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The Greenwash Brigade

The bailout plan and prospects for renewable energy

Jim Nicolow Oct 2, 2008

Sustainable thinking often requires the luxury of a long term perspective: If you don’t have fuel to prepare the evening’s meal, whether the firewood is harvested sustainably is likely not your first priority. In that context, our current economic meltdown could pose a threat to recent gains in public support for renewable energy and efforts to address climate change.

However my home state of Michigan, an economy with extensive experience in the economic meltdown arena, has been making measurable gains in renewable energy investment and green collar jobs support in spite of (or maybe because of?) our long-term economic challenges. There’s an attitude that the State has to do something to resuscitate the local economy after steady outsourcing of manufacturing jobs. And renewable energy and energy efficiency are viewed as solutions that provide inherently local jobs, while also addressing the larger issue of our dependence on foreign energy.

Michigan just passed a renewable portfolio standard (10% by 2015), installed its two largest wind turbines (2.5 MW turbines installed by Heritage Sustainable Energy), and the governor continues to be an outspoken proponent of green collar jobs.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out with the national bailout (excuse me, “rescue”) plan. The version just approved by the Senate includes about $17 billion in energy incentives; however in addition to renewables, the Senate’s energy incentives include oil shale coal-to-liquid projects that were previously resisted by the House and appropriately deemed “fuels from hell” by Thomas Friedman.

Speaking of Friedman and energy energy, with the election just over 4 weeks away, I’m reminded of his words from Hot, Flat, and Crowded: “It’s much more important to change your leaders than to change your light bulbs.”

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