With gas prices rising, lawmakers in Lansing are launching initiatives to encourage the development of alternative sources of energy to offset the increasing price of oil. Gov. Jennifer Granholm wants to extend tax credits to companies that research, develop and manufacture advanced-technology vehicles, in addition to directing some funds from a proposed $2-billion bond to alternative energy and other technology endeavors. Efforts to promote alternative sources of energy will be critical in order to decrease U.S. dependence on oil and move the state from a manufacturing-based economy.

Jess Cox

Granholm’s initiative reflects the state’s need to diversify its energy sources. Currently, the Michigan economy is heavily reliant on fossil fuels. The major industry — automobiles — is dependent on consumers’ willingness to continue purchasing large, gas-guzzling trucks and sport-utility vehicles. As gas prices surpass $2.50 a gallon in many regions across the nation, many consumers are looking to smaller, more efficient vehicles, while others explore the option of hybrid vehicles. Granholm’s tax credits, which will provide money for the research and development of more advanced hybrids, could undoubtedly help Detroit’s car companies modernize and adapt to evolving consumer demand.

Granholm’s initiatives should also create jobs for the Michigan economy. According to a study released last fall by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Michigan could add 4,900 jobs, besides saving $1.7 billion in energy costs, if it acted to develop alternative sources of energy. The manufacturing sector — which has anchored Michigan for decades — will not be the source of the state’s future prosperity. Cutting-edge fields, including modern energy research, must be expanded so that Michigan’s economic future is no longer dependent on the shrinking manufacturing and automobile sectors. By providing tax incentives to help ease Michigan’s transition, this plan would help create the framework for a successful future.

Furthermore, the environmental costs of continued dependence on oil are enormous. Fossil fuel use is known to contribute to the greenhouse effect, further exacerbating the global warming trend. Also, as global demand for oil increases, nations will go to increasingly extreme measures to extract oil. Already, the United States has opened up the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling interests. The environmental cost of this move, as many have pointed out, could be catastrophic. By helping to encourage alternative energy research, Granholm’s proposal would help to solve the oil shortage in the only way possible: by addressing demand, not supply. With countries demanding less oil, environmentally unsafe drilling projects will not be necessary.

Granholm’s initiative to provide incentives for private enterprise to develop and use alternative forms of energy is an instrumental step toward weaning the state of Michigan off oil. The proposal — which aims to address rising gasoline and oil prices by tackling demand, not supply — is a long-term solution that must be enacted and expanded. The economic future of this state — and, indeed, the nation — relies on it.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *