Renewable Revival in Michigan? GOP Governor finds Booming Green jobs sector Boring.

May 16, 2011

Most of the attention in the midwest has been focused on Wisconsin, and its new governor Scott Walker, who seems to hate renewable energy as much as he hates unions and the workers who belong to them. He’s not alone of course, disdain for green jobs,  the workers who might hold them, and anything that runs counter to the fossil fuel agenda runs deep in this generation of tea party republicans.

New Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, not to be outdone, has his own questions about the new-fangled, lefty, granola crunching, vaguely subversive sound of all this. In a recent call in radio show, the Guv was asked his opinion about a higher Renewable goal, and offshore wind power. His limp answer was more or less, let’s “wait and see if it’s working”, and get on with his program of lowering taxes for businesses, while raising them on pensioners, (you heard that right), and going after the real causes of our economic troubles,  – teachers, cops, firemen, and nurses.

But then there are those pesky facts. Former Governor Granholm’s policies of pushing renewable energy quietly turned this state into a burgeoning green energy powerhouse, and made Michigan the number one job producing state in 2010.

Michigan’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) remains an anemic 10 percent, but the state’s deep bench of manufacturing-savvy engineers and technicians, superior transportation and proximity to markets, have made it a player in the 21st century’s fundamental boom.

According to Reuters:

Michigan businesses are expected to create more than 150,000 clean energy jobs in the next decade from $14 billion of projects in the pipeline.

The jobs will stem from 17 advanced battery companies and nearly 50 solar, wind and biofuels companies that came to Michigan from August 2009 to December 2010, lured by state tax credits and federal stimulus grants..

Snyder was recently mocked by Steven Colbert as the father of the “Emergency Financial Manager” law, (the acronym is pronounced “EF”M, according to Colbert) giving dictatorial powers to political hacks who can void contracts, dismiss elected officials, crush unions, and strip a community’s crown jewels as political plums for their supporters.

Meanwhile, back on main street, people have heard about the green jobs, but most people are still digging out of the worst recession in memory, and many are still unemployed.  Look for a large, Madison-style demonstration this weekend in Lansing, and a recall campaign kicking off very soon.

The Muskegon Chronicle writes:

Snyder was in Holland (MI) Wednesday to meet with a couple dozen leaders in the alternative energy field. But he offered no comprehensive policy on clean energy manufacturing in Michigan, instead focusing on eliminating the Michigan Business Tax.

There was no talk of tax credits for clean energy manufacturers. Or a state plan to use a larger percentage of clean-energy sources — both topics championed often by Granholm.

Grand Valley State University’s Arn Boezaart — head of the Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center in Muskegon — has watched the transition from Granholm to Snyder on energy issues.

“It is clear the governor’s office is not ready to issue a strong policy statement on energy,” Boezaart said after attending the session at Energetx. He served on the former governor’s Michigan Offshore Wind Council.

“I’m interested in seeing it sooner than later,” he said, echoing the sentiments expressed by Mary Lou Benecke of Dow Corning, which has made a huge investment in solar cell material manufacturing with its Hemlock Semiconductor plant near Saginaw.

“Thank you for your work and the priorities you set,” Benecke told Synder concerning business taxes, the state budget and government reform. “But we want to see energy right up at the top.”

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