Former Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm recently urged local chambers of commerce to speak out about the economic benefits of clean energy, saying that local business leaders have the influence needed to advance the issue around the country.
“The chambers can drive policy changes,” Granholm told a recent gathering of Chamber CEOs and businesses organized by Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy. “You are the power. You can make the change. This is all about the business community driving the train.”
Granholm was Michigan’s first female governor and served in that role from 2003-2011. She is one of the nation’s leading authorities on clean energy and economic development. During her tenure as governor, Michigan brought in almost 4,000 companies or expansions projected to create 653,000 jobs.
Under her leadership, Michigan also was repeatedly named one of the top three states in the nation for business locations or expansions and was twice recognized by The Pew Center on the States as one of the best-managed states in the nation. She is now sharing what she learned with national audiences to catalyze America’s clean energy transition.
“The private sector is a more powerful player at this moment than the public sector,” Granholm told the chamber leaders. “I can tell you as a former Governor, you are the people that policymakers listen to. It is the business community that will make the difference on policy changes in the states.”
Many companies, she also pointed out, are already playing a leadership role in America’s transition to cleaner energy. Facebook, Google and Amazon have all pledged to use 100 percent renewable energy to power massive data centers they are establishing nationwide.
Granholm also spoke about the Clean Energy Jobs Race, a nationwide proposal to create manufacturing jobs and develop clean energy clusters. As a model, Granholm pointed to the Race to the Top, a $4.35 billion national program that drew the participation of 48 state governments and led to new standards for high school education in each state.
The Clean Energy Jobs Race would have the federal government provide another $4.5 billion to be divided among states that enable themselves to exceed standards for renewable energy. “If you said to the states: Exceed your EPA goals to receive a piece of this pie, every governor would do it,” Granholm said.