Those who promote an energy boom in the state contend the state's modest energy industry workforce of 83,000 could expand greatly with more wind and renewable energy investment and a greater focus on recycling and efficiency programs.
Michigan sits at the precipice of an energy boom, and the future is not just about oil, gas and pipelines.
Wind energy and recycling hold as much promise, if not more, to create new investment and jobs over several decades as does drilling for fossil fuels. Also, an unprecedented construction boom to upgrade or replace coal-fired power plants means billions of new investment and thousands of construction jobs.
But even ramping up renewable energy production, such as wind and solar, can pose environmental risks. Some groups and elected officials contend new drilling technologies to extract oil and natural gas reserves, plus newly proposed pipelines, could impact the health of the Great Lakes — and Michigan residents.
They point to the devastating Enbridge pipeline spill in 2010 near Marshall and say infrastructure, including a 61-year-old oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac, pose grave risks for massive oil spills that couldn't easily be contained. They worry new pipelines could destroy private property and put land, water and residents at risk.
But those who promote a Michigan energy boom say more natural gas and oil can safely be extracted from the ground using special drilling and hydraulic fracking technologies, though gas reserves remain harder to tap here than in other states. They contend the state's modest energy industry workforce of 83,000 could expand greatly with more wind and renewable energy investment and a greater focus on recycling and efficiency programs for homeowners.
Livonia already quietly operates three small oil wells amongst its residents, and wind energy investments in the Thumb have paid off for utilities.
A study conducted for Michigan's Energy Innovation and Business Council said local investment in renewable energy projects — advanced energy storage, biomass, solar and wind — could support nearly 21,000 jobs in Michigan by 2015, and contribute more than $163 million in local and state tax revenues.
©2014 the Detroit Free Press