President Obama traveled to Michigan Thursday for the ceremonial groundbreaking of a new power plant that will manufacture batteries for electric cars. The Compact Power Inc. factory received $151 million in stimulus funds, and according to the Associated Press, will do its part to reverse the state’s climbing unemployment by creating 450 jobs by 2013.
But the Obama administration may be overestimating the prospects of new battery technology, as well as the promised plethora of new “green” jobs. Michiganders, especially, have reason to be slightly pessimistic about the president’s enthusiasm about a new battery plant.
According to the Washington Post, the White House has promised nine new electric battery plants to come from $2.4 billion in Recovery Act funds. However, only four of those will be operational by 2011. Furthermore, according to Recovery.gov, only $122 million of the $1.4 billion in stimulus money given to Michigan for green jobs initiatives has actually been spent.
But some experts say there is little reason to believe that spending on “green” projects will better help spur Michigan’s economy into recovery.
“There is no reason on Earth to think that spending money on green jobs is more effective than spending on other things,” Alan Blinder, a Princeton University economics professor and former Federal Reserve vice chairman told the Washington Post.
More broadly, the stimulus spending itself, green or otherwise, has not created any net new jobs in Michigan. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state of Michigan has actually lost 69,400 jobs since the stimulus was enacted. As a result, the unemployment rate rose from 12 percent to 13.6 percent.
Given the dire state of Michigan’s economy, some experts believe that Obama’s focus on green projects—like the one he promoted Thursday at the battery plant—are a wasted effort.
“I don’t think this is the way to grow the U.S. or Michigan’s economy,” said Jack McHugh, legislative analyst for the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “There’s no evidence that electric cars are the future; the market will sort that out,” added McHugh.
“I have no idea,” said Rep. Peter Hoekstra, a Republican who represents the district where the plant the president spoke at is located, when asked by The Daily Caller if investing in batteries for electric cars will benefit Michigan’s economy in the long run. He also pointed out that the situation would be very different if it was a business making this kind of investment, and having to weigh the costs and benefits of doing so.
“The federal government has got no skin in this game,” Hoekstra said.