Granholm to D.C.: Use Jobs — Not the Environment — To Push Clean Energy
Editor’s note: this piece comes from our reporter in Washington, DC, Alex M. Parker. -KG
For years, environmentalists have pushed for the development of green and energy-efficient technologies as a way to curb climate change and prevent a future ecological catastrophe.
But Thursday morning, speaking to the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning D.C.-based think tank, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm said that focusing on global warming is the wrong message — if you really want to grab Americans’ attention, focus on the economic opportunities in a greener economy — especially for auto-dependent areas.
“The bottom line is, that if we’re not talking about jobs, then it’s not going to resonate across the country,” Granholm said, speaking to about 100 people in the CAP’s downtown office. “Maybe that’s just my view as a governor from the industrial Midwest.”
Granholm was in D.C. to celebrate the one-year anniversary of a $1.35 billion grant towards Michigan’s burgeoning advanced energy storage industry. According to Granholm, 16 new lithium battery plants — these are the batteries that go into hybrids and electric cars — will create 62,000 in the next ten years. Last week, President Obama traveled to Holland, Mich., to tout one of these new plants as a “symbol of where America is going.” (You can read more about the investment, and Obama’s visit, in this New York Times story, as well as this page from Michigan Advantage.
Perhaps buoyed by the lack of an election in her future — term limits prevented her from running for a third term as governor — Granholm was energetic, jovial, and emotional during the hour-long presentation Thursday morning. Wearing a red and black suit with open, high-heeled sandals and a large BlackBerry strapped to her belt — (the BlackBerry eventually became a prop when she discussed lithium batteries) — Granholm ignored the podium and paced dramatically back and forth while touting the battery industry and describing the challenges she faced during her first few years in office.
“Thank God I don’t have to run again,” Granholm joked after accidentally stumbling onto an eyebrow-raising double entendre. (It involved the word “member.”)
Occassionally, her voice cracked — such as when she recalled when Electrolux closed its refrigerator plant in Greenville, the tiny central Michigan town which was once known as the “Refrigerator Capital of the World.” She said that experience — as well as other massive job losses which occurred this decade — made her realize that Michigan must take advantage of its skilled professional workforce to retool its economy, and focus on clean energy as the world looks for alternatives to carbon-based machinery.
“Every single state has seen this shift in manufacturing jobs,” Granholm said. ‘We need all kinds of jobs, for all kinds of people. We are completely turning our back on this manufacturing opportunity and heritage.”
When asked by an audience member about recent Congressional efforts to pass stricter carbon standards and other environmental efforts, Granholm’s responded that we need to “get off the debate about whether global warming is occurring.” That provoked laughter and some applause–although it’s not clear that the audience realized what she meant.
Granholm also added that no matter who wins the election to succeed her, she feels that the state will move forward on this issue.
On Tuesday, Republican businessman Rick Snyder and Democrat Virg Bernero — the mayor of Lansing — won their parties’ nomination for the governor’s race.
Without mentioning either by name, Granholm praised their “strong” positions on clean energy development, and claimed that both would move the state forward.
“There’s a sense that we cannot turn back,” Granholm said. “In fact, in Michigan, there’s nowhere to turn back to.”