If economically-challenged Michigan can create 89,000 clean energy manufacturing jobs in three years with the right energy policies, just think what could happen for the entire country if Congress committed to clean energy.
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Last century, Michigan led the automotive revolution, putting the world on wheels. This century, Michigan will lead the green industrial revolution, making wind turbines, solar panels, advanced batteries, and other technologies to power our nation's 21st-century progress. The investments from the federal Recovery Act complemented state policies we enacted three years ago to diversify our economy. The result: Since the passage of Michigan's renewable energy standard in 2008, Michigan has attracted 48 clean-energy companies that are projected to create 89,918 jobs and $9.4 billion of investment in Michigan.

Our big, hairy, audacious goal is to make Michigan the international hub of the clean-energy industry, creating jobs by transforming our state from rust belt to green belt. I've written here before about Michigan's leadership in advanced batteries, solar energy, and the electrification of the automobile. We've also worked to build Michigan's wind-energy sector. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Michigan is one of only four states projected to create more than 30,000 jobs in the wind manufacturing sector alone. Michigan's offshore wind capacity is estimated to be more than 320,000 megawatts -- nearly 12 times our peak electricity demand -- meaning that we have the potential to create even more jobs for Michigan workers installing and maintaining wind turbines to power our nation. Wind energy is a perfect fit for Michigan.

Let me share with you some of our recent wind successes:

  • In Saginaw, the first utility-scale wind turbine manufactured in Michigan just rolled off the line. Merrill Technology Group, a family-owned Michigan company that previously machined parts for General Motors, partnered with Vermont-based Northern Power to produce a utility-scale wind turbine expected to go into full-scale production in 2011. Thanks to the Recovery Act, Merrill is able to diversify into a growing field like wind energy, creating jobs and producing products that will lead our nation toward energy independence. Merrill says it has already saved or created 40 jobs, and expects to add another 125 workers in 2011 as production ramps up.

  • In Eaton Rapids, URV USA, LLC is planning to build the largest specialized foundry for wind turbine castings in the world, which would supply two-thirds of the North American large casting market. Following a recent meeting I had with the managing director of URV USA in Sweden, the company announced it will double its initial plans for the Eaton Rapids foundry -- with a possibility of even quadrupling the initial foundry plans through support from the U.S. Department of Energy! Right now, there is a major shortage of large-cast wind turbine components in North America, with most supplies coming from foundries in Asia and Europe. URV USA's Eaton Rapids facility has the potential to revolutionize the way wind turbines are made through their next-generation casting process, which could create even more jobs in Michigan supplying superior quality castings that are priced to be globally competitive.
  • In Holland, S2 Yachts used its core expertise in composite manufacturing from boat building to form Energetx Composites, a company that makes wind turbine parts. The company plans to hire 700 workers to build large turbine blades and other wind-energy components.
  • Thanks to the Recovery Act and aggressive state policies, we are creating jobs and putting people back to work in Michigan. Other states implementing a renewable energy standard have witnessed job creation, too. Colorado was the first state in the nation to pass a renewable energy standard in 2004. Now, Colorado leads the nation in solar jobs growth, and is projected to create 33,876 jobs from solar and wind manufacturing and installation alone. The Center for American Progress projects that the renewable energy standards already passed by 35 states and the District of Columbia will create more than two million jobs. It's a great start -- but the states can't do it alone.

    In the spirit of job creation, our new Congress should learn from the successes of the states and adopt a national renewable energy standard. A national RES would create an even larger national market for clean-energy manufacturers, and would create millions of jobs. The voters expect their representatives in Washington to look for pragmatic solutions to create jobs. With clear data showing the job creating potential of renewable-energy standards, there is no good reason not to take this sensible first step. An August National Journal poll even found that 78 percent of Americans support a national RES, including 70 percent of Republicans.

    The voters want job creation, and they support a national renewable energy standard. Who doesn't want America to pass an RES? China. To paraphrase a line from Wayne Gretzky, China realizes that clean energy is where the puck is going, and they're skating toward it. According to a recent Pew study, China invested $34.6 billion in clean energy and energy efficiency in 2009 -- more than any other country. The U.S. was a distant second with $18.6 billion invested. China manufactured and installed more wind turbines than any other nation last year. In August, Ernst & Young's latest Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Indices saw the U.S. fall behind China for the first time since 2006 -- because of our lack of a national renewable energy standard. America can create jobs and compete with countries like China by passing a renewable energy standard. There's no time to waste.

    If economically-challenged Michigan can create 89,000 clean energy manufacturing jobs in three years with the right energy policies, just think what could happen for the entire country if Congress committed to clean energy. The states are the laboratories of democracy, so let's learn from our labs how to create jobs in America and commit to a national renewable energy standard -- or risk being left in the dust.

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