Green Dilemma has a Green Solution

[Last week we introduced the “Green Dilemma” by focusing on the plight of Congressman Gene Green (D-TX). According to the League of Conservation Voters, Green has an excellent environmental record (See the 2008 LCV scorecard, here). Over his nearly two decades in the US House, labor unions have been his biggest donors by far — raising twice as much money for Green than the combined totals from oil & gas, electrical utilities and chemical manufacturers. His district is part of Harris County, TX, which leads the nation in air-borne emissions of cancer causing agents.

Yet, despite his green credentials, despite the fact that the Congressman doesn’t depend on money from industries that pollute and despite the foul air his constituents have to breathe, Green still hasn’t endorsed the chief climate change bill before Congress, despite pressure from party leaders, including the arm-twister-in-chief, Barack Obama. Green’s dilemma can be summed up in a single word: Jobs.]

Michigan Governor Granholm: “Think jobs”

At last week’s Windpower 2009 conference in Chicago, Michigan’s Governor Jennifer Granholm told participants that the key to solving the green dilemma is to reframe the issue.

“I continue to tell Michigan citizens,” said Granholm, “that whenever you hear the words ‘climate change’ or ‘global warming,’ think jobs.”

Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI)

Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D-MI)

Granholm should know. Michigan is the heart of the nation’s Rustbelt, shedding jobs in the last several decades in steel and then auto manufacturing. The former federal prosecutor from Detroit has seen up close the devastating effects on the economy and families when industry, government and labor unions fail to respond to new challenges.

It may sound like a bumper sticker slogan, but it’s true: To “embrace change” is the only way forward.

The strategy seems to be working in Michigan. Granholm told the wind power conference that 109,000 green jobs have already been created in her state.

In her weekly radio address last week, Granholm addressed this issue.

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The governor spoke again today about the link between renewable energy and good jobs.

At a conference titled “Green Today, Jobs tomorrow,” in Lansing, MI, Granholm said:

“By investing in our work force, manufacturing infrastructure, and natural resources, we can make Michigan the state that helps end our nation’s dependence on foreign oil and create good-paying jobs in the process.” Granholm said. “Michigan is uniquely positioned to diversify its economy and create jobs by growing the renewable energy sector.”

Granholm has declared today, May 11th, Green Jobs Day and issued a report on the state of green jobs in Michigan. (See below)

Green Jobs Report (download pdf)

Michigan Report (download pdf)

Wisconsin Report

Wisconsin Report (pdf)

Iowa Report

Iowa Report (pdf)

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle also participated in the Windpower 2009 conference and he, too, touted green jobs as a key sector of manufacturing in his state.

“We [the Midwest] can be much of the answer to America’s energy problems,” said Doyle. “We have great people, hardworking people, great manufacturing systems and a great infrastructure.”

Wisconsin also has a Renewable Energy Standard that requires utilities to generate 25% of their electrical power from renewable clean source by the year 2025.

Chet Culver, governor of Iowa, had his own achievements and goals to talk about at the conference. Iowa leads the nation in the percentage of electricity generated by wind, and is third in the nation in total wind power capacity behind #1 Texas and #2 California. Iowa’s rankings in wind power are all the more surprising when you consider the difference in scale between the states. California is three times larger than Iowa and Texas has close to five times the land mass of Iowa.

Renewable Portfolio Standards by State

Renewable Portfolio Standards by State

Some of the areas hit hardest by the recession are responding by building a green economy. Will it work in all cases? Maybe not, but it’s clear that states that don’t seize the opportunities that come with a greening global economic system are going to be left behind by those that do.

We’ll continue our report on the green dilemma by looking a central failure of our old energy economy — the market’s inability to reconcile cost and price.

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