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, is encouraging consumers to use E85 alternative fuel. CAP has also argued for government tax incentives, which could play a major role in spurring development and research of such alternative fuels.

In October, the Center issued additional measures it would like to see occur at the federal level:

  • Invest in biofuels. Establish a separate cellulosic biofuels component of the Renewable Fuel Standard of five billion gallons of cellulosic biofuels in the overall fuel supply by 2015, and provide consistent funding for production incentives.
  • Establish a carbon cap program. Reward farmers that address global warming by capping the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere, and then allow farmers and companies to trade anti-pollution “credits” in the marketplace to reduce emissions.
  • Increase federal support. Fully fund and expand existing federal commitments to biomass, and create tax incentives for expanding critical biofuel storage, transportation, and distribution infrastructure throughout the nation, and fully fund loan guarantees for commercialization of cellulosic ethanol.
  • Promote payments for worthy facilities. Establish direct producer payments and other targeted incentives to farmers engaged in the development of farmer cooperative and locally owned biorefineries and biofuel facilities.
  • Encourage farmers with incentives. Establish strong financial incentives, direct green payments, and low interest loans to encourage farmers to grow dedicated energy crops such as switchgrass and other forms of biomass.

Michigan’s ambitious and admirable leadership in the campaign for alternative fuel should serve as a wake-up call to the federal government to catch up to the states’ efforts.

For more information about CAP’s energy initiatives, please read:

Contact our Energy experts Ana Unruh Cohen, Bracken Hendricks, and Jake Caldwell for additional information and comments.

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