At one time, what was good for the environment was viewed to be bad for business. Today, however, Michigan companies tied to renewable energy are expanding and hiring while traditional manufacturing businesses are closing their doors.
The Emmy award-winning series Michigan At Risk, takes a look at "Michigan's Green Energy Economy" and what the state is doing to lessen our dependence on fossil fuel, with this hour-long special first broadcast in November 2006.
"Michigan's Green Energy Economy" takes a closer look at how investment in solar, wind and bio-fuels is creating economic growth in Michigan. The documentary opens with a half-hour field piece produced by Northern Michigan University professor Dwight Brady (pictured at right). Dr. Brady is a veteran television journalist who teaches in the department of Communication and Performance Studies at NMU. The field documentary will be followed with a 30-minute panel discussion hosted by capital correspondent Tim Skubick. The panel discussion will include Bruce E. Dale, professor of Chemical Engineering at Michigan State University, who has received a grant to study bio-energy fuels; Rich VanderVeen, president of Mackinaw Power; Jennifer Alvarado, executive director of Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association, and Dan Bishop, corporate public information director of Consumers Energy.
Several recent documentaries, including Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" have called attention to the negative and potentially catastrophic effects of our current fossil fuel economy. "Michigan's Green Energy Economy" provides a different angle on economics and environmentalism. "This program documents the viability of constructing a new economic engine that generates financial incentives for reducing environmental damage rather than exacerbating it," says Brady. "In an ideal world, we would all find the will power to change our consumption habits simply because it is the morally right thing to do. In the real world, however, we will likely not change unless it is the economically right thing to do."
"Michigan's Green Energy Economy" traveled to twelve different Michigan counties from Upper Michigan to the extreme southwestern corner of the Lower Peninsula. Throughout the documentary viewers learn about a fabricating plant in Cassopolis that makes components for commercial wind turbines and see how United Solar Ovonic, in Auburn Hills, is meeting the global demand for solar panels. The documentary will also take viewers to the wind swept fields of Huron County, where farmers look to make hay from giant wind turbines, while an Upper Michigan company looks to raise some "green" with bio-fuels.
Nearly two dozen people were interviewed for the documentary, including entrepreneurs like Rich VanderVeen of Mackinaw Power and public officials like Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell. "It was a great experience meeting and interviewing so many extraordinary people who not only understand our economic and environmental problems, they are also providing solutions," said Brady.
Production assistants for the field documentary were Grant Guston and Alex Hansen. Lighting director for the in-studio discussion is Ken Merley.
"Michigan's Green Energy Economy" is funded through a faculty research grant from Northern Michigan University and a grant from the Michigan Association of Public Broadcasters. The program was produced in partnership with WNMU-TV.
The series producer for Michigan At Risk is Robert Burke. The Executive Producer for WKAR-TV and Michigan At Risk is Timothy W. Zeko.