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Local News / Automotive

Friday, 7 August, 2009 2:22 AM

VP Biden unveils $2.5 billion in battery grants; $1 billion for Michigan

Photo courtesy of Richard Lee Bielaczyc / Wayne State University

Vice President Joe Biden addresses a crowd at NextEnergy in Detroit on August 5, 2009.

by Pete Bublitz
petblitz@yahoo.com

 

DETROIT -- Gathered within the parking lot of the NextEnergy building off Burroughs Street in Detroit, attendees were treated to an ensemble appearance by notable Michigan leaders and United States Vice President Joe Biden, who announced a set of funds towards auto industry transition.

According to Biden, “the Department of Energy is going to award nearly $2.5 billion in grants throughout the nation to create the next generation of clean car technology.”

However, Biden aimed to endorse the importance of Michigan as a major player in such change when he added, “Over $1 Billion of that is coming right here.“

It is a donation that Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) regarded as a shift in the state’s industrial importance during the 21st century.

“With these grants,” he said, “Michigan will be at the epicenter of the new automotive technological whirlwind which is coming.”

One of the critical transition areas that is seeing financial support, according to Gov. Jennifer Granholm, is the lithium battery industry and alternative energy programs. “Michigan has put $700 Million into battery credits, pack assembly, sell manufacturing, research and development, and the integration with the vehicle,” she said.

Granholm added that such funding was crucial in continuing the drift away from nonrenewable and overseas resources. “We know that there is a critical need to be independent of foreign oil, and we know that the auto industry is going to lead this nation to that freedom from oil.”

Biden also reflected the need to move ahead while acknowledging what is still needed in the present. “The internal combustion engine will remain important, but it [is not] the new next thing.”

He further estimated that by the year 2020, the U.S. market for lithium batteries would be $16 billion.

In order for such changes to have positive effects, Biden said, a greater concentration of work and contribution to the industry must occur in the United States instead of elsewhere. “If we fail to invest, virtually none of that market will be in the United States.” Biden added that currently 98 percent of lithium batteries were being manufactured in Asia.

To be a greater player in the changes, according to Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, was to be active locally as well. “The auto industry is emerging leaner and more efficient. Detroit must do the same.”

One of the guest speakers that got an idea of how much involvement southeast Michigan undertook was Representative Gary Peters (D-MI), who mentioned his involvement in a “tech tour” of the region to observe automotive advances.

Among the advances he observed was the Chevrolet Volt, a model of which was displayed as an exhibition at one end of the lot. Giving praise to the level of local innovation, Peters said that “Most people don’t recognize it, but in southeast Michigan we have more engineers than any other region in the country.”

Such endeavors are part of Biden and President Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which he referred to as a “three-prong approach.”

“A third goes to rescue, I call it, a third goes to recovery, and a third goes to reinvestment,” he said, giving importance to the aid of other economic institutions, especially the finance sector. “Had we not done it, the entire financial system… would have collapsed.”

Supporting points to the success of the Act, according to Biden, included the drop Gross Domestic Product loss down to 1 percent, while ensuring the chance that 19,000 new jobs in Michigan would arise from the grants. In the end, Vice President Biden maintained that such grants were not the absolute cure and that greater dedication towards implementing industry changes was a long-term goal. As he put it bluntly, “Less bad ain’t good.”

 

Photo courtesy of Richard Lee Bielaczyc / Wayne State University

U.S. Reps. John Conyers, Gary Peters and John Dingle

 

Photo courtesy of Richard Lee Bielaczyc / Wayne State University

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm is all smiles during the announcement.

 

Photo courtesy of Richard Lee Bielaczyc / Wayne State University

A large crowd outside the NextEnergy facility in Detroit.

 

Photo courtesy of Richard Lee Bielaczyc / Wayne State University

"We're building a new platform for the American economy that will allow us to grow like we did in the '40s, '50s and '60s," Biden said.

 

Photo courtesy of Stacey Mourtos

GM CEO Fritz Henderson chats with VP Biden inside a new Chevy Volt.

 

Photo courtesy of Stacey Mourtos

The chassis of the Chevy Volt electric vehicle.

 

Photo courtesy of Stacey Mourtos

An electric Coca-Cola delivery truck

 

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