Snyder On the Right Side of Renewables in Michigan

Many times I find myself writing my blog posts about politicians who stand with dirty polluters rather than the health and well being of their constituents. Today is an exception.

In case you missed it on the NRDC Action Fund Facebook page or Twitter feed, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder recently told the Associate Press that he supports increasing his state’s investment in renewable energy sources.

I’m going to go ahead and just state the obvious. This is a big deal! As we fight to keep existing renewable energy portfolios in place at statehouses all across the country, Governor Snyder is choosing the road less traveled. Rather than attacking a plan already in place, he’s decided to enhance it.

In Michigan, energy suppliers must produce at least 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2015. With major energy providers on target to meet the deadline, Governor Snyder is right to advance the discussion about how Michigan can and should do more.

Jobs

Michigan is a state built on a manufacturing base. That economic engine was hit especially hard during the recent economic downturn. But it’s not all doom and gloom. According to the American Wind Energy Association, Michigan already has more than 40 wind manufacturing facilities currently operating. Michigan also ranks #17 in the country as a wind resource, which is enough wind to power 160 percent of the state’s current electricity needs.

According to a report from the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Michigan is home to more than 120 solar supply chain businesses employing more than 6,300 people. This places Michigan #4 in the nation for total solar jobs. And, there’s still room to grow, with an estimated of 3,500 total gigawatts of solar power able to be harnessed.

Standing with Michiganders

Governor Snyder not only recognizes the economic potential of investing more heavily in renewable energy, he also sees what his constituents want for Michigan. In polling leading up to the 2012 election, the majority of Michigan voters supported increasing the state’s investment in renewable energy.

While some opponents of renewable energy may try to paint a different picture due to the defeat of past pro-renewables campaigns at the ballot box, it’s simply not the case. Evidence following the election clearly showed that it was the approach to changing the constitution that caused the issue to be defeated. Michiganders support for renewable energy remains strong. By supporting an increase in the renewable energy standards, Governor Snyder is on the right side of his constituents.

 Winning

I’ve talked a lot about creating situations that result in win-wins and even win-win-wins. Increasing renewable energy investments is Michigan is one of those cases. Governor Snyder is on the right path and I would encourage the other elected officials in the state to get on board. Together they can create jobs, improve public health and protect our beloved Great Lakes. The future is bright for Michigan. Let’s see how the state’s leaders harness it.

 

Wind Power Creates Jobs, Saves Money

You recently saw on our  Facebook page, some important clean energy news. MidAmerican Energy Company announced plans to invest $1.9 billion in wind energy projects in Iowa. The power company plans to install 656 wind turbines throughout the state, adding 1,050 megawatts of wind generation.

Blog fb graphic Iowa wind

This clean energy investment will:

  • Create jobs: Create 460 construction jobs over two years and 48 permanent jobs.
  • Save money: Is expected to cut consumer rates by $3.3 million in 2015, growing to $10 million annually by 2017.
  • Benefit farmers and the state: Landowners that allow turbines on their land will be paid $3.2 million annually and the state is expected to generate more than $360 million in additional property tax revenues over the next 30 years.
  • Attract businesses: Facebook recently chose to locate a new data center in Iowa, in part because the company wants to meet its goal of getting 25% of its power from clean sources.

It’s no wonder that clean energy enjoys such strong support when projects like this are creating jobs, attracting investment, saving consumers money and reducing pollution. More than 70% of Americans support expanding wind power and a whopping 85% of Iowans see wind energy as a positive for the state.

Smart politicians of both parties have already seen that running on an overwhelmingly popular issue like wind power can contribute to winning campaigns. In our Running Clean report, we describe the way that President Obama campaigned on wind energy during the 2012 election. He cited his support for federal tax incentives for wind energy (and his opponent’s opposition to them) during stump speeches, in a television ad and in a special website dedicated to Iowa wind. Conservative Republicans in the state like Rep. Steve King and Rep. Tom Latham took the same position as the president, supporting wind energy and even urging Mitt Romney to change his mind. On election day, the President won the state by 6 points.

Romney ad blog graphic

While some Members of Congress and other Washington insiders may think of clean energy as a wedge issue, the news out of the heartland shows that isn’t the case on the ground. In the real world, clean energy is creating jobs and saving consumers money. And those are concepts that voters in both parties can agree on.

The Truth: Obama Policies Bringing Auto Jobs Back to Ohio

The Romney campaign put up an ad in the battleground auto state of Ohio that was false, drawing the immediate ire of Chrysler management and workers. The Romney campaign is desperate to tarnish the record of the Obama administration in resuscitating the auto industry and bringing back jobs, including Chrysler jobs in Ohio.

The truth is that the U.S. auto industry is back on its feet thanks to the auto rescue loans. But equally important, it’s more competitive than it was in 2009, thanks to stronger fuel efficiency standards and support for advanced vehicle manufacturing adopted by the Obama Administration.

To recap, over the weekend, the Romney campaign ran an ad suggesting Chrysler– which received government bailout money–plans to ship American jobs to China. Apparently Romney’s campaign team badly misinterpreted a recent Bloomberg News story that said Chrysler, owned by Italian automaker Fiat SpA, is thinking of building all of its Jeep models in China for sale in the Chinese market.

Chrysler’s response has been immediate and blunt: Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China. It’s simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world’s largest auto market. U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation. A careful and unbiased reading of the Bloomberg take would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments.

Workers at Chrysler are also clearly unhappy. According to the Detroit News article:

“Anyone with an ounce of knowledge about the auto industry and Chrysler’s production plans would know what Mitt Romney said wasn’t true,” said UAW Vice President General Holiefield, who directs the union’s Chrysler Department. “Since the 2009 auto rescue and recovery, we’ve added 7,000 workers at Chrysler, and we’ll add a third shift next week at the Jefferson North Assembly plant in Detroit – where Jeep Grand Cherokees and other models are made.”

“It’s just another slap in the face to our autoworkers, but not surprising since Mitt Romney opposed the auto loans of Chrysler and General Motors,” said Ken Lortz, who directs UAW Region 2B, which represents workers in Ohio, as well as Indiana. “The Jeep plant in Toledo is expanding right now. In fact one year ago, Chrysler announced the addition of a second shift and 1,100 more jobs, along with a $500 million investment in upgrading the plant and adding a body shop. Shame on Mitt Romney for twisting the story to scare people and then not even admitting he was wrong.”

The fact that the auto industry is back on its feet is irrefutable.

According to analysis done by the Natural Resources Defense Council, of official data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, since the auto industry employment low point in June 2009, the U.S. auto sector has added 231,600 jobs as of September 2012. Employment in auto manufacturing (motor vehicle assembly plus motor vehicle parts manufacturing) has increased by 152,300, for 24.4% gain since the trough. Auto dealer jobs have also grown by 79,300 jobs.

Ohio’s auto sector also is seeing robust growth with 9,600 jobs added for a gain of 14.7% since the trough of June 2009. Ohio, the unemployment rate has also dropped much faster than the national rate, by 3.4 percentage points to below the national average to 7.2%.

But the auto industry is not just back on its feet, it’s more competitive than ever, now able to go head-to-head on the latest fuel efficiency technologies with the Japanese, Koreans and Germans.

Driving this competiveness is the latest round of standards. Model year 2012 is the first year of a long-term federal program that requires a sales-weighted average of the equivalent of 35.5 mpg by 2016 and 54.5 mpg by 2025.

The evidence of the Obama fuel economy standards driving job growth is clear as documented in NRDC’s recent study Driving Growth.

Hundreds of millions of dollars of investment are flowing into Ohio and thousands of workers are being hired. For instance:

  • In Toledo, Chrysler is investing $500 million and hiring 1,100 new workers to build the next generation, more fuel-efficient Jeep models, and GM is investing in building advanced transmissions to squeeze more miles from each gallon.
  • In Lordstown, GM has three shifts building the fuel efficient, compact Chevy Cruze. In the Marysville area, Honda is investing gas sipping continuously variable transmissions to help make its new Accord class leader for fuel efficiency.
  • Finally, Ford has hired a third shift to its Cleveland factory to build the award winning, highly popular Ecoboost engines.

It’s unfortunate when any campaign misrepresents the facts. But given the strong and clear evidence of how the Obama administration has helped the auto industry in Ohio and elsewhere, it appears that his opponent feels it must twist the truth.

The Power of Running on Clean Energy — Even for GOP Candidates

Super Tuesday turned out to be Groundhog Day: Three candidates saw their shadows and winter could last for six more months. The presidential nomination process may be grinding on, but Congressional races are starting to heat up.

Candidates are zeroing on their messages, and at a time when jobs are scarce and gas prices are high, smart candidates are discovering the power of running on clean energy.

Even some Republican candidates are promising to deliver clean energy to their constituents.

Nevada Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, for instance, is a Tea Party darling who has followed the GOP leadership’s attack on environmental safeguards. Yet he has also been a staunch supporter of clean energy development in his state.

Why the apparent contradiction? Location, location, location.

Nevada is home to both record unemployment and enormous clean energy reserves. The state suffered some of the worst fallout of the housing bust, and anyone running for office since the financial meltdown has needed a laser-like focus on jobs in order to win.

Green jobs are the low-hanging fruit. Nevada currently has over 16,500 jobs in the clean economy — 33 percent more than the oil and gas sector in the state. Between 2003 and 2010, Nevada added 5,411 clean jobs, meaning that the sector grew nearly 6 percent annually even through one of the toughest economic periods in decades.

This growth won’t be slowing down anytime soon. According to a recent Ernst and Young study, Nevada is the fifth most promising state for geothermal and solar power. And a recent SNL energy project database found that construction has begun on 10 solar, geothermal and wind projects, creating jobs, cutting pollution and reducing our dependence on foreign energy.

Yet in 2010, Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle made the mistake of disparaging clean energy and calling green jobs a “scam“. She lost her race to Harry Reid.

Harry Reid, meanwhile, put clean energy jobs at the heart of his campaign. “We highlighted it in everything we did whether it was through our mail program, TV program, Internet program,” said Reid’s campaign manager Brandon Hall. “It was always the message that we led with.”

Reid’s campaign research found that voters were basing vote on how much Reid had done for the state. Clean energy, Hall explained, “was one of the top issues he was able to leverage his leadership position to benefit Nevada. There was investment coming into Nevada in clean energy. And jobs were being created. For us, it was our top-testing issue.”

NRDC’s Action Fund’s analysis confirms that supporting clean energy gives candidates an advantage. It offers a positive, solutions-based narrative to talk about issues that matter most to Americans: jobs, the economy, gas prices, and the health of their families.

Heller seems to agree. One of his campaign emails trumpets the fact that Heller “has long fought to bring a variety of sources of renewable energy to Nevada.”

And it’s true; he has. He voted for a renewable energy standard and has been a supporter of renewable energy production tax credit. He voted to extend royalties and lease income from solar and wind projects and to expedite clean energy development on public lands. He even sent a letter to President Obama in support of the White House’s clean energy plan and its ability to create jobs.

At the same time, Heller voted with GOP leadership on a raft of bills that would strip away clean air safeguards and make life easier for dirty coal-fired power plants. He also voted in favor of taxpayer subsidies for oil companies.

Some of the measures Heller opposed would have helped level the playing field between dirty fossil fuels and clean energy resources. It would benefit Nevada if Heller cast more votes on the clean side.

He wouldn’t be the only Republican to do so. Last month, 21 Republican representatives voted against a GOP-sanctioned transportation bill that would have allowed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and up and down the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts.

These Republican lawmakers seem to realize voters are looking for more than the same-old drill-happy approach to energy development. Instead, voters want innovation, new investment, and job opportunities.

I don’t agree with a lot of Heller’s votes on the environment, but I respect his commitment to clean energy. His track record shows that even Tea Party favorites can deliver clean energy jobs for their constituents.

GOP Responses to State of the Union Lack Vision for Energy Future

President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to a clean energy future for America last night in his State of the Union Address. The Republican responses, on the other hand, underscored just how stuck in the past the leaders of the GOP remain.

From Indiana Governor Mitch Daniel’s official response to the statements of the Party’s Presidential candidates, not one Republican leaders offered any vision or plan for how America can innovate, create technological breakthroughs, or lead the global clean energy market. One would think they live in some perverse, parallel universe.

President Obama offered a detailed blueprint for how a national clean energy standard, energy efficiency programs, tax credits for wind and solar projects, government support of advanced research, and other measures could create jobs and make America more energy independent.

Frances Beinecke, President of the NRDC Action Fund, states, “More than 100,000 people currently work in the solar industry, according to the National Solar Jobs Census. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the wind industry employs 85,000 Americans. And more than 150,000 Americans currently have jobs making parts for and assembling clean cars — hybrids, electric cars, and other advanced vehicles that hardly existed 10 years ago.”

Neither Daniels nor Romney mentioned these enormous opportunities. Instead, they stuck to the same old call for more drilling. That’s their default button.

Funny thing was President Obama already beat them to it. Much to our concern, energy companies drilled almost 21,000 oil wells in the first eight months of 2011 — the highest number in almost 30 years. That’s nearly double the amount drilling the same period in 2010, and nearly triple the number drilled in 2009.

Yet all that drilling hasn’t shielded us from price spikes. In 2011, the United States produced more oil than at any time since 2003, and yet gas prices still hit record highs. Oil prices are set on an international market and shaped by global forces beyond our control. We can’t rely on fossil fuels alone to power our economy. We need to develop additional homegrown resources like better performing cars, sustainable biofuels, and wind and solar power.

Americans agree. Nine in ten Americans — including 82 percent of Republicans and 91 percent of Independents — say developing renewable energy should be a priority for the president and Congress. But Republican leaders haven’t caught on yet.

In his response to the State of the Union Address, Romney made no reference to renewable power, efficiency, or any other clean solution. Daniels didn’t either. In fact, most of the Republicans focused on President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline last week — repeatedly misstating that this decision cost “tens of thousands of jobs.” The truth is that Keystone XL would’ve created a few thousand jobs (only a few hundred permanent jobs) and the bulk of the oil would have been exported to other countries. But my bigger beef with this reasoning is — if Republicans are so concerned about jobs? Why are they fighting the very public safeguards that will create millions of new positions? Frances Beinecke once again points out that, “public health and environmental standards create jobs at the same time they protect our families from polluters… The number of Americans working as boilermakers grew by 35 percent between 1999 and 2001 because of updates in Clean Air Act standards. Taken together, the environmental technology sector has generated more than 1.7 million American jobs as of 2008.” Why are those few thousand temporary jobs more important to the GOP then millions of good-paying jobs that can never be outsourced and will bring energy right here to our backyard?

Daniels misjudged the public on another key issue when he inserted a dig about light bulbs into his speech. This was a reference to the efficiency standard for light bulbs that will save consumers $10 million a year and that Congress and President Bush supported four years ago. I welcome a little humor in political discourse, but when Daniels mocked this standard, he sounded remarkably out of step. These light bulbs help prevent the need for 30 large power plans and all the pollution they generate. This helps make our families healthier.

Further, at a time when so many families are struggling, Daniels decides to ridicule a measure that will lower monthly utility bills. Just one company in Ohio Florida – Lighting Science Group — has saved Americans more then $34 million in electricity costs each year. The new standards will result in a savings of more then $12 billion per year in the form of lower electric bills. My family members — most of them are conservative Republicans — would never make fun of saving money because they value their hard-earned dollars.

This just another example of how out-of-touch Republican leaders are when it comes to energy. Most Americans want to save money on electric bills, drive cars that go farther on a gallon of gas, and expand clean energy. Today’s crop of Republican leaders doesn’t have anything to offer them.

Most Americans want to save money on electric bills, drive cars that go farther on a gallon of gas, and expand clean energy. Last night, this current crop of Republican leaders demonstrated anew that they have nothing to offer but the same dog-eared roadmap for the race to the bottom.

Amended on 1/31/12 to correct the location of Lighting Science Group.