Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Record Update First

Green jobs, electric vehicles focus of summit

A summit on green jobs March 5 at the Michigan League drew faculty members, and business and government leaders including Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who said the goal is to boost employment in Michigan.

“This is all about jobs and we’re going to take advantage of it,” Granholm said during the event “Switching Gears: The Future of Low Carbon Manufacturing in the Midwest.” She added the state is ripe for entrepreneurs seeking to start energy-related businesses due to abundant manufacturing capacity and access to researchers focused on energy-related technology at U-M and other area universities, and in the local auto industry.

Governor Jennifer Granholm, right, joins Connie Hedegaard, Denmark’s minister for climate and energy, in signing a memorandum of understanding to demonstrate commitment to pursue high-level dialogue, fact-finding missions and sharing of information and technology to aid a transition to a new energy economy. (Photo courtesy Stephen Dool, DKC Public Relations and Integrated Marketing)

Granholm joined Connie Hedegaard, Denmark’s minister for climate and energy, in signing a memorandum of understanding. The agreement is to demonstrate commitment by both parties to working with the region to pursue high-level dialogue, fact-finding missions and sharing of information and technology to aid a transition to a new energy economy.

Creation of such an economy is possible in Michigan, Hedegaard said. She provided the example of how Denmark — recently named by Time magazine as the most energy efficient country in the world — made a transition from heavy dependency on fossil fuels in the ’70s to one today that imports no oil from the Middle East or Russia.

“It is crucial to use this economic crisis to rethink business as usual,” she said. Hedegaard said her country lost its textile industry to foreign countries, but employment returned to rural areas thanks to investment in wind technology and other businesses devoted to energy efficiency. Denmark’s unemployment rate is 2.2 percent, she said.

Panel sessions that opened the conference included discussion on the need for Michigan to take the lead in producing batteries to power electric vehicles, and to produce those vehicles.

“All these technologies need to be investigated thoroughly,” said Ann Marie Sastry, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Mechanical, Biomedical and Materials Science and Engineering and director of the Energy Systems Engineering Program.

Sastry, who also is CEO of Sakti3 Inc., a lithium battery start-up company, has overseen laboratory projects sponsored by General Motors, the Army Research Office and others simulating performance of lithium batteries for electric vehicles and other battery designs.

“We are entering a period of very happy chaos,” Sastry said. She and other panelists said it is key for government and business leaders to work together to address technology issues ranging from standardization of electrical outlets cars used to recharge car batteries to establishing parts supply chains.

In video remarks played to summit attendees, Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow echoed Granholm. “This is really about jobs for us and it’s important to do it right,” she said, in the wake of Congress passing the economic stimulus package.

Michigan Rep. John Dingell also presented video remarks to the summit, saying local workers will benefit from stimulus package provisions to encourage start up of energy-related businesses. “Our folks want to be on the cutting edge and ready to roll up their sleeves and work like dogs to get us there,” he said.

Also representing U-M at the summit was Andrew Hoffman, professor of sustainable enterprise, who served as a panel moderator.

The summit was sponsored by non-profit The Climate Group, dedicated to accelerating international action on climate change, and the Government of Denmark.