Three Years In The Making

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

Yesterday, the City of Auburn Hills was invited to participate in a legislative policy briefing in Lansing designed to inform State officials on how Michigan could better support advanced powertrain systems and “clean” fuels for vehicles.  DPW Director Ron Melchert was asked to take part in an expert panel discussion and Q&A.  Ron did a fine job and made us proud by explaining the City’s experiences and why Auburn Hills has taken the proactive approach to raise awareness and support this emerging technology.

Ron Melchert (2nd from the right) speaking at the Michigan Fuel Forward Policy Briefing and Panel Discussion

Ron Melchert (2nd from the right) speaking at the Michigan Fuel Forward Policy Briefing and Panel Discussion

Why should we care?  Although protecting the environment and natural security are very good reasons to support the use of alternative fuels such as electricity (battery), propane, and compressed natural gas … the key motivation for the City has been economics.

The City of Auburn Hills is in the heart of Michigan’s automotive hub and we’ve seen first hand how corporations will focus their R&D dollars, job creation, and vehicle deployments in areas of the country that are supportive of this technology.  Our State’s policies offer little incentive or support, so these companies must make decisions that make financial sense for them and often go elsewhere.  In 2011, the Auburn Hills City Council decided that they didn’t want to rest on their laurels and wait for other areas of the country, such as California, Washington, and Texas, to capture this investment.  Someone had to lead, so we did.  Now, it’s time for State policy makers to do their part.

So after much effort by various interests, it appears that the pump has been primed.  State Senator Mike Kowall and House Representative Gretchen Driskell have answered the call and have committed to sponsoring bi-partisan legislation in the near future.  That’s why we were in Lansing.  In advance of the bill’s introduction, the Economic Development Committee chaired by Senator Kowall held a hearing to discuss the topic.  The City of Auburn Hills was invited, along with our partners at the Clean Energy Coalition, to take part in an educational briefing before the hearing.  Kind of like a pre-game show before a football telecast.

The proposed clean fuels legislation involves creating a State program and fund that would support rebates, grants, and loans for individual vehicle purchases and conversions, fleet conversions, infrastructure, R&D, and public-private cost sharing projects.  It would be a wise policy move by our legislative leaders.  If adopted, it would place the State of Michigan on level ground with other regions in the years to come.