Study says Mich. climate plan would boost economy

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TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Michigan could gain a significant economic boost and thousands of new jobs by reducing emissions of gases that cause climate change, according to an analysis released Monday.

The report by the Center for Climate Strategies said a plan devised last year for battling global warming in Michigan would help limit the state’s heat-trapping gas emissions over the next 15 years.

But more than the environment would benefit, the nonprofit group said. It projected gains of 129,000 jobs, a $25 billion uptick in the gross state product and lower prices for home energy sources such as electricity, oil and natural gas.

“This study validates our commitment to energy efficiency and renewable sources of fuel,” said Steven Chester, director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. “It’s the right thing to do for a healthy environment and a healthy economy.”

Gov. Jennifer Granholm in 2007 established the Michigan Climate Action Council, consisting of academic experts and representatives of industry, environmental groups and government agencies.

The council last February recommended 54 steps to reduce the state’s contribution to climate change. Most involved greater use of alternative energy and stepped-up efficiency in manufacturing, farming, transportation and other sectors.

The panel recommended an outside analysis of the potential effect on Michigan’s economy. The DEQ secured a $75,000 grant from the Troy-based Kresge Foundation for the study.

Economists with Michigan State University and the University of Southern California teamed with the Center for Climate Strategies, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that has helped more than 20 states develop programs to fight global warming.

Michigan began taking steps in that direction in 2008 with legislation requiring that 10 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources within seven years. It also ordered utilities to become more efficient.

The climate action plan calls for additional steps, such as greener building construction, greater use of rail transport, more recycling and urban tree plantings.

The study concluded that, combined with actions already under way, the climate action plan would reduce greenhouse gas emissions to more than 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2025.

While acknowledging a lower-carbon economy would eliminate some jobs, the study predicted a net gain of 129,000 as alternative energy producers expand.

“It’s important to note that there will be winners and losers, but for the state as a whole this is a win-win and a significant one,” said Tom Peterson, CEO of the climate center.

Doug Roberts, environmental policy director for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, praised the report for acknowledging a continued role for coal and nuclear power in the state’s future.

But he questioned its finding that conservation and efficiency would lower residential prices for electricity, gasoline, oil and natural gas by 2025 as the state relies increasingly on alternative energy — which, for now at least, is costlier than traditional fuels.

“Saying energy prices are going to come down is very hard for me to believe,” Roberts said.

The Michigan Environmental Council said the report should give policymakers more incentive to work against global warming.

“We know that green jobs and clean energy were among the only sectors of Michigan’s economy that added jobs in the past several years,” said Chris Kolb, the council’s president.