Gov. Rendell's Ticking Energy Clock

There's remarkable consensus among Great Lakes governors that energy innovation is a strategic key to growing the region's economy, sustaining its ecology, and safeguarding people's health in the 21st century. But certain governors have pet secondary messages that aim to sideline the skeptics, unify broader support, and build the civic will for bold action. And one governor in particular seems to speak with a competitive spirit that's constantly driving people to think bigger and work harder.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty regularly seizes on the potential to strengthen national security with homegrown American energy. "We must help keep America from becoming an energy hostage to hostile and unreliable leaders like Hugo Chavez, Vladimir Putin, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad," Pawlenty said in his 2008 State of the State Address.

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle has some smart sound bites on the anti-terrorism angle, too. "We should depend more on the Midwest and less on the Mideast," he said in his 2008 State Address. But he also drills down on the climate change angle. "Temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere have reached their warmest point in over two thousand years," he said. "Our addiction to foreign oil is compromising our national security, paralyzing our economy, and melting the polar ice caps."

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm links her energy initiatives with national security and global warming, too. "Any time you pick up a newspaper from here on out and see the terms 'climate change' or 'global warming,' just think: jobs for Michigan,” she said in her 2008 State Address. But she repeatedly makes the case that growing the modern energy industry is essential to prop up her state's ability to generate new job opportunities. "We will win these jobs for Michigan and replace the lost manufacturing jobs with a whole new, growing sector."

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell has grabbed all the above handles on the issue at one time or another. But it's the sense of urgency that he brings to the debate perhaps more consistently and forcefully than any head of state in the region. America and the greater Great Lakes now operates amidst fierce global competition, he always seems to remind us. Decisive action is of the essence.

"Right now there's a race out there," Gov. Rendell said earlier this week after representing the National Governors Association at the White House. "There's about a five-year window to determine which country is going to be the country that captures the new ideas and the new green technologies."

Update: And apparently that go-go-go attitude is contagious. I just picked the Detroit News up off the driveway and found a front page story in which Gov. Granholm, fresh off spending several days talking with energy experts in D.C., barks at the Michigan Legislature to hurry up and pass a modern policy to support renewables. "This is the fastest way we can create jobs," Granholm says.