States across the country are still reeling from the worst recession America has faced since the Great Depression. The economic downturn wiped out millions of jobs, especially in manufacturing. And perhaps no state felt the effects of this economic downturn more than Michigan, where 800,000 jobs have vanished over the last decade.
But Governor Jennifer Granholm sees a way for Michigan to create jobs and bolster its floundering economy: clean energy. Granholm spoke at a CAP event last week about creating clean energy jobs for Michigan and America’s ailing workforce.
Governor Granholm poignantly recounted the story of Greenville, a small Michigan town that lost its main employer in early 2006, an Electrolux refrigerator factory. The factory employed 2,700 of the town’s 8,000 workers, and the effects were devastating when management decided to move the profitable factory to Juarez, Mexico.
Hope for Greenville came in the form of green collar jobs. Michigan passed energy legislation in 2008, which invested in companies that produce clean energy technology such as lithium car batteries, and harness renewable energy such as solar and wind. These investments created 89,000 jobs in Michigan and helped bring 800 new jobs to Greenville through investments in a solar energy company. Granholm took this story as a sign of what could be done if the large-scale energy bill was adopted at the national level, saying, “This energy bill is such an opportunity.”
Governor Granholm praised Chevy’s development of the electric-hybrid Volt and welcomed the expansion of lithium ion battery manufacturing in Michigan. Battery manufacturing investments began to thrive in the state largely because of last year’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. “The U.S. government must play a role in this,” urged Governor Granholm.
Governor Granholm argued that the federal government should create incentives to stimulate demand for new clean energy technologies in order to help them achieve the economies of scale that help bring costs down. Such incentives could include consumer credits for lithium ion batteries and feed-in tariffs, as well as direct investment in energy infrastructure, and research and development. Clean energy industries also need increased access to capital in the form of loans and grants for retooling idling plants so clean energy companies can use them. These measures, Granholm argued, would bolster America’s burgeoning clean energy economy.
Granholm insisted that the debate surrounding energy legislation should focus on jobs and economic growth rather than whether or not global warming is happening. “This conversation has to be about jobs,” she said. Michigan is forging into a promising future thanks to Governor Granholm’s self-described “obsession” with stimulating the clean energy economy in conjunction with the state’s bold energy legislation. The rest of the United States can learn a great deal from the Motor State about both greening the power grid and getting job growth back on track.