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Clean Energy Jobs Are on the Menu in Michigan

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Everyone in America: Keep your hands on your lunch.

"China is going to eat our lunch and take our jobs on clean energy," warns Joe Romm, editor of Climateprogress.org. "China has clearly made a strategic decision that it wants to be a leader in batteries and electric vehicles."

Sorry, no one's stealing our lunch here in Michigan - or our clean energy jobs. We're on our way to becoming the advanced battery capital of the world. We project almost 62,000 new jobs will be created in Michigan in the advanced battery industry in the next 10 years.

Tomorrow, President Barack Obama will be in Holland, Michigan, to celebrate the groundbreaking of the LG Chem battery plant soon to be built there. LG Chem is one of the world's largest producers of advanced chemicals and materials and a leading supplier of lithium-ion batteries.

I met recently with Peter Bahn-Suk Kim, CEO and vice chairman of LG Chem, and he remarked that Michigan is becoming a world capital for advanced batteries. That designation -- world capital -- is exactly what we envisioned when we targeted the advanced battery market as one of the sectors we wanted to grow to help diversify Michigan's economy and create jobs.

It's also why I signed into law the first state battery tax credits in the nation, sending a clear signal to companies like LG Chem that Michigan is serious about being a leader in this industry.

Michigan's history was forged on the strong backs and innovative spirits of the men who put the world on wheels. Our future is being built on the ingenuity and drive of the women and men who are harnessing the power of green technology to keep our state and our nation strong.

But we couldn't be successful simply on our own. We needed a partner in the federal government, and we have one in the Obama administration. Last August, Vice President Joe Biden came to Michigan with some very good news: 12 Michigan projects - including LG Chem - had been awarded more than $1.35 billion in U.S. Department of Energy grants funded by the Recovery Act to support advanced battery and electric vehicle manufacturing and development.

In the short time since the vice president's visit, 16 battery companies have projects underway in Michigan, representing a total capital investment of $5.8 billion.

The LG Chem battery plant, a recipient of both a DOE grant and state battery tax credits, will make batteries for the Chevrolet Volt and the Ford Focus. If LG Chem hadn't received assistance from the federal government and state and local governments, this new plant wouldn't be possible -- and the batteries for the Volt and Focus would be coming from some other country.

Collaborative partnerships between government and the private sector are vital if we are to continue advancing a clean energy strategy. Right now, the United States is producing about two percent of the world's advanced batteries. By 2015, it's estimated our nation will be manufacturing 40 percent of the world's advanced batteries -- thanks to government and the private sector partnering together -- and Michigan will be a key player.

More needs to be done, though.

Legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Senate that expands the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit -- more commonly known as 48c -- and promotes electric vehicle deployment through the construction of charging stations and additional infrastructure. For the next few years, we also need to continue to offer federal tax credits to consumers who purchase electric vehicles until the price for manufacture of lithium ion batteries is comparable to that of internal combustion engines.

To grow the clean energy economy, we have to keep investing. Additional congressional action to promote the domestic manufacture of clean energy products is crucial.

After all, what sense does it make to move to a clean energy economy if we don't manufacture what we need right here in America? Why trade a dependence on foreign oil for a dependence on foreign-made batteries?

The American public has a growing appetite for clean energy and electric vehicles produced at home. Let's feed that appetite by powering the next generation with the bounty from our own soil. That's much more palatable than giving our lunch money to China.

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