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Driverless electric cars ‘blow’ away Granholm

The future of combined electric and autonomous vehicles will “blow your mind,” former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm said last weekend.

It is a prediction that echoes her infamous 2006 State of the State pledge that residents would be “blown away” by the state’s economy that instead cratered during the Great Recession.

Granholm, a Democrat who now lives in California and teaches at the University of California Berkeley, returned to Traverse City last weekend as a featured speaker and panelist at the Michigan Clean Energy Conference and Fair.

An early electric vehicle proponent who pushed controversial advanced battery tax credits here while in office, Granholm said she recently traded in her leased Chevy Volt for a Chevy Bolt, both of which she called “the best cars ever” made.

But electric vehicles are more of a “push technology,” she said, while self-driving automation will be the “pull technology” that really takes off. The combination will produce “the mother of all platforms” for automakers and be “irresistible” for consumers, she told a green-friendly crowd at the State Theatre.

Citing projections by Stanford clean energy lecturer Tony Seba, Granholm described a future where citizens no longer own cars but instead hail self-driving electric vehicles in the same fashion as an Uber or Lyft, which General Motors invested $500 million in last year.

“For our auto companies, it will mean they produce the vehicles, but if they’re really smart, they will own fleets of vehicles and use them as a transportation service, and they will also own the vehicle operating system, which is the brains of how it all works,” Granholm said. “It’s going to blow your mind if this prediction is right.”

Whitmer, not Johnson, to speak at event

A supposed mistake in promoting a recent Democratic event in Detroit has resulted in unexpected political intrigue.

The Community Democratic Caucus originally advertised by email and on its Facebook page that state Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Highland Park, would be the featured speaker at last Saturday’s “Taking Back Our Community” event at the Sheffield Center in Detroit. An email with the return address of the Rev. Horace Sheffield III also promoted it as having Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer as a speaker.

The June 21 email raised eyebrows since Johnson has been accused of stealing more than $23,000 from state taxpayers. Johnson is awaiting federal trial on charges that he allegedly hired a ghost employee on his Senate payroll to funnel money back to himself. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in federal prison.

A Whitmer campaign spokeswoman called Johnson’s scheduled appearance a mistake. Sheffield, the event organizer, never returned a call or emails from The Detroit News for comment.

The Johnson promotion on Facebook was taken down last Wednesday and eventually replaced with the Whitmer announcement.

But when Johnson was contacted last week about the alleged mistake, he declined to say whether he was scheduled to speak or intended to attend the Saturday event.

“I’m not gonna get into a back and forth about this in the media. I’m not gonna deny it or confirm it one way or another,” Johnson said.

Gilbert drawn into Cubs’ celebration

Detroit business mogul and Cleveland Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert was invited by President Donald Trump on Wednesday to crash a White House event recognizing the Chicago Cubs’ World Series victory.

As Trump congratulated the Cubs on their achievement last year, he unexpectedly called Gilbert out from a backroom near the Roosevelt Room, according to a pool report.

The National Basketball Association team owner even posed for a photo with the Cubs and Trump.

“Today we met with President Trump to update him and his team on the positive transformations that are taking place in Detroit and Cleveland,” Gilbert said in a statement. “We also informed the President of some of the existing challenges that remain, as well as opportunities to solve them through public-private cooperation (and) partnerships.

“We look forward to continuing the valuable dialogue to develop the best strategies to accelerate the progress in our midwest urban cores.”

In late October at a west Michigan campaign stop, Trump praised Gilbert for doing “a great job” in Detroit. The comment came after the businessman and his wife, Jennifer, each contributed $75,000 each to the Hillary Victory Fund, a joint fundraising venture between the Clinton presidential campaign, the Democratic National Committee and the state Democratic parties.

Gilbert did not donate to Trump during the Republican primaries, according to Federal Elections Commission records.

Bergman pushes for Ginsburg recusal

U.S. Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, has asked Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to recuse herself from the case involving President Donald Trump’s travel ban due to negative comments she made about Trump during the presidential election.

Bergman signed onto a letter to Ginsberg with 11 other Republican members of Congress this week, saying “your impartiality can reasonably be questioned; indeed it would be unreasonable not to question your impartiality.”

They referred to July 2016 comments by Ginsberg to CNN and other outlets in which she referred to Trump as a “faker,” and said, “I can’t imagine what this country would be with Donald Trump as our president.”

Ginsburg later said she should not have spoken that way.

“On reflection, my recent remarks in response to press inquiries were ill-advised, and I regret making them,” Ginsburg said in a statement at the time. “Judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office. In the future I will be more circumspect.”

The high court is expected to hear arguments on Trump’s travel ban in the fall.

Amendment speaks against nuclear waste storage

A U.S. House committee on Wednesday approved an amendment that expresses the sense of the Congress that the U.S. and Canadian governments should not allow permanent or long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel or other radioactive waste near the Great Lakes.

The amendment, sponsored by Reps. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, and Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, passed the House Energy & Commerce Committee as part of a bill related to the stalled nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The legislation now heads to the full House for a vote.

The amendment follows a recent report from Ontario Power Generation, which is pressing forward with its plan for an underground storage facility for low- to mid-level nuclear waste less than a mile from Lake Huron in Ontario.

Earlier this month, 32 lawmakers from Great Lakes states wrote to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, urging him to stop the Canadian plan. They want the power utility to choose another location outside the Great Lakes Basin, as 35 million people rely on the freshwater lakes for drinking water.

Contributors: Jonathan Oosting, Michael Gerstein, Ian Thibodeau and Melissa Nann Burke

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