GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) – Michigan’s winds, wood-product waste and shuttered factories could be used to create renewable and alternative energy sources as well as thousands of new jobs, Gov. Jennifer Granholm said yesterday night.
The state is “uniquely positioned” to take the lead in the development of renewable power and alternative fuels for transportation, she said during a town hall meeting that focused on energy and the economy.
“This state’s economy is the most challenged in the nation,” Granholm said during the event, which was televised on all six of Michigan’s NBC affiliates. “We have the highest unemployment rate in the nation and we’ve lost 400,000 manufacturing jobs since the year 2000.
“This state, more than any other state, needs to focus on the basics: diversifying our economy to provide a job for every worker, educating our citizens from young to old, making sure that we have safe places to live and work for all of us and health care for every citizen.”
She wants the Legislature to require that more of Michigan’s electricity come from wind, solar and other renewable sources. Her proposed renewable portfolio standard would require that 10 percent of the state’s power come from renewable energy by the end of 2015.
Granholm, a Democrat, has said this would give businesses the certainty they need before building wind farms in Michigan and attracting thousands of jobs. Her administration also argues that in the long run, renewable energy is cheaper than energy generated by coal-fired plants because of the rising cost of coal and potential carbon dioxide restrictions in the future.
There are 28 states with renewable portfolio standards, policies that require electricity providers to obtain a minimum percentage of their power from renewable energy resources by a certain date.
“Michigan is so unique with its geography and history with the auto industry that we could leap ahead of those other states in creating jobs,” she said. “We could replace those lost manufacturing jobs if we are focused, if our Legislature passes this bill.”
Some lawmakers oppose mandates and would instead prefer to create incentives for more green energy to be used. It is unclear whether a final deal can be reached soon because the issue is tied to controversial efforts to rewrite the law opening up monopoly utilities to competition in 2000.
Legislators “are working together in a bipartisan kind of way to say, ‘Is a renewable portfolio standard the way to go?'” said state Sen. Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, who was in the studio audience.
“There’s also several other alternative and renewable energy-type programs that we’re looking at, and industries. I agree with the governor – wind is one of them. But we’ve got others, all the way from algae and others that you would think were pretty far out there.”
When Ron Pavlichek, a tool-and-die worker from Mancelona, asked Granholm what could be done to retain manufacturing jobs in Michigan, the governor again steered the discussion to renewable and alternative energy.