By Dylan Huston
On Tuesday, November 1, Canisius College and the William H. Fitzpatrick Chair of Political Science Lecture Series hosted the Harvard-educated former Governor of Michigan, Jennifer Granholm, in the Montante Cultural Center. Governor Granholm, in a presentation entitled “The Mother of All Markets: Creating Clean Energy Jobs in America”, took the liberty of summarizing a few of the major points of her career as the first female governor of Michigan, from 2003 to 2011, as well as discussing the future of clean energy. As Governor, Granholm presented a deep passion for issues affecting the United States, such as climate change (a fitting topic for a November day where temperatures broke 70 degrees Fahrenheit), a constantly shrinking middle class, and an increasingly ineffective and divisive Congress.
Citing an example from her experience as Governor, Granholm made a point to cite the dilemma encountered in the small town of Greenville, Michigan. Greenville, a small middle-class town with a great portion of its population employed by its local Electrolux factory, found itself the victim of outsourcing. Electrolux was moving its factory to Mexico.
“There’s nothing you can do to compensate for the fact that we can pay $1.57 an hour in Juarez,” said Granholm, paraphrasing Electrolux representatives.
Regardless of Granholm’s efforts, the advantages of harvesting cheap foreign labor were too great for Electrolux to reconsider; the decision had been made and thousands of workers were suddenly out of their jobs.
Granholm developed a plan. In an attempt to combat both climate change and joblessness, the former Governor embarked on a mission to encourage domestic industry which produced the machinery and assembly of solar panels and wind turbines. Furthermore, Granholm pointed out that thousands of solar panels and wind turbines require assembly, installation, and routine maintenance, something which creates solidly middle-class jobs.
Finally, Granholm elucidated the viability of having bipartisan support of these policies.
“We all know climate change is happening,” said Granholm, “but if you want to sell it, focus on jobs!”
Granholm cited the resulting economic competition, jobs, expansion of consumer choice, energy independence, promotion of local business, and potential to streamline bureaucracy (to make energy-efficient products cheaper) as being reasons as to why both major parties would support these energy-efficient policies.
“If we use the thrust to create jobs,” said Granholm, “you can see Conservatives and Liberals agreeing.”
Taking lessons from President Barack Obama’s successful “Rise to the Top for Education” initiative, Granholm affirmed that this precedent could prove a possible outlet for the implementation of her previous proposals. Obama’s policy offered money to states willing to increase the standard of their public education. Participation was not mandatory, but still 48 states did step up to improve education, and Granholm said that, in a similar manner, the federal government could get states to improve their energy efficiency by offering monetary incentives.
Internationally, Granholm said the U.S. lags far behind other countries, such as China, in terms of investment in clean energy. According to Granholm, unless the U.S. increases investment, the country will only lose more jobs.
“You can either be at the table or on the menu,” said Granholm. “I prefer to dine.”
Also significant was Granholm’s mention of Buffalo’s own Solar City Gigawatt factory, which she has high hopes for as it continues to near completion. She said that Buffalo is the “center” of the green energy movement because of this factory.
Canisius College warmly welcomed Governor Granholm as one of the many great speakers to visit the campus. Granholm is a energy policy advisor to the Clinton campaign, but she tried to keep her talk as nonpartisan as possible, although it was clear she believed Clinton had better energy policies at the moment. Granholm ended the night by answering a robust round of audience questions in which she did everything from affirm her support of Native Americans and allies at Standing Rock, to speak about the complex nature of supporting nuclear energy.