We’re reminded of it every day when we tune into NPR on the way to work or turn on any media station at night. This omnipresent “elephant in the room” isn’t good for business, and it certainly isn’t good for morale. Michigan and Illinois alone have 11.2% and 9.2% unemployment, respectively.
How can we fix it? How can you and I make a difference?
The truth is, I don’t think we’ve ever really lost sight of how to apply our vast knowledge as a nation. As our economy shifts to a more global one, other countries advance and become more competitive. They see our industrialized success as an example and push us harder than ever before to keep our competitive edge.
Living in Michigan near auto industry capital, I see cars on a frequent basis proudly displaying bumper stickers that say “Out of a Job Yet? Stop Buying American.”
Whether meant to warn as a result of their current situation or not, these drivers offer a somber reminder and a reality. It really does matter, on a macro and micro economic scale, what products we buy and where they come from. This trend to buy American products continues to garner greater attention in mainstream society, but I feel we only pay attention to the origin of particular household products, such as t-shirts or new wrenches.
So, let’s go back to the beginning. How do we fix our unemployment? I think the answer is twofold.
First, as a society, I think we need to commit to not accepting skyrocketing unemployment. Just last week the USDA and the Obama Administration announced that they will be creating jobs now in rural America through various programs in 41 states.
Second, we need to continue take a serious look at where our products, especially fuel, come from. Ask yourself: Where were they made? What communities do they impact? Does the revenue from my purchase stay within my economy, or state, helping my neighbors, families and friends? We don’t always have the ability to buy American-made products anymore, but we absolutely do have that option with fuel.
To celebrate Alternative Fuels Day today, I encourage you to look at the pump when you fill up to see how much biofuel is in your gasoline. That percentage, small or large, is the direct result of hard work from families throughout the Midwest.
A lot of people—politicians, business and industry leaders alike—think they know who or what to blame for the downslide or stagnation in our current economy. Whatever the cause, the solutions are clear.
We need to focus on viable, effective solutions to putting our ingenuity back to work through American made, American bought—biofuels.
University of Michigan
Author of Fuel for Thought