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Published: Sunday, 2/10/2008

Governor shows guts with green initiatives

The Green Shovel Speech.

That's how Jack Shaner of the Ohio Environmental Council labeled Gov. Ted Strickland's second State of the State Address on Wednesday.

Call it what you will, but the governor's speech took guts - especially his proposed Building Ohio Jobs program. It calls for legislators to put a $1.7 billion jobs package before voters. The gov essentially is asking for permission to drive up the state's credit card debt for programs he hopes will generate 80,000 jobs, even with the state budget already projected to be $733 million in the hole.

Can it work?

The nation's capacity for wind energy expanded an incredible 45 percent in 2007, according to the American Wind Energy Association. It claims wind also accounted for nearly a third of all the additional megawatts of capacity that were installed that year, regardless of the source.

Economies of scale, I know. Wind will never be the nation's dominant energy source. Ohio is a minor player, despite Bowling Green's four commercial-sized turbines.

Texas and California, not surprisingly, are the top two states for wind power. But then come two Midwestern states, Minnesota and Iowa.

Is that just a coincidence or was someone thinking outside the box?

We're rightfully proud of the University of Toledo's thin-film solar research, plus how well First Solar's manufacturing plant in Perrysburg Township is doing.

Are those just coincidences or was someone thinking outside the box?

The gov's plan calls for $250 million to stimulate Ohio's involvement in wind and solar, as well as for cleaner uses of coal and other renewable and advanced energy sources.

It calls for $400 million to clean up polluted sites and preserve open space - matching what voters authorized when they approved the Clean Ohio Fund in November, 2000.

Some $550 million would be dedicated to transportation, water, and sewage projects, including $150 million to help trucks, trains, and ships move goods more efficiently. Sewage improvement is one of the Great Lakes region's greatest needs. More efficient shipping - if it's not displacing local goods - can result in less air pollution while saving consumers money.

Some $200 million would spur redevelopment of downtown neighborhoods that, if successful, could at least slow down the maddening pace of suburbia and beyond-suburbia sprawl. Plus, $100 million would go toward promoting biofuels instead of oil in some manufactured products.

You get the idea.

On Jan. 10, Green Energy Ohio released the first two years of data from an ongoing study in which wind over Lake Erie is being measured from a 165-foot tower on top of Cleveland's water intake crib. It's one of 10 monitors around the state but the only one that lies offshore. Not surprisingly, the strongest, most consistent winds were documented there, resulting in some excitement.

The real test, though, will be in the Toledo area, where the wind-wildlife issue collides.

Northwest Ohio is seen by developers as the Great Lakes region's most ideal spot for harnessing wind, given its shallow water and proximity to urban areas.

It also lies in the path of two important migratory bird flyways, so the issue is far from being settled.

There's a lot at stake in Mr. Strickland's proposal.

"Ohio's future does not belong to those who lack courage," Mr. Strickland said. "We will not be held back by those who cannot imagine a tomorrow brighter than today."



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