A Thousand Miles and Running from MI

Blasting an 1,100 mile wide hole in the argument that agressively promoting energy innovation will kill jobs, investment, and business in Michigan, Grand Rapids-based Steelcase announced an agreement to wire its energy payment to a wind farm in Panhandle, TX for at least the next five years.

The move is at once surprising and predictable. On one hand, Steelcase, a large, longstanding, and highly respected furniture maker, has for more than a decade now consisently distinguished itself as a global leader in the sustainable business movement. That the company would move to offset its carbon emissions by purchasing power produced from clean wind, rather than dirty coal, affirms a commitment to civic responsibility and stewardship that many have to come to expect from the corporation.

No, what should astonish and trouble citizens, executives, and politicians in Michigan is that the company, which prides itself on forward-looking philanthropy and investment to benefit its hometown, traveled 1,100 miles south to buy energy from Texas.

Like the Lone Star State, the Great Lakes State has the wind resources to power utility-scale power production, according to the scientists. In fact, alot of it is blowing up on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, approximately 30 minutes from the front door of Steelcase Headquarters.

Unlike Texas, however, Michigan doesn't have the public policy, the spending strategy, or the open-minded culture necessary to promote a proliferation of wind power projects, as the map above generated by the American Wind Energy Association confirms. So Steelcase, it seems, had little choice but to invest in Texas.

The refrain from those defending the status quo at the Michigan Capitol is that strong laws to diversify the power portfolio will chill the state's ability to lure companies, jobs, and investment. Steelcase literally just blew that argument away to the Gulf Coast.