News Story

Former Gov. Granholm’s Clean Energy Promises Go National

New secretary of energy’s Michigan schemes were announced with fanfare but failed in silence

Since former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm was appointed as U.S. Secretary of Energy, she has made many comments about creating clean energy jobs.

“So what we need to do is to make sure that all parts of the country and their leaders understand that this clean energy economy, that reducing carbon emissions, is a job creator for every corner of the nation,” Granholm said in an interview with National Public Radio. “So even in coal country, even in gas and oil country, there’s an opportunity for jobs. ... There will be millions of jobs that will be created in clean energy.”

Granholm’s comments echo claims she made as Michigan’s governor from 2003 through 2010 about how giving subsidies to alternative energy promoters would create jobs and grow the state economy.

It never happened. Granholm boasts of making Michigan the “clean energy capital of North America” never came close, and the subsidies she promoted did nothing to reverse job losses inflicted by a one-state recession and the subsequent worldwide financial crisis of the 2000s. There were 596,000 fewer in jobs in Michigan after Granholm’s eight years in office. Michigan had the nation’s highest unemployment rate from April 2006 through May 2010.

Michigan’s clean energy projects and subsidies were announced with buoyant press releases featuring optimistic projections of thousands of new jobs to come, which were uncritically parroted by the state’s media establishments.

Proposed taxpayer subsidies for a firm called Global Wind Systems were one example. State officials issued press releases in 2008 and 2009 boasting that the company would build a $32 million wind turbine assembly plant in Novi, creating a total of 807 new jobs. A May 5, 2009, state press release actually claimed the company had started building the new facility. Global Wind Systems was awarded a $7.3 million tax credit by the Michigan Economic Growth Authority for the project. (The tax credit was refundable, meaning the company could receive payments regardless of its income tax liability.)

Many news agencies inside Michigan and elsewhere published reports on the project in 2008 and 2009. As late as Feb. 13, 2010, The New York Times was still touting Global Wind Systems as a jobs creator for its business of building wind turbines.

There was just one catch: It never happened.

A search of Michigan newspaper archives finds just one reference to what really did happen, or rather, not happen: A Dec. 12, 2010, Detroit Free Press article that appeared on page 6B. The 13th paragraph included this belated epitaph:

“Novi officials say the investment never happened.”

This minimal report on a subsidized project’s failure was an exception. After numerous reports on Granholm’s clean energy spending, state and national news outlets rarely did follow-up stories on whether many projects fulfilled their projections.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.