Energy Futurists or Fakers

With oil prices, opposition to war in the petro-rich Middle East, concerns about climate change, and the value of renewable energy stocks all rising, ten governors from the Midwestern U.S. joined today to sign an agreement designed to promote energy innovation and conservation.

The agreement calls for new limitations on greenhouse gas emissions, modest reductions in energy consumption, and more grass stations. It also sets the goal of meeting 30 percent of the region's electricity needs with renewable sources by 2030, according to a report in today's Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.

“Today’s agreement is an important milestone toward achieving a cleaner, more secure energy future,” Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty said in a press release. “The Midwest is well-positioned to help lead the energy revolution that our nation needs to stay competitive and strong."

The immediate question is whether or not this pact will really be implemented. Because despite all the rhetoric about the potential to spur new jobs and high tech businesses with an aggresive renewable energy agenda, there are legitimate questions about just how committed Great Lakes leaders are to advancing serious energy innovation.

Ohio claims to be orienting its economic future around renewable energy. Yet Ohio Governor Strickland's energy plan appears poised to advance a rate structure that favors coal and nukes over wind and sun, according to a recent report from Tom Henry at the Toledo Blade.

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle proclaimed October Energy Awareness Month.

Then he signed on in support of an allegedly futuristic coal plant in Illinois, according to a recent report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

And energy companies are planning coal-fired power plants all across Michigan, without a peep from Governor Jennifer Grahnolm, who rightly claims the pursuit of alternative energies "can mean thousands and thousands of jobs for Michigan citizens."

The energy pact signed today by the Midwestern governors represents an important step forward for the region's 21st century development strategy. The real challenge - especially for a region so heavily dependent on Old Economy energy - is to put the thing into action.