Detroit – Michigan today is Number One among major manufacturing states in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. . . but it is an honor that state residents are hardly smiling about. Earlier this year, Bill Clinton concluded that “we just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse-gas emissions because we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.”
Michigan has been living Clinton’s prescription, and the rest of America may not like the model.
A World Resources Institute (WRI) state-by-state analysis of emissions data, which draws on the most recent available numbers through 2003, put Michigan neck-and-neck with Louisiana in CO2-emissions reduction among big states. Since then, however, Michigan’s economy has been savaged, shedding tens of thousands of jobs with its unemployment rate climbing to a nation-leading 8.3 percent, even as Louisiana (despite Hurricane Katrina) has grown jobs with a current unemployment rate at 4 percent.
A spokesman for Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality said that the agency is aware of Michigan’s “green” status, but the state seems reluctant to advertize it. Perhaps that’s because WRI attributes Michigan’s CO2 reductions to its economic woes:
“Although the national economic recession of 2000–2001 caused total emissions to decrease,” says an Institute report on Midwest emissions, “other states within the region have since returned to a trend of increasing emissions; in contrast, Michigan has not. Factors include Michigan’s below-average increases in population and economic growth. Economic output most likely had the greatest impact on emission trends in the energy sectors; indeed, emissions from electric generation and industrial energy use (as well as transportation) all declined during the period.”
Not surprisingly, Michigan residents hardly see global warming as “by far the most serious threat we have ever faced” – as Al Gore put it in an ABC interview this week. In a Detroit News/WXYZ poll taken this week, state voters ranked “the most pressing issues facing America” as:
Economy/jobs: 48 percent
Gas/energy prices: 14 percent
Iraq War: 6 percent
Global warming was nowhere in sight.