In the environmental sphere, Michigan is a place of contradictions, at once it is both an offender, belching plumes of pollutants and greenhouse gases, and also an up-and-coming leader in clean energy technologies.
Indeed, the Rust Belt state is struggling to balance itself with one foot in its old-line industrial, manufacturing and automotive past and the other stepping toward a new renewable world.
The U.S. government this week gave the Great Lakes State significant incentive to step into green energy when Vice President Joe Biden announced at Detroit's cutting-edge NextEnergy Center that Michigan would receive more than $1 billion in grants to push forward the development of next-generation electric vehicles and fuel cells. The largest chunk of a $2.4 billion initiative spread out to 20 states to help curb America's dependence on foreign oil, the federal money should help create tens of thousands of green jobs in the Great Lakes State.
Michigan business mainstays Ford (NYSE:F), General Motors, Chrysler, Dow Chemical (NYSE: DOW) and others will receive several hundred million to accelerate development of the manufacture advanced hybrid and electric vehicles, batteries and electric drive components. $10 million in funds will be used to beef up related education training and research at institutions of higher learning including the University of Michigan and Wayne State University.
Led by Governor Jennifer Granholm, a Canadian-born clean energy advocate with close ties to President Barack Obama, Michigan is slowly expanding beyond its time-worn blue-collar roots by attracting cleantech companies. Some of its old manufacturing and assembly plants and research facilities are being repurposed as factories and R&D centers for everything from wind turbine parts to solar and geothermal energy technology.
The state's green shift energy could be bolstered by a package of bills recently introduced by a coalition of State House Democrats, business leaders and environmental activists that would require that 30% of the state's electricity come from renewable sources by 2025 (the current requirement is 10% by 2015).
All told, Michigan now receives 60 percent of its electricity from coal, but its wind power sector is growing by leaps and bounds. Last month, the industry received a welcome shot in the arm in the form of more than $1.9 million from the U.S. Department of Energy to finance three Michigan wind energy projects.
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow said in a statement: "I am pleased these grants will support the important research efforts happening across our state as we continue to lead the way in developing clean energy technologies in the 21st century economy."
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