News Story

The 89,000 Clean Energy Jobs Myth

Former Gov. Granholm, others keep repeating the false statistic

Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm used an oft-repeated but ever changing statistic this month when she cited Michigan as having 89,000 "clean energy" jobs at the World Energy Innovation Forum in California.

However, there appears to be no basis for the 89,000 figure, which has been repeated in various forms by numerous organizations.

Carole Love, director of communications for the former governor, said she believes the number is a projection for the year 2020 based upon industries currently in Michigan, not current job numbers. That means numerous organizations are erroneously reporting the 89,000 jobs figure as jobs already existing, and so is Granholm's own website.

Granholm's website states: "her leadership attracted to Michigan more than 89,000 clean energy jobs …"

In 2011, the Pew Charitable Trusts lauded Granholm when it announced she would serve as a senior adviser to champion clean energy policy.

Joshua Reichert, managing director of the Pew Environment Group, is quoted in a press release as saying Granholm attracted more than 89,000 clean energy jobs to Michigan.

But even Granholm changes the definition of the 89,000 figure. In a Nov. 19, 2010, Huffington Post article, Granholm cited the 89,918 jobs and correctly classified them as "projected." But later in the article, she said: "If economically challenged Michigan can create 89,000 clean energy manufacturing jobs in three years with the right energy policies, just think what could happen for the entire country if Congress committed to clean energy."

"Even then it's questionable how Gov. Granholm's policies influenced green jobs,” said James Hohman, assistant director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center. "The business tax hikes and income tax hikes and industrial favoritism played a role in the state's decade-long recession, which pushed out green and non-green jobs alike."

Michigan has nowhere near 89,000 clean energy manufacturing jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The U.S. Department of Labor agency says Michigan has about 3,500 "Green Goods and Services" manufacturing jobs. 

The state had a total of 82,644 "Green Goods and Services" jobs in 2011, which was down from 85,228 in 2010, according to the BLS.

However, Green Goods and Services jobs include hundreds of job classifications that have little to do with windmills or electric cars. Green Goods and Services jobs include farmers who have organic produce, construction contractors who put in siding or build housing that follows environmentally friendly practices, and school employees who drive buses. 

And what came of all the clean energy jobs projected in 2010?

In that 2010 Huffington Post article, Granholm cited three businesses as part of the success of clean energy businesses: Energetx, Eaton Rapids Castings (formerly URV USA, LLC) and Merrill Technology Group-Northern Power in Saginaw.

Energetx Composites, which the state projected would generate more than 1,000 new jobs, reported 24 jobs to the state in 2011. 

The other two companies are hard to track.

In 2012, the Detroit Free Press reported that the Merrill Technology Group-Northern Power facility in Saginaw was in "standby mode," and Eaton Rapids Castings hadn't started production.

Phone calls and emails sent to Eaton Rapids Castings, Merrill Technology Group, the city of Eaton Rapids and the American Wind Energy Association were not returned.

Michael Shore, spokesman for the Michigan Economic Development Corp., said the Merrill-Northern Power project never got started and did not get any funding. The Eaton Rapids Castings agreement includes a confidentiality agreement that prohibits the MEDC from providing any information, he said.

John Sarver of the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association said in an email he wasn't aware of the status of Eaton Rapids Castings or the wind turbine project in Saginaw done by Merrill Technology Group and Northern Power. Officials from the city of Saginaw said they weren't involved in the project.

Many of the "green companies" that the state was projecting to produce thousands of jobs are gone.

(Editor's note: This story has been modified since its original posting. Michael Shore of the MEDC responded after deadline. His comments have been added above.)

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.