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Opinion | No matter your politics, clean energy is a winner for Michigan

Michigan is a winner if President Biden succeeds in advancing his ambitious climate change action agenda. Whether you like the current administration or not, that doesn’t change the job creation and economic growth benefits from Michigan businesses accelerating clean vehicles and clean energy technologies.

Global climate change problems require global solutions to reduce pollution – it doesn’t matter for the atmosphere whether greenhouse gases are emitted in Michigan, Mexico or Malaysia. We’re all in this together.

Howard Learner
Howard Learner is executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, with offices in cities including Grand Rapids. (Courtesy photo)

Innovative clean energy and clean transportation technologies are necessary tools for global progress. The electric vehicles and renewable energy equipment that we make in the Midwest create jobs, save money and reduce pollution. Exporting clean energy technologies to developing nations can help accelerate global climate change solutions. That’s thinking and acting both locally and globally.

Ford and General Motors are rapidly re-engineering to build electric vehicles for Americans to drive and for export. Ford announced that it will invest $22 billion in EVs through 2025. That includes Ford’s investment of $700 million and adding 300 jobs at its Rouge Complex in Dearborn to begin production of all-electric F-150s by mid-2022. Ford is also shifting its Sterling Heights plant over to motors and transaxles for EVs, which retains another 225 jobs.

GM announced that it will go all-electric by 2035, and phase out gas and diesel engines. The company plans to hire 3,000 engineers and tech workers to bring 20 new EVs to market, and is investing $2.2 billion in Factory ZERO, the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center for retooling and upgrades to build EVs at scale. Once fully operational, the plant will create more than 2,200 good-paying U.S. manufacturing jobs. 

EV truck manufacturer Lordstown Motors is building its new R&D center in Farmington Hills, bringing 141 new jobs to Michigan. EV truck makers Rivian and Bollinger Motors have headquarters in Plymouth and Oak Park, respectively. 

When it comes to clean energy, the Environmental Law & Policy Center’s supply chain reports identified 316 solar and wind energy supply chain businesses in Michigan, which create local jobs and new opportunities to export equipment and technical expertise. These manufacturers, developers, installers and professional services businesses operate in every Michigan Congressional district and almost all state legislative districts.

These renewable energy businesses are also growing across the Midwest.  ELPC reports identified 450 solar and wind energy supply chain businesses in Illinois, 113 in Iowa, 241 in Minnesota, and 354 in Wisconsin.

The Midwest is ground zero in the battle against climate change and for accelerating smart solutions. Our region is the nation’s transportation system hub and manufacturing center. We should be the “between the coasts” fulcrum for clean energy and transportation innovations, which are good for the environment and the economy together.  

Let’s face it – our communities are facing the challenges of climate change, from record-high Great Lakes water levels to more extreme weather with both heat waves and icy cold winters, and the damaging “derecho” thunderstorms, destructive flooding and tornadoes. 

The Environmental Law & Policy Center commissioned 18 leading Midwest and Canadian scientists to write the state-of-the-science report on the impacts of climate change on the Great Lakes. It’s not a pretty picture: more shoreline flooding, toxic algal blooms choking our waters, invasive species, and effects on crop yields.   

Midwesterners are practical people who try to drive solutions. We take on tough challenges. We put in the work.

President Biden is prioritizing climate change solutions, values sound science, and will put the “protection” back in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help achieve healthier clean air and safe clean water for all.

Michigan and the Midwest should welcome the federal government coming back to these much-needed shared responsibilities. That creates positive business growth opportunities and helpful climate change solutions for us all.

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Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact David Zeman. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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