BIO Mid-America VentureForum set for Milwaukee, September 24-26, 2007

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

From the BIO Mid-America Venture Forum Web site:

What is the BIO Mid-America VentureForum?

* The Midwest's largest annual event showcasing bioscience, biofuel and medical device product and platform companies from across the country

* A among eight state life science associations and the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO)

* A business development opportunity to network and explore funding and investment opportunities with:

- The industry's most prominent CEOs and CFOs of bioscience, biofuel and medical device companies

- Angel investors and investment banks

- Corporate and private venture capitalists
The Forum features:

* Workshops highlighting trends in the financial markets and challenges faced by bioscience, biofuel and medical technology companies

* Presentations from up to 60 bioscience, biofuels and medical device startups

* The Partnering system with on- and off-site database tools facilitating the evaluation of partnering opportunities and the scheduling of one-on-one meetings at the conference

*A variety of formal and informal networking opportunities


Monday, July 30, 2007

A humorous look at an important issue:

Starting on sustainability in La Crosse

Sunday, July 29, 2007

From an article by Reid Magney in the La Crosse Tribune:

The city-county sustainability plan isn’t just about replacing light bulbs.

Officials discussed the scope of the plan at the first joint meeting of city and county officials Thursday.

“The hope is this is going to transform city and county government from frontline person to the council and the mayor,” said La Crosse City Planner Larry Kirch. “It takes the frontline people to know how to do these energy-saving and cost-saving things. That’s why we’re bringing it up at every department head meeting. It’s going to affect how government does business.”

The La Crosse Common Council and La Crosse County Board each have endorsed developing a joint plan for sustainability. While it will involve steps to save energy, other aspects will cover a wide range of environmental concerns.

BP refinery wants to dump more waste in Lake Michigan

Friday, July 27, 2007

From an article by Dan Egan in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

The mayors of Milwaukee, Racine, Green Bay, Sheboygan and Superior are opposing a plan that will allow petroleum giant BP to boost the amount of pollution it's dumping into Lake Michigan from an Indiana refinery. . . .

Indiana approved the permit for discharges last month as part of an expansion of the Whiting, Ind., refinery's fuel-producing capacity. The approval, according to BP, is part of a $3 billion expansion at the refinery that will let it increase its annual production of gasoline and diesel by 15%, or 620 million gallons. The upgrade will also allow the refinery to rely more on Canadian crude oil.

Wisconsin mayors aren't the only ones upset by the new permit. It will let BP discharge 1,584 pounds of ammonia a day and 4,925 pounds of other industrial waste a day, according to Illinois Congressman Mark Kirk's office. The result, he says, is an increase from current allowable discharges of 54% for ammonia and a 35% increase for what conservationists term "sludge" and what BP and state regulators refer to as "total suspended solids."

Two sides in ethanol dispute approve mediator

Thursday, July 26, 2007

From an article by Steve Calahan in the La Crosse Tribune:

SPARTA, Wis. — Coulee Area Renewable Energy LLC and Century Foods Inter-national haven’t agreed on much in their dispute over CARE’s plans to build an ethanol plant near Century Foods’ largest Sparta plant.

But officials of both businesses said they have agreed to have retired Wisconsin Court of Appeals Judge Gordon Myse act as mediator in talks Aug. 10.

Myse was a circuit court judge for Outagamie County before serving as an appellate court judge from 1986 to 1999.
More stories on the issue.

Vanguard veggie fuel station to open

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

From a story by Dan Gibbard in the Wisconsin State Journal:

BLAIR -- Even in the fringe world of alternative fuels, vegetable oil has mostly remained on the margins, the domain of a few do-it-yourselfers who have rigged their diesels to run on old fryer fat, making the rounds of local burger joints to fill their tanks.

But the veggie power movement is about to stick one greasy toe into the mainstream, as a company in this western Wisconsin town, about 150 miles northwest of Madison, prepares to open what its owners believe is the first recycling and filling station for waste vegetable oil in the Midwest, and one of just a couple in the nation.

"The problem with vegetable oil is not the technology, it 's the infrastructure, " said Coulee Region Bio-Fuels co-owner Taavi McMahon, a lawyer who also is president of PrairieFire Biofuels Cooperative in Madison. "We've been encouraging people to convert to vegetable oil, and when they've asked about fuel availability, we 've said, well, get ready to go Dumpster-diving."

Windmills and hog farms: uncomfortable truth

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Hans Noeldner's posts often chide us for our lifestyle choices. An editorial from The Thomah Journal picks up on Hans' theme:

In Monroe County, it’s wind turbines.

In Vernon County, it’s hogs.

Vernon County residents are debating whether to allow a confinement hog operation, and the issues wind turbines and hogs are remarkably similar. In Monroe County, the controversy over wind turbines exposes the gap between how much energy we want to consume and how little tolerance we have for living anywhere near where energy is produced. In Vernon County, the proposed hog operation exposes the gap between how much meat we consume and how little tolerance we have for living anywhere near a facility that efficiently produces it.

Jeff and Bonnie Parr want to build an operation with 2,400 hogs in the Vernon County town of Sterling. These operations can’t help but generate controversy. Thousands of pigs squeezed into a small area create runoff and manure problems, groundwater contamination, and extremely pungent odors. While the magnitude of the environmental and health impacts are subjects of debate, the belief that large hog operations make unpleasant neighbors is not.

Yet confinement hog operations produce something that consumers clearly want: cheap pork. Americans are voracious meat eaters, and free-range agriculture can’t begin to satisfy a population that places hamburgers, hot dogs and bratwursts at the base of the food pyramid. A population that eats more fruits and vegetables maintains a cleaner and prettier environment, but Americans have displayed no inclination to forsake a meat-first diet.

The stories of windmills and hog farms confront citizens with an uncomfortable truth: Our energy and food consumption patterns produce unpleasant consequences. There is no clean or aesthetic way to satisfy our demand for energy. There is no clean or aesthetic way to satisfy our desire to eat meat three times per day. Until we confront these facts like honest adults, disputes over wind turbines and hog farms will be a way of life in rural Wisconsin.

Oil production continues on plateau, set to decline in 2009

Monday, July 23, 2007

From the executive summary of a detailed article posted on The Oil Drum:

1. World total liquids supply production (Fig 1) remains on a peak plateau since 2006 and is forecast to fall off this peak plateau in 2009. As long as demand continues increasing then prices will also continue increasing.

2. Forecast world crude oil and lease condensate (C&C) production retains its 2005 peak (Fig 2). The forecast to 2100 shows declining C&C production, using a bottom up forecast to 2012 (Fig 3). The forecast to 2012 shows a 1%/yr decline rate to 2009, followed by a 4%/yr decline rate to 2012.

3. World oil discovery rates peaked in 1965 (Fig 4) and production has exceeded discovery for every year since the mid 1980s. Discoverable reserves in giant fields also peaked during the mid 1960s (Fig 5). The time lag between world peak discovery in 1965 and world peak production in 2005 of 40 years is similar to the time lag of 42 years for the USA Lower 48 (Fig 6).

4. World C&C year on year production changes to March 2007 and April 2007 (Figs 7,8) show significant declines for Mexico, North Sea and Saudi Arabia; significant increases for Russia, Azerbaijan and Angola. As Russia is likely to be on a production plateau and Saudi Arabia has probably passed peak production, the world C&C production will continue to decline slowly.

5. Key producer Saudi Arabia recently released an updated project schedule which does not show originally scheduled expansions of Shaybah phase 2, 0.25 mbd and Al Khafji Neutral Zone, 0.30 mbd. Consequently, it is now almost a certainty that Saudi Arabia passed peak C&C production of 9.6 mbd in 2005 (Figs 9,10).

6. World natural gas plant liquids is forecast to increase due to new OPEC projects (Fig 11). World ethanol and XTL production is forecast to double by 2012 (Fig 12). World processing gains are forecast to decline slowly to 2012 (Fig 13).

Trolleys, trains, and roads

Friday, July 20, 2007

Hans Noeldner wrote a letter to the editor in reponse to an editorial by Art Webb, president of Stop "Smart Growth" that concluded:
Contact your city, county and state representatives and tell them not to support a Regional Transit Authority or rail transit in Dane County. Our regional economy is dependent on a good transportation system of roads, not trains and trolleys.
Hans wrote in reponse:
Dear Editor:
A better name for the guest column, "Economy is dependent on good road system" would be "President of 'Stop Smart Growth' is 100% dependent on automotive movement". 1403 Starr Road (Mr. Webb's address) isn't located within safe, practical walking or bicycling distance of anything. And without serious infill on Starr Road - 100 units of Section 8 housing, say - Mr. Webb's "neighborhood" is unlikely to ever support any form of public transportation. No doubt Mr. Webb and most other Madison-area exurbanites with rural sleeping quarters want to keep it that way.

It also bears mention that no major roadway expansions (Highway M-138 as South Beltline anyone?) are likely to mar the "rural character" of Mr. Webb's immediate locale. After all, bigger highways always look much better from the driver's seat than from the front door or kitchen window!

Mr. Webb is like countless other Americans who believe they have a constitutional right to drive everywhere and then park for free. The tragedy is that our nation has "occupied" the Mideast/Central-Asian Oil Patch to keep their tanks full. And our departments of transportation have declared war on unpaved earth so they can rack up more highway miles every year.

Landowners lose pipeline battle

Thursday, July 19, 2007

An Associated Press story from WSAW-TV, Wausau:

WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. (AP) -- The legal fight over a massive pipeline project has come to an end in Wood County Circuit Court.

The last defendant in a series of cases filed against property owners by Enbridge Energy has lost his case.

A judge yesterday ruled in favor of Enbridge and gave the company the easements needed to complete its two 321-mile pipelines from Superior to Delavan.

The lines will eventually carry 400,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta, Canada.

The pipeline project crosses the land of more than 1300 Wisconsin property owners.

330 feet of pipeline will cross Mike Ruesch's land near Vesper.

He was one of the 27 landowners named in a lawsuit by Enbridge.
Read more about the pipeline here.

IEA warns of oil shortage

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

From the Australian Broadcast Company:

The International Energy Agency has warned of a shortage of oil in the next five years.

It says world oil production may not be able to keep up with demand, leading to a supply crunch.

The co-author of the report, David Phife, says strong economic growth in Asia and the Middle East means the demand for oil is high, despite increasing prices.

"The older provinces of oil production in the North Sea and North America have become depleted and therefore, the companies are having to look in more technologically-challenging areas - Arctic areas, the ultra-deep water, the oil sands in Canada and Venezuela," he said.

BT Financial Group analyst Misha Collins says a global oil crisis could be a real possibility, with oil production already dropping over the past couple of years.

"The non-developed world has grown quite significantly from levels of mid-20s, 25, 26 million barrels up to around 29 and that looks to perhaps go down, while the developed world has been in decline and OPEC [Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries] has been pretty much flat," he said.

Mr Collins is predicting a greater move to alternative energy sources.

"Higher prices will lead consumers of oil to look at conservation of energy and look to alternative sources of energy, particularly gas and electricity being the most common ones," he said.
Link to the report on IEA's site.

Sparta ethanol plant decision delayed; complaints in Milton

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

From an article by Steve Cahalan in the La Crosse Tribune:

SPARTA, Wis. — The Sparta City Planning Commission on Monday night postponed for 30 days a recommendation on rezoning land to allow construction of a controversial ethanol plant.

The 4-2 vote to delay recommending whether to rezone the site from agriculture to manufacturing means the Sparta City Council will not be able to vote on rezoning tonight.

The commission’s decision came after a heated, two-hour public hearing attended both by supporters of Coulee Area Renewable Energy LLC and opponents of the plant’s proposed location near the main facility for Century Foods International in Sparta.

Century Foods officials argue emissions from the ethanol plant will contaminate its milk-based products and endanger employees’ jobs.

The farmers and other investors in CARE dispute those contentions.
And an article by Carla McCann in the Janesville Gazette covers complaints about a Milton plant:
MILTON-Four months after going online, the United Ethanol plant is causing talk around town.

A neighbor of the $60 million plant in Milton's Eastside Industrial Park complained to Mayor Nate Bruce that the family's pool and patio furniture are being polluted with ash fallout from the plant.

Other city and community residents, including the mayor, have smelled the yeasty odor of the plant's operation drifting across the city.

E85 tax credits "misguided"

Monday, July 16, 2007

From an article by Jason Stein in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Protect the environment and national security and do it while preserving the livelihood of Wisconsin farmers and auto workers. Those are the goals, supporters said, of two bills in the state Assembly that would provide a tax credit for cars and trucks that run on E-85, a fuel that's 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

But environmentalists said the bills are misguided and would encourage state consumers in many cases to buy gas-guzzling vehicles that run on gas and little E-85.

"They are more of a problem than a solution," Chris Deisinger, a Wisconsin energy policy consultant for the national environmental group Union of Concerned Scientists, said of some of the vehicles covered under the tax credit.

Hormel asks Doyle to help with ethanol dispute

Friday, July 13, 2007

From an article by Steve Calahan in the La Crosse Tribune:

SPARTA, Wis. — Hormel Foods Corp. has asked Gov. Jim Doyle to help resolve the dispute between its Century Foods International subsidiary and Coulee Area Renewable Energy LLC, which plans to build an ethanol plant near Century Foods’ largest Sparta plant.

Century Foods released a letter Thursday that Joe Swedberg, Hormel vice president of legislative affairs and marketing services, sent Doyle this week.

In the letter Swedberg said, “Century Foods has come to a stalemate in negotiations with the city of Sparta and Coulee Area Renewable Energy relating to the proposed ethanol plant site contiguous with our Century Foods plant.”

He also said, “Century Foods is at a point where we feel long-term strategic decisions have to be made relating to our employees, our facilities and future in Sparta. Given the longstanding relationship we have had with the state, we would like to ask for your help in finding a solution. We believe our concerns should be shared directly with you as governor of Wisconsin rather than continue to have the issue played out in the press.”

NIMBYism and ethanol plants

From Hans Noeldner:

The editorial “Keep door open for biofuel plants” includes the essential point that we-the-people must not allow NIMBY attitudes to prevent investments in renewable energy infrastructure.

Unfortunately the editors fail to mention that corn ethanol is – and will almost certainly remain - a dead end. The net energy available from corn ethanol – i.e. the energy in the ethanol output minus the energy used to plant, fertilize, pesticize, harvest, transport, grind, ferment, distill, and ship that ethanol – is inherently low, at best no more than 40%. Using high quality non-renewable fuels like natural gas to make corn fertilizer and power ethanol plants is like transmuting gold into lead. And using coal to power ethanol plants is insane: coal energy generates far more greenhouse gasses than any other fossil fuel.

Corn ethanol survives on government mandates and massive subsidies. Economics and thermodynamics ensure there will be a day of reckoning. Farmers and investors will suffer, and all will see the futility of plowing fencerow to fencerow – thereby eroding our nations precious soils - to feed our gluttonously oversized, supersized fleet of motor vehicles. Sustainably-produced biomass like wood and grasses will play a crucial role in meeting our energy NEEDS, but driving two-ton SUVs and three-ton pickup trucks to work and the health club will not number among them.

Returning to NIMBY, I wonder whether the Wisconsin State Journal editors would welcome a new ethanol plant sited near, say, the Nakoma Golf Course? At 4017 Mandan Crescent, for example?

State Journal weighs in on Sparta ethanol plant

Thursday, July 12, 2007

From an editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal:

Wisconsin cannot afford to let a "not in my backyard" reaction to ethanol plants shut down the state's effort to be in the forefront of biofuel development.

That is a lesson Wisconsin communities should learn from the feud that threatens to squelch plans to build an ethanol plant at Sparta.

Not every proposed site is suitable for an ethanol plant. As with most industrial operations, the impacts of ethanol production -- from traffic to odor to increased water use -- mean that finding the right location is important.

Sparta should determine, according to its established procedures, whether to approve a site proposed there by an ethanol plant investor group.

But neither Sparta nor any other community should permit a "not in my backyard" -- NIMBY -- attitude to close its mind to ethanol plants.

Gasoline prices soar

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

From an article by Mike Ivey in The Capital Times:

John Neal of Verona didn't even flinch as the pump display ticked past $40 as he filled the tank of his Volkwagen Jetta this morning at the Citgo station on South Park Street.

It's the first time Neal has purchased fuel since prices spiked again this week.

While Neal was paying $3.29 a gallon for unleaded regular gasoline, many other stations in the Madison area have already shot up to an all-time high of $3.49. The rest should follow suit, but state law prohibits more than one price increase every 24 hours.

"Usually the oil companies offer some kind of excuse, but this time they didn't even bother," said Neal, 59, an attorney in private practice.

Indeed, some analysts are still scratching their heads over the latest price jump. After hitting a previous high of $3.43 a gallon here over the Memorial Day weekend, pump prices had slowly eased back to about $3.

But a lingering fire at the largest Midwest refinery in Whiting, Ind., and crude oil prices climbing again past $70 a barrel have been enough to send gasoline futures soaring.

Tired arguments smell worse than ethanol plants

The Oshkosh Northwestern editorized on the Sparta ethanol plant described in the post below:

Long has Sparta been home to a great bicycling and hiking trail, known as the birthplace of a NASA Mercury and Space Shuttle astronaut and site of some of Wisconsin's most bucolic countryside.

It's now becoming known another Wisconsin "city where that ethanol plant wants to build."

The debate currently rocking Sparta is one more example of how Wisconsin keeps losing focus in the ethanol debate.

Too many communities are, as Sparta is, focusing on phantom plant odors, trucks, dust and noise -- appealing to base fears and not probing the tougher, long-range questions: "Is ethanol from corn a truly viable future energy source?" "Are corn and ethanol subsidies justified?"

In Sparta, investors are proposing a $115 million ethanol plant next door to a dairy-based foods plant, a subsidiary of Hormel Foods Corp., according to Associated Press accounts. The Hormel plant employs 350 people. It requires ventilation. And, the plant's officials contend, if an ethanol plant moves in next door, invading ethanol-production odors will taint the dairy products, AP reports.

So, the Hormel operation – it operates within a half-mile of the proposed ethanol plant site -- is threatening to leave Sparta and take its jobs with it. That's the new twist in an otherwise tired debate getting caught up in panic, myth and hysteria as a new development works its way through a typical municipal and county zoning gauntlet.

Plant investors aren't backing down. There's a group in opposition to the new plant called "Friends of Sparta." Scientists, "experts" and lawyers are chiming in here and there, too.

Any of this sound familiar, Oshkosh?

The specifics were a tad different, but the fear-mongering was, largely, the same in Oshkosh five years ago. And, largely speaking, there was little discussion of the long-term future and viability of ethanol as energy source.

Instead, property owners got in an uproar over odors.

It's five years later. If rural Oshkosh residents do have complaints about smells and noises emanating from Utica Energy, they seem to be being addressed rather quietly.

So, some advice to our friends in Sparta and to the whole of Wisconsin (sure to see more ethanol-plant debates flare up in the years ahead): Rest assured, something will "stink" in these small-town, land-use battles unless cooler heads and legit scientists are heard. It isn't ethanol plants that leave us gasping for air. It's tired Not In My Back Yard arguments.

Final Thought: If we're going to debate ethanol plants, let's ditch the nonsense over abhorrent odors and landscape-marring operations. Let's lock horns over and fully debate the long-term sustainability, subsidization and job-creation of an alternative energy source.

Sparta warring over ethanol plant idea

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

From an Associated Press article in The Capital Times:

SPARTA -- Farmer David Rundahl looks around a field of pine trees and weeds on the edge of this western Wisconsin city and sees the perfect location for a $115 million ethanol plant.

He points to nearby railroad tracks and notes the rumble of cars on Interstate 90 -- an ideal spot for shipping corn and fuel, making some farmers rich and reducing the country's dependence on foreign oil.

But the project proposed by Rundahl and others might come at a high price: Sparta's largest employer, a dairy processor located less than a half-mile down the tracks, is threatening to leave along with its 350 jobs if the plant is built. That would be an economic blow to Sparta, a city of 9,000 in the heart of dairy country.

Century Foods International, a subsidiary of Hormel Foods Corp., says its dairy-based food products would be contaminated by the ethanol plant's pollution. Its worried workers and others opposed to the location are trying to kill the project.

A 10% Reduction in America's Oil Use in Ten to Twelve Years

Monday, July 09, 2007

From a commentary posted on the Web site of ASPO-USA by Alan Drake, a consulting engineer and reformed accountant who has combined his interests in the iconic St. Charles streetcars 2.5 blocks from his home in New Orleans and Urban Rail in general, plus experience with engineering for efficiency. He is searching for economic solutions that address both global warming and post-peak oil issues:

A 10% reduction in America's oil consumption is not out of reach. There is an overlooked, practical, and affordable approach using technology available today that would allow the U.S. to achieve this goal in 2017. Here is a five step program outlining this approach. . . .

Step One – Electrify US Freight Rail Lines and Shift Freight to Rail . . .
Step Two – Increase Urban Rail Federal Funding. . .
Step Three – Promote Electric Trolley Buses. . .
Step Four – Promote Transportation Bicycling. . .
Step Five – Create a Strategic Railcar Reserve (SRR) to Supplement the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR). . .

Ashland hosts technology/energy conference Aug. 9

Friday, July 06, 2007

From an article in The Daily Press (Ashland):

The second annual Lake Superior Region Technology Conference will be held on Thursday, August 9 at the Ashland WITC [Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College] Conference Center.

The conference will highlight three prominent themes and consist of four morning workshops and an afternoon general panel discussion. The intent of the workshops will be to inform and to encourage building our economy on the resources that exist in our area. The workshops will also challenge us to take risks, cultivate and support entrepreneurship, broaden our economic vision and expand its horizon.

Education will be the theme of one of the workshops. It constitutes a fundamental ingredient in our goal of making technology a significant contributor to the economy of our Lake Superior area. We are living in a borderless, knowledge-based global economy, which means that our students are not only competing for jobs with students who sit next to them in class, but they are competing with students in all parts of our world. . . .

Alternative/renewable energy will be the focus of another workshop. Alternative energy facilities and production have already been given birth in our region, and plans for substantial expansion of renewable energy facilities in our area are underway. The result of that expansion will add capital to our industrial base and tax base, create new employment opportunities, expand an industry that will assist in sustaining both our economy and our environment, and potentially produce byproducts that could be used by other area economic and environmentally sound businesses and industries. Additionally, a highly unique and recently initiated project that uses solar energy to power classroom computers at our WITC Ashland campus will be described. Also tentatively scheduled is a demonstration on how the system works.

Steffenson: Electric rail better than more roads

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Mr. Craig Thompson, Executive Director
WI Transportation Development Association (

Dear Mr. Thompson:

I agree with much that you wrote in today's [July 2] WI State Journal column, and I agree that Wisconsin needs a dialogue on its whole transportation system and how it is funded, as well as how to increase alternative public transit so that we become less dependent on cars, trucks and aviation -- all of which are prime sources of toxic pollution and green house gas emissions.

One strategy, of course, is to reduce that impact with plug-in hybrid cars and trucks, electrification of our railroads, expansion of passenger rail (both long-distance and commuter), efficient diesel, bio-fuels, etc. But we must also substantially reduce the use of oil-based (or even coal oil) fuels for our transportation needs and stop the paving of prime landscape.

However, the fuel tax is an efficient way to make users pay the cost of the infrastructure from which they mainly benefit. (Is there a similar tax on aviation fuel? I hope so.) The problem is that most of that tax is used not only to maintain the current highway network, but to expand it. Thus, we get caught in the vicious spiral of expanding highways or building new major arteries because they are currently clogged, so that people are encouraged to drive more and extend urban sprawl, which only makes matters worse in the longer run. I'd like to see perhaps 40% of the gas and aviation fuel tax go for alternatives for the next decade or so such as what I propose below.

In looking over your coalition membership, I appreciate it that you include all modes of transportation, but your membership seems heavily skewed to highway and aviation interests. For the next decade, I would like to see your organization, and all concerned governmental units, focus on building an electrical rail infrastructure in Wisconsin comparable to the current highway network while doing mainly maintenance on the highway network rather than expansion.

Some elements of an expanded Wisconsin rail network I'd recommend are:

1. Extension and expansion of the commuter rail lines from Chicago to Milwaukee, onward to Madison and north to the Fox Valley and Green Bay, and achieve more separation between passenger and freight rail (and improve freight rail).
2. Support commuter rail (e.g. Madison) and city or inter-city light rail where appropriate; improve and expand local buses.
3. Support the Midwest High Speed Rail network (electrified) plan, especially the Chicago-Minneapolis leg; and perhaps an additional route from Chicago, western suburbs, Rockford, Madison, and then on to Minneapolis.
4. Support increased bus feeder routes (using fossil-free fueled buses) to that network and between other cities around the state.
5. Support strong regional planning, with taxing power, to develop these public modes so that they inter-connect seamlessly.

Whether all this might be financed by a wider mix of revenue rather than an efficient fuel tax certainly needs to be discussed. The principle that I think must be maintained is that the dominant highway and aviation sectors must be reduced by a green tax shift from fuel taxes or other sources to finance the rail and other new alternatives for a time. We who drive, fly, and get our goods by truck, as well as those who profit from the current subsidy distortion in our system, must help pay for these shifts, diversification, and reduction of those modes! If this becomes the priority for a decade, then all sectors could enjoy and thrive from a more diversified and balanced system in the future. Growth alone does not bring prosperity nor does it solve all the threats and problems we are now experiencing.

Other revenue sources might include putting auto and truck registrations on a sliding-fee scale giving incentives for increased efficiency and causing inefficient or heavy-destructive modes pay a whole lot more.

I hope we can have the wider discussion, without any pre-conceived limitations or biases, which I understand you are advocating for in your column. Thank you for your suggestions in today's column.


Rev. Dave Steffenson, Ph. D. (specialist in ecological ethics)
Acting Director and Education Coordinator
Wisconsin Interfaith Climate & Energy Campaign, Inc. (WICEC)
PO Box 260066, Madison, WI 53726-0066,

P. S. In all of the above e-letter, I am speaking only for myself as the WICEC Board has not considered the transportation sector, but I draw on some general principles we do support as an organization. But these are only my views at this point.

Ethanol plant boosts efficiency with wind power

Monday, July 02, 2007

Though RENEW cannot take credit for the developments at a North Dakota ethanol plant, Michael Vickerman wrote about the need for ethanol plants to use more renewable energy.

From an article by Dan Nienaber in The Free Press, Mankato:

. . . Meticulously, the workers used a crane to hoist each hulking wind turbine section from extra-long semi trailers and place them gently on the ground. Large bases for the two giant wind turbines had already been planted on top of their foundations and the workers were staging the rest of the parts for assembly later. A 135-foot wind turbine blade swayed in a steady breeze as it was lowered.

The wind turbines will be more than 400 feet tall, from blade tip to the ground, when they are assembled. Each turbine is capable of producing 2.1 megawatts of power. Together, the two turbines will provide 45 percent of the electric energy needed to power the Corn Plus ethanol plant. . . .

Gary Engelby’s farm place is across the highway from the Corn Plus plant and will be in the shadow of the new wind turbines. From the road in front of his yard, you can see the tops of two similar wind turbines that were built about eight miles south near Blue Earth.

He’s a Corn Plus member and said he likes the idea of using renewable wind power to produce ethanol, another renewable fuel.

“I think this is neat, doing this to make the plant more energy efficient,” he said. “It’s just nice to see renewable resources being used.”