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Opinion: Granholm: Low-carbon economic recovery a better path for Michigan

Jennifer Granholm

Michigan is hitting new records for COVID-19 cases. While we fear for our immediate health and safety, residents are also concerned about the potential devastation a second wave of COVID-19 cases could unleash on our economy. 

Two new reports add to the growing stack of evidence that low-carbon recovery measures are the best way to ensure a prosperous, long-term recovery that creates good jobs, builds resilience against future shocks and supports the middle class through this unprecedented time. Now, our policymakers must support actions that will usher in this future that the people of Michigan so greatly deserve.

State automakers like Ford and General Motors are producing a greater number of EVs, Granholm writes.

Prior to the pandemic, clean energy was one of the fastest growing industries in Michigan, supporting over 125,000 jobs. New analyses demonstrate we can return to this flourishing clean energy economy if policymakers take action beyond short-term emergency measures. 

Cambridge Econometrics and the We Mean Business coalition found that a low-carbon recovery plan boosts income, employment and GDP more so than broad economic recovery measures alone, while significantly reducing emissions. The GDP returns from low-carbon measures are projected to be 1.5 times greater than a baseline stimulus measure.

Investing in a low-carbon economy will ensure that Michigan remains a leader in the auto industry. The report finds that by 2025, a low-carbon recovery plan could create 1.7 million new jobs in the U.S. State automakers like Ford and General Motors are producing a greater number of EVs, but policy incentives are needed to ensure that the cost-saving and environmental benefits are available to everyone.

It’s not just a matter of forecasting future impacts. Climate action is already working for the people and economy of Michigan. An E2 report — “Clean Jobs, Better Jobs” —  found that the median hourly wage of clean energy jobs in Michigan is 6.8% higher than the statewide median for all occupations, and that clean energy jobs are more likely to come with health and retirement benefits. These are the types of jobs we need to support as we look to shape a better future.

Over a dozen major businesses operating in this state agree that a low-carbon recovery is the best choice for Michigan. Just last month these companies, including Kellogg’s, General Mills, Schneider Electric and Nestle, asked Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to enact statewide climate mitigation strategies and invest in clean energy infrastructure. At the same time, the companies reaffirmed their commitment to reducing their own emissions and supporting the growing demand for clean energy. 

Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm

Other Michigan-based companies like Ford, General Motors and Whirlpool are also doing their part in setting bold targets to address climate change. Earlier this year, Ford committed to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. These companies represent the backbone of the U.S. economy and know that acting on climate change is good business sense. However, the private sector needs greater support and political will from our policymakers to help us fully realize the potential of a zero-carbon future. 

The economics are clear: The time for a low-carbon recovery is now. Michigan is looking to its policymakers to support clean job growth and rebuild our state economy in a way that leaves no one behind. The health and well-being of our people, business community, state economy and future depends on it. 

Jennifer Granholm was governor of Michigan, serving two terms from 2003-11.She also served as Michigan's attorney general from 1999 to 2003.