Although it is officially summer, there is a big chill across Michigan. With the auto industry firmly in control by the federal government, Congress continues to focus on the economy, the environment and on everyone’s health. Just before the July 4th recess, the U.S. House of Representatives passed The American Clean Energy and Security (ACES) Act (HR 2454), a major piece of legislation affecting climate change, energy and the environment. While Detroit and the entire state of Michigan continue to struggle, we must find opportunity amidst crisis and take advantage of every and any opportunity to restore stability to Michigan’s economy. There is no doubt that our struggling automakers and suppliers will receive additional help once ACES passes Congress. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) also will provide much needed assistance for Detroit and for Michigan.

Restoring stability and setting a path to economic diversity requires leadership to make a bad situation good. The climate change legislation contains a number of provisions that can bolster our state’s position, bring our auto industry into the next generation and help diversify our state’s economy so we are no longer a one-industry town. This includes:

Retooling existing and recently abandoned plants to meet new fuel and energy standards.

Retrofit plants to accommodate electronic vehicle production.

Securing funding for Detroit’s efforts to create light rail and mass transit in the region and become a model for other communities by adapting the latest and cleanest transportation technology.

Direct engineers leaving the auto industry to create new companies to support the development and commercialization of clean energy technology.

Lobby the federal government to have Detroit house one of eight regional Clean Energy Innovation Centers.

Celebrate our collaborative efforts to incubate new companies in partnership with our universities through the University Research Corridor and Next Energy and identify federal resources to expand Next Energy and Tech Town.

This bill also contains a number of provisions vital to the growth of green vehicles and a number of opportunities to keep the engineers, designers and line workers recently laid off, from the auto industry, employed in Michigan. By no means is this a perfect piece of legislation, and it does not necessarily favor Detroit over other regions. However, it is a blueprint by which Detroit and this state must change if we are to weather this storm and restore stability to our economy and to our people. We as a state must work together to leverage our assets and seize the opportunities provided to us in this legislation. By taking advantage of the tools given to us, we can take advantage of the incentives and financial opportunities to retool our economy and emerge much stronger than we have ever been.

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