There’s change in the air. The winds over Lake Michigan are just right for generating clean electricity. Last month, Scandia Wind Offshore, a Norway-based wind energy company, proposed a $4 billion wind turbine development project in Michigan that would prevent an estimated 2 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions and create about 3,000 jobs. If these appealing proposals are accepted, they could lead to more clean energy efforts in the state. To make Michigan a state powered by green energy, the legislature must commit to policies that support the development of alternative energy sources like wind turbines.

Scandia’s proposal calls for offshore turbines in Lake Michigan that would generate a combined 1,000 megawatts of electricity. That’s in addition to the 150 megawatts of turbine-turning potential the company proposes to utilize on land in West Michigan. Their proposal came only shortly before the first public meeting last week of the Michigan Great Lakes Wind Council, a body created by Gov. Jennifer Granholm to suggest legislation for encouraging wind power development. On Tuesday, Ventower Industries, a supplier of materials to build wind turbines, broke ground on a 115,000-square-foot wind turbine tower construction facility in Monroe, which is expected to employ 150 people.

Encouraging renewable energy and clean technology has serious implications for the creation of jobs and the recovery of Michigan’s economy. Wind turbine construction companies should be able to build in close proximity to the lakes where the turbines will be assembled and used. To attract wind power companies to build in Michigan and create jobs and revenue, the state should provide smart, detailed laws that encourage these green energy companies. Those types of laws are what Michigan lacks.

It’s up to the Michigan legislature to enact policies encouraging wind power. But a bill currently under consideration would place a moratorium on offshore wind development like the kind that Scandia has proposed. That bill is almost comically at odds with logical public policy that would benefit the state’s environment and economy. And while Michigan legislators contemplate shutting down this promising industry, Ontario is considering an $85 billion project that is predicted to create 66,000 jobs. Michigan’s comparatively lethargic response to promoting wind power makes it easy to guess where developers will build the next new turbine factory.

Economic benefits aside, the lasting legacy of inaction would be environmental. Supporting renewable energy is a matter of social responsibility. Though burning coal, which is currently Michigan’s primary energy source, seems cheap and easy, it comes with a heavy price. Coal emits significant amounts of carbon dioxide as it burns, contributing to global warming. To combat the negative effects of climate change, people must change their behavior and switch to more environmentally-friendly energy options. Unlike coal, wind energy is a clean, efficient and renewable resource.

Encouraging green energy isn’t just tilting at windmills. Fighting this battle for clean energy could have lasting consequences for the state. The state government has a duty to act in the best interest of its constituents and pass legislation to encourage the growth of green energy sources like wind power.

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