Today, we published an issue brief making the case for renewable energy in the Midwest.
Here’s what you need to know.
As renewables grow increasingly efficient, more markets can profit from them. Over the past 10 years, the cost of solar and wind power has fallen by 88% and 69% respectively, driven by a virtuous cycle of new investment, better technology, and new economies of scale. As renewables replace coal, oil, and gas, energy jobs could be redistributed from high concentrations in the Gulf Coast – oil and natural gas country – across the Midwest.
For the Midwest, renewable energy is a $104 billion “buy local” opportunity. For more than a century, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin have been importing oil, gas, and coal. That spending supported jobs and investment in states like Texas, Louisiana, California, and West Virginia. Last year, the Midwest imported $104 billion in fossil fuels.
Jobs where we need them. The Midwest has been disproportionately impacted by automation, losing more jobs and investment than other parts of the country. For example, Ohio and Michigan are home to 21% of the manufacturing robots operating in the U.S.
Renewables can deliver help to small towns and rural counties where jobs and population fell and foreclosure rates soared. Some of the region’s most suitable land for wind and solar is located in rural counties and small towns that have been hit particularly hard by automation. In Michigan, for example, wind turbines are boosting rural counties along Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Renewables are generating new income, new tax revenues, and helping boost property values. Extra income farmers earn from leasing their land to wind turbine companies helps smooth out the income volatility most farmers face.
If not energy, what? When mayors and governors talk about economic development in the Midwest, they focus on 3D printing, call centers, and, sometimes, tourism. None of those industries are big enough to fill the hole automation left when low-skill manufacturing jobs moved overseas. Only the energy sector is big enough. Michigan imported $24 billion in coal, oil, and gas last year. That’s $2,400 per resident. With that much money, you could buy 800,000 Ford Escape SUVs.
Read the issue brief below.