“We can be great stewards of our environment and keep people in good paying jobs all at the same time, it’s not one or the other,” said Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during a Thursday event with Axios.
Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday all gathered for a virtual event hosted by Axios titled, “1 Big Thing: Reimagining clean energy jobs.”
Each took part in one-on-one interviews during the event. All three voiced support for investing in infrastructure and clean energy, each zeroing in on a specific argument, from job creation to mitigating the impacts of climate change.
Kicking things off, Granholm’s portion of the event heavily focused on the opportunities presented by clean energy for Americans. Just looking at the price tag alone, she noted, “It’s a $23 trillion global market seeking products that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. $23 trillion. We should be staking our claim to some of that in America. Building it for us and then exporting it for others.”
This fed into a larger argument put forth by the Biden administration for clean energy infrastructure.
“People want their energy clean, and they want to be able to benefit from the jobs,” Granholm said. “And we want to make sure that the products that get us there are built in the U.S.”
For the Biden administration, the American Jobs Plan is the way to provide all three of those things. The current economic and environmental situation has shifted in favor of a renewed investment in American industry, Granholm noted.
“There has been historically this big, bowing to the altar of low-cost and… globalism and free trade. And all of that’s great,” Granholm said, “But what it has meant for us is…we get the benefit of low-cost products, but then we lose out on the jobs.”
The question arising out of this situation then becomes: “Should we be considering making ourselves energy independent and nationally secure by building those supply chains here at home?”
For all three speakers, the answer was yes.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer offered a state-based perspective on clean energy. Whitmer explained how Michigan’s state government has invested heavily in clean energy jobs and infrastructure within the state.
“We’re putting people to work,” Whitmer said. “This is good for our economy, it’s good for climate change goals, and it’s good for individuals seeking great jobs.”
The story of Michigan’s success should offer hope to other states eyeing making the shift to clean energy. A partnership between Michigan’s government and their leading industry — auto manufacturing — has allowed for a smooth transition away from fossil fuels and toward a greener solution, Whitmer said. Thanks to the automakers’ leadership, Michigan has seen other industries begin to make the transition as well, Whitmer added.
“We’ve got the talent. We just need to focus on bringing manufacturing home and keeping it at home. We saw that throughout COVID,” said Whitmer, citing reliance on foreign markets for crucial products, such as N-95 masks and nose swabs, as a major source of problems in the United States.
“That’s precisely why I think a renewed investment and attraction to manufacturing in the United States is so crucial on so many fronts,” she said.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)’s remarks on Thursday mostly focused on how to pay for clean energy investment. Wyden is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and he explained his approach centers around tax incentive structures for American manufacturers and businesses.
Wyden described the current state of the U.S. tax code surrounding energy as “an outdated crazy quilt that keeps us from having the certainty and predictability that the country needs in order to really tackle the climate challenge and produce more clean energy jobs.”
His solution? To revamp the energy tax code and reduce its current number of 40 tax breaks down to three. Under Wyden’s proposal, the new energy tax breaks will center around incentives for clean energy, clean transportation, and energy efficiency.
When pushed as to whether the proposed energy tax codes would pass with bipartisan support, Wyden said he already has the support of 31 U.S. senators, noting Senate Finance Committee Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) recently presented a very similar idea.
Wyden also underscored the importance of transitioning to clean energy by citing his constituent’s concerns.
“If you look, for example, and at my state, so much of the innovation is tied to the fact that my constituents feel so strongly about climate change and particularly reducing carbon. Just think about the events in my home state in the last year,” Wyden said, pointing to wildfires in Oregon over the past year, which have impacted the power grid.
“My constituents very much understand that this is not your grandfather’s climate,” Wyden added. “It’s something very different and much more challenging and something’s got to be addressed.”