MichiganVotes Bills

One senator’s solution to Michigan’s job-killing energy transition: a new bureaucracy

Energy, auto industry and construction workers viewed as the victims of transition

A bill in Michigan’s state Senate would create a bureaucracy “to provide for the transition of transition-impacted industries into new industries.”

The bill introduced Sept. 20 by Sen. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing, would create a new government office to help people who lose their jobs in Michigan’s energy transition.

The bill singles out three industries as potential losers in the transition: energy, auto and construction.

Singh is referring to Michigan’s aggressive transition away from energy sources like coal, as well as the American auto industry’s transition away from gas-powered vehicles to electric vehicles. The Senate Labor Committee approved the bill last week, and it will head to the committee of the whole.

Read it for yourself: Senate Bill 519 of 2023

The Senate Fiscal Agency’s analysis portrays job losses from the energy transition as market-driven. But both Michigan’s energy transition and the changeover to electric vehicle manufacturing have been prodded by a mix of government regulation and incentives.

“The market is driving a transition away from energy like coal and cars with internal combustion engines to renewable energies and electric vehicles,” reads the analysis of the version the committee passed. “This creates an education and skills gap for workers in the energy and automotive industries. Some people believe that the state should have a plan to help workers and communities transition during this significant industrial shift, and so it has been suggested that the office develop a plan.”

The bill would create the Community and Worker Economic Transition Office within the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. The office would have to “develop a community and worker economic transition plan,” due on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s desk by Dec. 31, 2025, one year to the day before her last day in office.

Michigan will stop burning coal in 2032, up three years from the original end date of 2035.

In Lansing, lawmakers are considering bills to require a 100% transition to so-called green energy by 2040. The original version of Senate Bill 271, the one available to the public, still carries the original transition date, 2035. That was moved back five years after feedback from stakeholders, said the lawmakers involved, Singh and Sen. Erika Geiss, D-Taylor.

In Washington, there are $8,500 incentives available to most EV buyers, and cash available to states that expand their EV network. The federal government is giving Michigan $110 million to build just 127 EV chargers, which comes out to $866,000 per charger. The U.S. Department of Energy recently gave Ford Motor Co. a $9.2 billion loan to fund its electrification efforts.

Meanwhile, regulators are considering rules that would effectively end the sale of new gas vehicles in America by 2035.

Singh did not respond to a request for comment, but he testified last week before the Senate Labor Committee. The senator said such an office would not duplicate the efforts of MichiganWorks, which are local in nature. A statewide approach is needed to a statewide problem, he said.

Committee chair John Cherry, D-Flint, endorsed the bill before the committee approved it.

“This is a needed bill,” Cherry said.

In so doing, Cherry admitted that the auto industry’s transition to EVs will cost jobs.

“I wish we had had the planning in foresight to put in place policies to help folks as we went through the NAFTA,” Cherry said, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement. “There was a lot of pain for a lot of communities. And I’m glad that we are taking a proactive approach to dealing with the electric vehicle transition because it’s going to have impacts that we need to respond to and help our communities and our workers.”

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.