PWIR: Memories from Econ 101

Tags: 25x25, electric vehicles, michigan supreme court, PWIR, sulfide mining, toxic chemicals, wind energy jobs

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A recent report announced that wind energy is creating strong job growth nationwide and, while that's encouraging, it also shows that we could be doing even better here in Michigan than we currently are. 

I remember sitting in Econ 101 in college discussing the idea of "competitive advantage." The professor called out, "what is Michigan's competitive advantage?" Of course, one person yelled, "Great Lakes!" Another said, "Lloyd Carr." Another student - and this is the one that stuck with me, as it was equal parts simplistic and true - shouted that "we make stuff!" If we expand the renewable energy market in Michigan with the 25% by 2025 ballot initiative, we'll create thousands of jobs "making stuff" like solar panels and wind turbines. We'll make it better than anyone else, too; and that's our advantage.

In this week's PWIR:

Report Says Michigan is 7th in Nation for Wind Energy Jobs

A recent report by the American Wind Energy Association listed Michigan at 7th in the nation with 4,000-5,000 wind energy jobs. However, we're 9th in new wind energy construction and not even in the top 10 in wind energy generation. Iowa has the most wind energy jobs, and they already generate 18% of their energy from wind on the way to their own 25% by 2025 goal. South Dakota already gets 22%.

Michigan could do so much better... We're getting shown up by Iowa and South Dakota! We've created 5,000 wind energy jobs on the way to meeting our 10% by 2015 standard, which is good. It's good, but it's not great. We are hamstrung by the fact that we have the lowest standard in the nation among the 28 states that have standards, as pointed out in this excellent Bridge Magazine article.

We've got something Iowa doesn't, though: the strongest manufacturing talent in the country. With the same 25% by 2025 standard that states like Iowa and Illinois (7,000 jobs apiece) have, we can create thousands more jobs than them due to our manufacturing prowess.

In addition to the construction, maintenance, and management jobs created everywhere wind energy is abundant, we can also create wind turbine manufacturing jobs like those already created at places like Energetx in Holland. 

As this Flint Journal letter-to-the-editor says so well, we have to pass the 25% by 2025 ballot initiative if we want to create the kind of demand necessary for manufacturers will build the supply. (Contrary to my thoughts at the time, my Econ 101 really is coming through for me now). The short story is this, though: We cannot afford to let Michigan be left behind in the clean energy business boom.

What the U.P. Mining Boom Means for Michigan

The Great Lakes Echo had an article today on the resurgence of mining in the Upper Peninsula, detailing both the economic factors driving it and the environmental concerns over it. The Kennecott Eagle Rock mine is especially troublesome, creating numerous environmental concerns over its development. First, it will create a heavily-trafficked new road through "previously untouched forest and wetland areas," rather than using existing road. Second, it will  be dug out right beneath the headwaters of the Salmon Trout River, the spawning grounds for the rare coaster brook trout. Finally, and perhaps most astonishing in its disregard to local tradition, the tunnel opening was literally blown out of a sacred Ojibwe spiritual site.

As has happened before with sulfide mines across the country, the greatest fear is that sulfide waste may leak into the watershed or that the mine's roof could collapse underneath the river's headwaters. 

Four groups are suing to stop the mine: the National Wildlife Federation, the Huron Mountain Club, the Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve, and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. Their case was dismissed in November, but they appealed to the Court of Appeals in December. How courts interpret and apply Michigan environmental laws are central to how cases like these are decided. For that reason, we'll launch our new Green Gavels accountability tool in the next few weeks so that ordinary citizens can understand the impact that the Michigan Supreme Court - whose decisions bind all other Michigan courts - has on the ability of citizens to prevent environmental harm to our state.

Holding our elected officials accountable on how well they protect our environment is what Michigan LCV does. For those who aren't as aware of the important work we do, though, please check out our cool new video. If you enjoy it as much as we do, please forward it to five friends. Share it on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. The more people that pitch in to let policy makers know they are being held accountable, the better we can all protect the places in Michigan that we all love. (Incidentally, the first fifteen seconds are on that very subject).

How to Make Your Green Car Greener

The Union of Concerned Scientists released a report today that studies the carbon footprint of electric vehicles. Using the Nissan Leaf as its test model - which, like the Michigan-built Ford Focus Electric, is all electric and has no direct emissions - the study found that the overall carbon footprint of an electric car depends on how the electricity to power it is generated. 

Even where coal-powered electricity is high, electric vehicles account for less carbon dioxide than most gas powered and many hybrid vehicles. Increasing our percentage of renewable energy, like we can do with 25% by '25, will make the purchase of an electric vehicle that much more attractive to potential buyers. That could mean more demand and jobs where electric vehicles are manufactured. A nice Chevy YouTube video reminds us that "this isn't just the car we wanted to build, it's the car America had to build. From the heart of Detroit to the health of the country."

Stand Up for Children's Environmental Health!

Join our Program Manager, Erica Bloom, a Children's Health Lobby Day in Lansing! On May 2nd we'll ask our State Senators and Representatives to protect children from lindane, mercury, brominated flame retardants, and other harmful chemicals found in many of our children's products. Learn more about Lobby Day here and take action to tell your Senators to protect Michigan families from toxic chemicals!

Until Next Week,  




Ryan Werder

Political Director