COLUMBUS (TDB) -- Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland is turning into a global warming warrior. He's ordered energy audits of state buildings to cut down greenhouse gas emissions, he's ordered the state to look into buying hybrid vehicles, and he's offering $5 million in economic incentives for ventures that manufacture wind-power components. But that's pocket change compared to what he may actually intend to invest in a bold move recasting Ohio as a significant player in the alternative energy universe.
He told the Chillicothe Ross Chamber of Commerce that his twin goals of job creation and building a stronger Ohio economy include an unprecedented -- and costly -- new campaign to lure businesses into the state that are rooted in clean, green energy. He sees an opening for Ohio, an opening created as climate change dims the future for fossil fuels. "I'd like to devote about $250 million a year to encourage investments in alternative energies. We need to promote Ohio as a location for wind power, solar power, ethanol, biodiesel and coal technologies," Strickland said. He spoke at the chamber's annual dinner, an event that was reported in the Chillicothe Gazette. Much of what Strickland said was standard issue -- make higher education more affordable, build the economy on the minds of a well-educated work force, make health care accessible.
The amount of money -- $250 million annually -- for alternative energy is an eye-popping figure. Over four years, it would be $1 billion. That's the kind of dough former Gov. Bob Taft poured into his Third Frontier initiative, an effort to retool Ohio and wean it from heavy industry into new technologies. The Taft program's reputation was of particular fondness for medical research, biotech and fuel cells --a source of electric power that is based upon hydrogen as a fuel. Strickland may be in office to reap the benefits of Taft's efforts -- if they ever get off the shelf. There are those who wonder if the Third Frontier is the real deal.
Strickland tossed out the $250 million figure in a speech that also described Ohio's tight budget situation. "The challenge of trailblazing an economic turnaround is made all the more daunting by our budget situation. Current revenue projection shows we will have between $1 billion and $1.5 billion less. And it doesn't look better in 2009," he said, adding he would only "invest in those things that truly matter in this state."
Earlier this month, Strickland made $5 million available for the Ohio Wind Power Manufacturing Incentive, a program administered by Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher's economic development department. The announcement of the grant money said Ohio ranks second to California "in the potential for new job creation for manufacturing wind components."
The full text announcing the $5 million in grants is HERE. Clearly, the governor sounds like he wants to do a lot more.