A new report authored by a Michigan State University economist says there could be a short-term boom in construction jobs if Michigan energy companies switched from coal to natural gas.
Professor Bill Knudson says as many as 19,000 new construction jobs at electricity plants would cause unemployment to dip by about four-tenths of a percentage point.
"That's a one-time impact that occurs during the construction phase," he says. "Once the construction phase is over, then that economic impact kind-of disappears."
Knudson says a few thousand natural-gas jobs could remain, and there would be a negative impact on the coal industry. But Knudson's report also says coal comes from outside of the state and natural gas is in abundant supply in Michigan.
The report, which was commissioned by the not-for-profit Energy Foundation, does not consider how the natural gas would be attained, such as through controversial method of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."
"The construction costs would be at the actual electricity plant, going from coal to natural gas, plus building the pipelines and things like that," he says.