Unfinished Business: What the Midwest Needs to do to Lead in the Clean Energy Economy

  • Jordan Lubetkin
  • Apr 21, 2011

Unfinished Business: What the Midwest Needs to do to Lead in the Clean Energy Economy evaluates regional progress—or shortfalls—in meeting goals put forward by a bipartisan group of Midwestern governors and stakeholders in 2007 and 2009 to turn around the economic prospects of the region by becoming global leaders in the clean energy economy.

The report finds that clean energy policies are already benefiting parts of the Midwest, creating thousands of jobs and generating revenue for cash-strapped cities. But the region needs new policies to realize its potential as a hub of clean energy manufacturing and use.

Unfinished Business evaluates state and regional progress in meeting a landmark 2009 energy and jobs platform that was crafted with input from hundreds of state officials, business leaders, utility executives, agricultural interests and environmental advocates. The platform is widely considered the blueprint for effectively addressing the economic and energy challenges in the region.

Progress & Shortcomings

The NWF report reviews progress to date across the region, identifies notable successes, and assesses grades—A through F—on regional efforts to meet six clean energy goals:

  • Renewable energy: Regional grade: B-
  • Energy efficiency: Regional grade: B
  • Building codes: Regional grade A-
  • Low carbon fuels: Regional grade: C+
  • Transit: Regional grade: C
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions: Regional grade: D

Unfinished Business also examines progress Midwestern states are making to meet critical infrastructure improvements and regional jobs initiatives, among them:

  • Upgrading the region's power grid to take advantage of the renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, reduce overall energy use, make existing system more efficient and create new businesses;
  • Pioneering biofuels development to revitalize rural communities, invigorate regional manufacturing base, reduce carbon emissions associated with transportation sector, and lessen our dependence on foreign sources of energy;
  • Building regional high-speed rail system to create jobs, cut air pollution, and reduce dependence on foreign oil;
  • Moving forward with carbon pipeline to capture and store carbon emissions from power plants in the region; and,
  • Adopting policies and partnerships to support jobs collaboration that ensure that the region’s education and training programs equip the workforce with the skills necessary to participate in the new energy economy.

State-Specific Assessments

The report highlights regional case studies and best practices, and includes state-level assessments of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Unfinished Business finds that Midwestern states rank among the Top 10 job-creating states in all five categories of the clean energy economy, including: clean energy (Minnesota, Ohio, Michigan); energy efficiency (Ohio,Wisconsin); environmentally friendly production (Minnesota, Ohio, Iowa and Illinois); conservation and pollution mitigation (Ohio, Illinois, Michigan); and training for clean energy jobs (Illinois).

Studies have shown that clean energy could create as many as 1.2 million jobs in the Midwest over the next decade, with one-third of those in high-wage, highly skilled manufacturing positions and construction jobs. Those gains, the report warns, hinge on state and regional action.

Time for Action

The report urges Midwestern states to enact policies that foster greater energy efficiency, promote the use renewable energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to create jobs and revitalize its region’s economy. Among the report’s recommendations:

  • Establish or upgrade renewable energy standards;
  • Address power transmission issues;
  • Establish strong statewide energy efficiency goals;
  • Act to adopt the most recent residential and commercial building codes;
  • Adopt low carbon fuel standards; and,
  • Improve transportation efficiency and provide more transportation choices.

The report urges elected officials to act quickly if the Midwest hopes to restore its manufacturing base and become a major player in the global clean energy economy. Without prompt government action on policies that would support the clean energy economy, the Midwest will lose more of its competitive advantage to China and other nations.

Unfinished Business: What the Midwest Needs to do to Lead in the Clean Energy Economy

This report finds that the Midwest has all the ingredients to be a leader in the clean energy economy, but will need to step up its efforts to compete effectively with other parts of the country and world.


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