Thursday, February 28, 2008

Granholm Pushes Alternative Energy for Michigan

I missed the State of the State address. There was nothing exciting about the news coverage of the State of the State address. But I heard the end of Governor Granholn's radio town meeting yesterday, when she was talking about luring alternative energy industries to Michigan by making a commitment to use alternative energy to meet the state's needs. I was enthralled. After all that "one state recession" talk, it is wonderful to hear her so comprehesively articulate the whole range of competitive advantages that Michigan has.

Here is part of the transcript of the State of the State address:
Why alternative energy? Because - to borrow a line from Wayne Gretzky - if you want to win, "don't skate to where the puck is - skate to where the puck is going."

The puck is going to alternative energy.

Any time you pick up a newspaper from here on out and see the terms "climate change" or "global warming," just think: "jobs for Michigan."

Because of the need to reduce global warming and end our dependence on expensive foreign oil, the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries will create millions of good paying jobs.

There's no question that these jobs are coming to our nation. The only question is, where?

I say we will win these jobs for Michigan and replace the lost manufacturing jobs with a whole new, growing sector.

Why us? Because, no other state - indeed few places in the world - have what we have to offer: our wind, our water, our woods - and thanks to the working men and women of Michigan - our skilled workforce.

Look at each of these resources.

The unique geography of our peninsulas makes us windy. Experts have said that we have the second best potential for wind generation and production in the country. In fact, the wind turbines we'd use to capture that power can be built right here in Michigan, because we have what's needed: manufacturing infrastructure; available factory space; a skilled workforce. And water - the Great Lakes - are one of the best ways to ship these huge turbines.

That Pure Michigan water will do even more for us. The natural movement, the waves of our Great Lakes waters, creates enormous energy. We are talking with businesses right now about coming to Michigan to convert water currents into electric currents.

And wood! The wood waste from the pulp and paper industry is being used to produce the next generation of biofuels. Cutting-edge companies like Mascoma, Chemrec, NewPage, and others are turning wood waste into fuel for your vehicles, and they want to come here because of our vast sustainable forests.

Our automotive base is also a huge asset: we are the automotive research capital of the world, and we are building the engines of the future - hybrids, clean diesel, electric, fuel cells, flexfuel - all of that is being, and will continue to be, researched, designed, and produced right here in Michigan.

There may be one or two other states that are sunnier than we are, but we are already a huge player in the solar energy industry. We have in Michigan the world's largest producer of the stuff that makes solar panels work. Polycrystalline silicon. Made by Hemlock Semiconductor right here in Michigan. They are in the middle of a billion dollar expansion, hiring 500 people in the Saginaw area. They have even bigger plans. And just last week, Dow Solar Solutions announced it was locating a new $52 million manufacturing facility in Midland, focusing on solar energy generating building materials. Saginaw Valley can be the Silicon Valley for the alternative energy business!

Even waste is being used: companies are taking household trash in landfills and converting it to green energy - the Lansing Board of Water and Light is doing it right now. Farms are turning animal waste into methane gas. Opportunities are everywhere in Michigan to create green energy.

Michigan must do as any successful business does. To compete, we need to capitalize on our natural advantages. For us, it's our geography and our history. Auto ingenuity. And our solar edge. Wind. Woods. Water. Workforce. Even waste. If we do this right, Michigan can be the alternative energy capital of North America, and create thousands and thousands of jobs.

But, for Michigan to win the race for those high-paying jobs, we have to out-hustle the competition. How?

First, we must commit as a state to use alternative energy to meet our own energy needs.

To understand the connection between renewable energy and jobs, just look at Sweden - a country with striking resemblances to our state: the same size population, similar geography with two-thirds of their land covered by forests, a strong automotive sector. Sweden set high goals for their use of renewable energy. The result? They created over 2,000 businesses and 400,000 jobs in their renewable energy sector. 400,000 jobs!

Alternative energy companies have watched closely as 25 other states have set aggressive goals for their alternative energy use. We have to meet and beat other states' goals here in Michigan if we are going to attract those companies here. That's why I am asking the Legislature to set ambitious alternative energy goals for Michigan - produce 10 percent of our electrical energy from renewable sources by the year 2015 and a full 25 percent by the year 2025. Thank you Sen. Patterson and Representative Accavitti for working to craft the bipartisan legislation that will transform our state.

There is no way to overestimate the importance of setting state renewable energy use goals when it comes to creating jobs.
It is interesting to actually watch the address, because you can see how flat footed the legislature seems when the governor segues from a hockey metaphor to the alternative energy spiel. She might as well be speaking French.

This is, of course, where we the people need to step in. I will be checking out Governor Granholm's proposal and leaning on my legislators to support it.

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