News Hits is glad that city, state and federal cops swarmed the skies, waters and streets around the Renaissance Center last week. Why? Well, in addition to protecting us from the 50 peaceful protesters urging the Government of Eight representatives to implement renewable-energy policies and make other improvements to the world, someone could have laughed themselves criminally insane watching Gov. John Engler ride around a RenCen lobby on a newfangled electric scooter. In case you haven’t noticed, Engler is quite a bit wider than he is tall; though many consider Michigan’s No. 1 Republican opposed to anything environmentally friendly, he took quite a liking to the spiffy Segway HT and the balancing act it requires. He even twirled a 360 for the delight of reporters (who were desperate to stay awake amid the soporific monologues of officials). The governor was still puffing out his chest from joining with U.S. Secretary of Energy Spence Abraham to announce that Detroit will host an international conference on alternative vehicle technology this fall. The announcement comes on the heels of news last month that a fuel-cell research center will be built near Ann Arbor. News Hits asked the governor if he had undergone an environmental sea change after spending the last several years vilifying Al Gore and defending the internal combustion engine. Engler didn’t blink and said that, unlike unrealistic environmentalists, he has always believed that economic benefits can be had along with environmental ones. Hmmmmmm. OK.
This was all very strange, as was the conference itself, during which leaders from Japan, Europe and elsewhere talked in the abstract about globalization and energy with no input from environmentalists or scientists. “What I’m hearing is all these great things about how we have to pursue renewable energy and new technologies to keep the environment clean, but they’re talking about it in the future,” said Gary Skulnik, a Greenpeace spokesman. “Those technologies already exist. The problem is the U.S. and Canada are blocking action in investing in clean energy now.” As for the police force, Skulnik, who hails from Washington, D.C., said “it’s been a bit intimidating. Maybe it’s the city’s history, the riots and all that, I don’t know, maybe that’s why there’s such a huge presence out there. They’ve been closely watching our solar truck.”Lisa M. Collins is a Metro Times staff writer. Send comments to [email protected]