Michigan Focusing On Green Jobs

Biggest barrier to growing the renewable energy industry to revive Michigan’s flagging economy is banks that refuse to lend money, said Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Gov. Jennifer Granholm is pushing hard this week to plug Michigan's flagging economy into alternative energy.

The Democratic governor was in Washington, D.C., Tuesday for a climate change symposium led by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Experts at the event focused on adding jobs through U.S. climate change policies.

A wind energy conference was held in Detroit Tuesday and will continue Wednesday.

And Thursday, Granholm will speak at a conference at the University of Michigan about low-carbon manufacturing in the Midwest. Senior executives from Ford, Whirlpool and advanced battery companies also plan to speak at the event held in partnership with the Royal Danish Embassy and The Climate Group.

Granholm praised Denmark for focusing on the renewable energy industry to lower its unemployment rate. She plans to sign an agreement with Denmark's climate and energy minister to work together to create a "low-carbon economy."

"The point of this is really to focus on how we can really put the pedal to the metal, especially with the stimulus and the fact there is an incoming energy bill which will create policy that will generate jobs," she told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

Also Tuesday, state lawmakers announced bipartisan legislation to offer another $200 million in tax breaks to encourage the development of advanced battery technology in Michigan. Granholm signed a law in January offering $335 million in refundable tax credits for developing, manufacturing and assembling the batteries at the heart of next-generation electric vehicles.

The governor said the biggest barrier to growing the renewable energy industry is banks that refuse to lend money.

"A lot of wind turbine manufacturers have put their plans on hold," Granholm said.

But she expects the financial industry to rebound and said she is excited that both the state and federal governments are investing more in renewable energy and the "green" economy. She cited the federal stimulus, especially the chance to compete with other states for $2 billion in grants for advanced batteries for electric vehicles.

"We intend to take advantage of every bit of it," Granholm said.

Asked about the extra costs of electricity generated by wind and solar as opposed to traditional fossil fuels, Granholm said they will be offset by weatherization and energy-efficiency programs. She also encouraged utilities to pursue technology to bury carbon dioxide from power plants deep beneath the ground.

Critics complain that businesses and residents could lose out if they have higher energy costs, while others say good-paying jobs are available at wind turbine companies and the like.

Consumers Energy, the state's second-biggest utility, said Tuesday it was inviting companies to submit bids to participate in new energy-efficiency programs expected to start up later this year.

The Jackson-based utility said hundreds of jobs will be added in energy auditing, equipment installation and other areas.

More in Energy