Ohio steps up as a clean energy leader

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm continued a nationwide clean energy tour in Ohio on Wednesday, imploring an audience of academics, energy consultants and lobbyists to carry the Pew Clean Energy Program’s bipartisan call to action to state and national leaders.

During a keynote address to the University Clean Energy Alliance of Ohio, the former two-term governor delivered an impassioned plea for advocates not to miss a critical opportunity for setting national clean-energy policy goals. The Democrat is working with former U.S. Sen. John Warner of Virginia, a Republican, on the effort.

“Globalization has completely changed the conversation. … Other nations are taking action to create jobs for their people,” Granholm told the breakfast gathering. “And so we have got to wake up and say we’re not in this hermetically-sealed environment. We have got to take action.”

According to Pew research, China and Germany have outpaced the United States during the past two years in the dollars they’ve invested in the clean energy sector — $54.4 billion for China and $41.2 billion for Germany, compared with $34 billion for the U.S.

“I don’t know about you, but I am not willing for America to stand on the bronze Olympic stand and be proud. ‘We’re No. 3!’” said Granholm, a senior policy adviser to Pew. “That’s not who we are, and I hope that’s not who you think we should be.”

Mike Carey, president of the Ohio Coal Association, questioned Granholm’s message. He said China is spending more on all sources of energy to meet basic, or baseline, demand — especially coal.

“They may be spending money in renewable sources, but by far and away they’re spending money on bringing new baseline generation to the marketplace — and that’s what’s going to drive their economy in the future,” he said.

Ohio is among eight stops on Granholm’s tour — seven states and the District of Columbia where overall jobs fell but the clean energy economy increased. The state has attracted $74 million in clean technology venture capital over the past three years, according to Pew.

In an interview with The Associated Press ahead of her appearance, Granholm said supporters of the effort believe the time is right both economically and politically.

She said the federal deficit is important, but most Ohioans are more concerned about jobs and gas prices. So Pew worked to identify policies with broad support that would boost employment and lower pump prices.

It has steered clear of the most divisive energy policies, such as cap-and-trade emissions swapping programs and carbon taxes.

“We’re talking about these four pragmatic policies that have overwhelming support.”

The Pew policy goals are: requiring that 20 percent of energy production come from renewable sources by 2025; increasing fuel efficiency in vehicles to at least 50 mpg for model years 2017 to 2025; doubling the number of industrial facilities that recycle waste heat into power by 2020; and increase research-and-development funding from $3.8 billion to $15 billion by 2015.

Carey said such targets ultimately increase costs for consumers.

“The bottom line is any time we try to pick winners and losers in energy, ultimately it’s the consumer that will have to pay the price,” he said. “So if you’re going to require 20 percent of renewables, which are more expensive than your baseload coal energy, it’s going to resonate with people the same as the idea of paying more at the pump is starting to resonate. That’s why we can see the defeat of policies like the cap and trade bill. This is just more of same.”

Pew and Granholm say their goals are moderate and widely supported by the public. Their polling showed 85 percent of Americans support policies that promote clean energy use while reducing the country’s reliance on foreign oil. That includes strong majorities of Democrats, Republicans, independents and tea party supporters.


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