Sustainability and Travel & Tourism

Clean fuel pumps $18.8B into state’s economy

Clean Fuels Michigan report states clean mobility sector contributes over 69,000 direct and indirect jobs.

June 1, 2018
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(As seen on WZZM TV 13) A statewide report on clean fuel technology in automobiles said the “clean mobility” sector contributes $18.8 billion to the Michigan economy each year, generating over $700 million in state and local taxes.

Clean Fuels Michigan, a group of local companies focused on clean fuel alternatives, recently released a report, “Benefits of Clean Mobility in Michigan,” to assess the benefits of clean fuel vehicles for the state.

Lansing-based Public Sector Consultants prepared the study. The report defined clean vehicles as ones powered by biofuels, propane, natural gas, electricity and hydrogen fuel cells. Hybrid vehicles also were included.

PSC Vice President Jeff Guilfoyle said Michigan’s clean mobility supply chain contributes over 69,000 direct and indirect jobs to the state economy.

“Right now, the auto industry supports 15 percent of the Michigan workforce,” Guilfoyle said. “Policies supporting clean mobility tech will help ensure Michigan remains a leader in the industry. It’s pretty clear clean fuel vehicles are going to be an important part of the (automotive) sector.”

Michigan currently is well-poised to be a leader in clean transportation. With over 3,160 clean technology transportation patents and 375 R&D centers, Guilfoyle said it is even beating California in clean fuel innovation. But the state has to embrace change in order to be a future leader.

Although traditionally fueled vehicles still dominate the industry, with 82 percent of registered Michigan vehicles being gas-powered, the report argued clean fuel vehicles will soon take over, based on rising concerns over air pollution and dependency on foreign oil and technological innovations that make clean fuel vehicles less expensive.

As a historic leader in the U.S. automotive industry, Michigan’s economy could be threatened by changing vehicle technology if new technologies are built elsewhere. While the report noted the power of market forces push mobility toward cleaner alternatives, it did not leave out public policy as an accelerant.

“We definitely think more can be done,” said Mike Alaimo, executive director of Clean Fuels Michigan. “As we move forward and continue to educate lawmakers, I think we’ll be seeing more support.”

The push to get clean fuel vehicles on the road also depends on the supporting infrastructure. Currently, there are 346 electric vehicle-charging stations in Michigan, not including home chargers, and Alaimo said an increase in their availability likely would encourage drivers to purchase electric vehicles.

The report highlighted Michigan’s existing natural gas and electricity networks as fertile ground for supporting an increase in clean vehicles. Statewide, there are 253 electric power facilities capable of producing 29,083 megawatts of electricity.

Michigan also produced 99.149 million cubic feet of natural gas from 9,577 production wells in 2016 and has the capacity to process all the natural gas it produces with 13 processing plants in the state.

Rob Bacyinski, program manager of natural gas vehicle business development at Detroit-based DTE Energy and board chair of Clean Fuels Michigan, emphasized the environmental benefits of natural gas-powered vehicles.

“When you fuel with renewable natural gas, greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced even further,” Bacyinski said. “We are working to develop and test concepts into grid integration, both for natural gas and electricity.”

According to the report, all clean fuel technologies PSC examined have lower greenhouse gas emissions per mile than gasoline-powered vehicles. Electric vehicles are the most beneficial, emitting less than half of the GHG emissions of gas-powered cars.

Natural gas vehicles were found to be the least beneficial, only reducing emissions by 11 to 15 percent.

Clean-fuel technologies also emit fewer volatile organic compounds than gas vehicles, with the exception of flexible fuel vehicles, which emit more VOCs than gas vehicles.

A reduction in emissions also implies improved public health and reduced health care costs for Michigan if the majority of cars on the road are clean fueled by 2050.

The report said there are nearly 17,000 asthma hospitalizations, with over $394 million spent annually in Michigan. The study also linked outdoor air pollution to cardiovascular disease, cancer and even diabetes with long-term exposure.

According to data from the Michigan Department of State, there are over 16 million vehicles registered in the state. About 1.88 million, or 11.7 percent, are clean fuel vehicles, as defined by the study.

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