Mill gets grant for creating biofuels

Thursday, January 31, 2008

From an article by Tom Content and Joel Dresang in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

A Wisconsin Rapids paper mill received a $30 million federal grant Tuesday to produce diesel fuel from wood waste over the next four years.

The NewPage Corp. paper mill was one of four projects that received $114 million in funding over four years under a Department of Energy small-scale biorefinery program launched last year. Another Wisconsin mill, Flambeau River Papers in Park Falls, was passed over for a grant.

The award for the former Stora Enso North America mill marked the second time in a year that the federal agency has selected Wisconsin for funding biofuels that will cut dependence on oil and reduce global warming emissions from vehicle tailpipes. Last year, the University of Wisconsin-Madison was awarded $125 million to establish one of three bioenergy research centers in the nation.

The grants are designed to speed the introduction of next-generation biofuels - those that aren't made from corn kernels - in a bid to make the new fuels competitive by 2012, said Andrew Karsner, assistant secretary of energy.

The NewPage project, which would generate up to 5.5 million gallons of diesel fuel a year by 2012, was picked because it was a "very good and unique proposal," he said. One of the largest paper mills in the nation, the Wisconsin Rapids plant would process nearly 500 dry tons per day of mill residues and other waste forest products and convert that into a liquid fuel, Karsner said.

2008 Renewable Energy Summit, March 12-14, Milwaukee

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Register now! For the 2008 Wisconsin Renewable Energy Summit. It should be the largest renewable energy event in Wisconsin outside of the Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair.

Wisconsin Renewable Energy Summit

The fifth annual Wisconsin Renewable Energy Summit will be held in Milwaukee, WI on March 12-14, 2008 at the Midwest Airlines Center. The Summit, titled Green Jobs – Growing Wisconsin’s Economy, will focus on the role that renewable energy, such as wind power, solar energy, geothermal, green buildings and bio-energy technologies, will play in supporting Wisconsin’s economic well being. Growth of renewable energy businesses will create new “green collar” jobs in Wisconsin. Those jobs include: manufacturers, installers, consultants, engineers, and associated professions. Renewable energy in Wisconsin has the potential to produce 35,000 jobs in the next 10years.

Topics to be covered:
- Jobs Growth Potential and Economic Development from Renewable Energy Growth
- New Developments in Renewable Energy
- The Potential Role for Business & Industry in Renewable Energy
- Wind Power – utility-scale, community-scale wind projects, and small wind
- Solar Electric – solar electric projects for non-profits and businesses
- Solar Water Heating – educational session and case studies of businesses
- Green Buildings – case studies, LEED overview, geothermal, and sustainable design
- Renewable Energy Education – including K-12, College and Universities, and the
- Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) consumer and installer education
- Transportation – electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, ethanol and bio-fuels
- Bio-Energy – bio-refineries and agriculture digester projects
- Drivers of the energy transition; markets & climate

Who Attends
The Summit will present fresh and invaluable information on the business and workforce opportunities in Wisconsin’s RE-marketplace. Presenters and attendees include RE producers, manufacturers, contractors and consulting firms, state agencies, NGO’s and students, faculty and administrators from WTCS Colleges, University of Wisconsin institutions, and Wisconsin K-12 schools.

Exhibition Opportunities
Exhibition spots are available at the Summit to reach your target audience of renewable energy professionals along with students, faculty and administrators from Wisconsin colleges and schools. Contact William P. Quirmbach at (414)297-6300 or by email at for more exhibition information, or click on the Exhibitor Information button on right. Register and pay by March 1, 2008 to be included in Summit materials.

Sponsorship Opportunities
Opportunities are available to be a sponsor of the Summit at your choice of participation level. Contact Bob Gilbertson at 608-849-2400 or by email at or click on the Sponsorship Opportunities button on right.

Registration Details
Pricing, registration on-line or via mail/fax and other registration details are available at

Intel wires into green energy

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

From an article by Chris Nuttall in San Francisco and Fiona Harvey in London posted on

Intel, the world’s biggest chipmaker, gave a boost to green power, becoming the largest corporate buyer in the US of renewable energy certificates (Recs).

Intel said it would buy 1.3m megawatt hours’ worth of certificates every year – enough to power about 130,000 US homes – in a multi-year contract.

The company is understood to be paying in the range of $4m to $10m for the certificates.

Recs are an indirect method of encouraging green energy use. Companies generating power from renewable sources, such as the wind and sun, are generally not profitable without subsidies because their energy is more expensive to produce than electricity from fossil fuels, but they get the same prices for selling it to the grid as conventional energy suppliers.

Recs provide an extra income stream for renewable generators, as companies and individuals can buy the Recs with the aim of encouraging greater investment in renewable power. Many companies use the Recs as “carbon offsets” to balance out the negative impact of their activities on the climate.

The wolf is howling outside the door

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Thanks to Hans Noeldner for calling attention to an article by Chuck Taylor from Supply Chain Quarterly. Taylor clearly understands the implications that will ripple through our lives as cheap oil becomes fades to a distant memory:

. . . what most profoundly shaped my view was my experience in 1973, when I was working for a tank-truck carrier in Houston and saw oil prices triple as a result of the Arab oil embargo. I watched as rising oil prices and shortages caused high inflation, recession, unemployment, rationing, plant closings, transportation equipment shortages, and long lines at gas stations. At that point, I knew at a gut level that oil is the lifeblood of our economic system; that high oil prices have an undeniable impact on that system; and that as a supply chain professional, I should know what was going on in the oil patch.

I am now convinced that, unlike the events of 1973, the situation we face today is not a short-term predicament. It's a multifaceted problem. It is unlike anything we've encountered before. It is non-negotiable. It will not be easy. It will change everything.

The time to prepare is short because reducing our dependence on cheap oil will take decades. Supply chain professionals will have to examine alternatives to current practices and consider new strategies in preparation for the end of the era of cheap oil.

To put it bluntly, the wolf is howling outside the door and may already be in the room.

Hubbert's Peak is about what goes on underground, but global demand, geopolitics, the health of the oil industry, and the environment are aboveground factors that add complexity and risk. This article will look at each of these factors, examine alternatives, and suggest mitigation strategies in the context of supply chain performance.
A sidebar to Taylor's article lists what "supply chain professionals should realize" as the end of cheap oil nears:
- Cheap petroleum energy has been a main driver of supply chain productivity. It is gone.
- This is not the end of civilization, but we are in an uncharted bridging period and without prompt and decisive action, human suffering will be high.
- Conservation and changed priorities is the only short-term bridge.
- As the energy and environmental crisis deepens, governments must and will intervene.
- Strategies and networks designed for the good old days won't work.
- There will be winners and losers.
- Winners will embrace conservation and cooperation.
- Winners will seek to influence policy.
- Winners will start implementing their supply chain plans "Now"!

Bus ridership nears record levels

Saturday, January 26, 2008

From an article by Steven Elbow in The Capital Times:

Madison Metro announced Friday that a 5.3 percent increase in ridership last year has put the bus service just 700,000 rides short of its all-time high, which was set 25 years ago.

Metro posted a fixed-route ridership in 2007 of 12.7 million. If growth continues at its current rate it could hit its record, set in 1982, of 13.4 million in less than two years.

The growth in Metro ridership has been steady since 1989, when the number of riders had dropped to about 9 million. Since 2000, when ridership was at 10 million, the number of fixed-route riders has climbed by 26 percent.

During the same period paratransit ridership has grown by 12 percent.

Metro officials credited the increase to higher gas prices, commitment by Metro employees to provide good service and successful unlimited ride agreements with several campuses and employers.

Businesses take Mpower pledge

Friday, January 25, 2008

Thirteen Madison business have taken the Mpower Pledge:

We will be an Mpowered Business Partner by pledging to reduce our carbon footprint by a minimum of 10% from our current level.
The businesses pledged to take at least three steps out of a possible six:

- Buy renewable energy;
- Improve energy efficiency
- Employee pledges. Encourage up to 25% of a business' employees to take the Pledge;
- Install renewable energy
- Reduce car travel
- Reduce water use
Please thank (with your patronage) the businesses that have taken the pledge:
- Eco-Realty
- Seventh Generation Energy Systems
- Planet Bike
- Home Savings Bank
- Arnold Consulting, Inc.
- Simple Network Consulting
- Clean & Simple, LLC
- UW Credit Union
- MoCo Market
- TDS Custom Construction
- RBF Interiors
- Nadurtha Organics
Everyone can take the Mpower Pledge.

Doyle's State of State highlights energy

Thursday, January 24, 2008

From Governor Doyle's State of the State address on January 23:

Creating Renewable Energy

We have set Wisconsin on the right course to seize new economic opportunities and lead our nation’s response to one of the most critical challenges of our time…

Our addiction to foreign oil is compromising our national security, paralyzing our economy, and melting the polar ice caps.

The global threat of climate change is undeniable. Temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere have reached their warmest point in over two thousand years.

A barrel of oil has topped $100… and just look at the price of gasoline at the pump – nearly double what it was just five years ago.

The oil companies don’t care. They’re making the biggest profits in history.

Our country is sending over a billion dollars a week in oil payments to the Middle East. Just imagine if we were investing that kind of money right here in Wisconsin.

Energy Accomplishments

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – we should depend more on the Midwest and less on the Mideast, and today we are.

Since I became Governor, we’ve worked together to increase production of Wisconsin-made ethanol from zero gallons to half a billion gallons per year.

Last fall, I brought governors from across the Midwest together in Milwaukee to chart a new energy direction for our region and our world.

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison we are launching the Great Lakes BioEnergy Research Center bringing together researchers from five other universities across the country.

Our nation’s dependence on foreign oil must end, but drilling our way out of this crisis is not the answer. We must invent and innovate our way to a cleaner, safer energy future.

…and tonight, from generating wind power in Fond du Lac to harnessing the power of biomass in Rice Lake, Wisconsin is ready to lead the way.

Energy Independence Fund

Tonight we’ll launch an aggressive new strategy to reduce the pollution that causes global warming and grow Wisconsin’s economy – the Wisconsin Energy Independence Fund – a major new investment to make Wisconsin a world leader in renewable energy and homegrown power.

Over the next 10 years Wisconsin will invest $150 million to help our businesses, our farmers, our foresters, and our manufacturers produce and promote renewable energy.

Our strong manufacturing base and rich agricultural industries, along with the wealth of resources in our vast northern forests and world-leading research universities, position Wisconsin to become the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy.

From manufacturing wind turbines and solar panels to retro-fitting fuel pumps and exploring the latest clean technologies, we will seize green opportunities and create good jobs for our citizens.

But we won’t stop there.

Renewable Fuel Initiative

Tonight we’ll launch a new campaign to increase the availability of renewable fuel by 1 billion gallons.

First we’ll provide new tax credits for biodiesel fuel producers and add 400 new renewable fuel pumps to our roads.

Second let’s pass a renewable fuel standard sponsored by Senator Kreitlow and Representative Suder to require oil companies to provide renewable fuel for our consumers.

Energy Efficiency

Energy costs continue to rise and Wisconsin families deserve relief. Over the next 18 months, we will make another historic investment – $95 million – to help save families and businesses over half a billion dollars over the next decade.

UW-Madison joins largest climate change teach-in in U.S. history

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

From the University of Wisconsin-Madison news service:

On Jan. 30 and 31, the University of Wisconsin-Madison will participate in Focus the Nation, an unprecedented teach-in on global warming solutions with the aim of preparing millions of students to become leaders in responding to the challenge.

The teach-in is centered on three pillars embraced by today's youth: education, civic engagement and leadership. To date, more than 1,400 institutions around the United States have committed to participate in this ambitious nationwide effort.

"We are in a time where critical decisions need to be made on global warming, which means today's leaders and the youth who will inherit the crisis need serious education on the issue," says James "Gus" Speth, Dean of Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. "Focus The Nation is our country's foremost model to create that level of education and interaction with law makers."

The teach-in will begin on the night of Jan. 30, when The 2 Percent Solution, a live, interactive Web cast produced by the National Wildlife Federation will be aired by the Earth Day Network and screened at three locations on the UW-Madison campus. Students and other community members can view and participate in this Web cast at 7 p.m. in 2650 Humanities, 105 Psychology, or 6210 Social Science.

Vickerman on public radio, 11:45 a.m., Jan. 23

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

RENEW's executive director Michael Vickerman will talk with Larry Meiller on the aesthetics and envrionmental impacts of wind energy projects. Vickerman's invitation to appear came after he wrote, "What is it about living winthin sight of large turbines that spooks certain people to the point of irrationality?"

Second Sun Prairie school to use geothermal system

Monday, January 21, 2008

From a story by Gena Kittner in the Wisconsin State Journal:
The Sun Prairie School District is set once again to tap into the Earth's natural body temperature to warm and cool its newest elementary school.

Creekside Elementary, located on the city's south side, will be the second of three Sun Prairie schools the district plans to heat and cool using a geothermal system.

Geothermal technology has seen "an explosion of growth in the last seven years or so in Wisconsin," said Manus McDevitt, principal with Sustainable Engineering Group in Madison. "It's coming to a point now where electricity and gas prices are so high ... that really the argument for geothermal becomes stronger and stronger. For school districts it makes a lot of sense."

The systems can cut schools' energy use by 10 percent to 40 percent, McDevitt said.

The Madison, Verona and Monona Grove school districts also have or plan to incorporate geothermal technology into school construction. Evansville and Fond du Lac high schools have used the technology for several years.

Grupo Fenix Solar Culture Course, July 21-31, 2008

Saturday, January 19, 2008

From Grupo Fenix, Nicaragua:

Come to the hills of northwestern Nicaragua to help build a dream. In the community of Totogalpa, you can witness a wave of environmental change, and perhaps see a transformation in yourself. This 11 day course allows you to be immersed in the daily life of rural Nicaraguans by living in homestays and working alongside locals in their vision to create a culture of the sun in their community.

After 2 days in Managua exploring the renewable energy programs of the National Engineering University, a small business, and an NGO, we will head out to the countryside to roll up our sleeves and get directly involved in the construction of solar thermal and photovoltaic products used in the community. Learning by doing and working alongside community members, you will be immersed in a culture of the sun. While in the community, we will also take advantage of learning about other sustainable practices and local knowledge including the use of medicinal plants, biomass fuel, cooking, and gardening. The course fee of $995 includes all food and lodging, with a $50 deposit to be sent to Skyheat at 17 Rockwell Rd. SE, Jonesport ME 04649 before June 30th to insure a place in the course, which has a limit of 15 participants and was full in the last session. For more information, please contact or or look online at for details of all our programs.

Solar Flairs stand out in award winning building

Friday, January 18, 2008

Solar Flair photovoltaic panels installed by Lake Michigan Wind
and Sun
provide electricity to a new campus building at Northeast
Wisconsin Technical College.

From an article in the Green Bay Press-Gazette:

Green Bay buildings, a house, churches and people were honored last week with the Mayor's Beautification Awards for 2007.

Ten winners were selected from 58 nominees for the 38th annual event . . .

Environmental design-small buildings: Northeast Wisconsin Technical College and Wisconsin Public Service Corp. were honored for NWTC's new 5,000 square foot Landscape Horticulture Learning Center and its solar energy system.

Researchers increase cellulosic ethanol production rates

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

From an article on the BusinessWire:

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Xethanol Corporation (AMEX: XNL), a renewable energy company, has announced that its latest laboratory research results show significant increases in the rate of cellulosic ethanol production.

Researchers working at the Forest Products Laboratory of the US Department of Agriculture in Madison, Wisconsin are developing technology to reduce the net cost of renewable fuel made from wood and agricultural residue. Dr. Thomas Jeffries leads that effort.

Dr. Jeffries reports that research sponsored by Xethanol “has improved the rate of ethanol production from xylose wood sugar by 22% and has increased the ethanol yield by 11% as compared to the control strain of yeast.”

David Ames, President and CEO of Xethanol, commented, “This is more evidence our research and technology strategy is taking the company in the right direction – potentially reducing the cost of making ethanol from non-corn sources, and helping our country cut its dependence on foreign oil”.

U.S. Forest Service Chief Abigail Kimbell said, “We are proud of the work of Dr. Jeffries at our Forest Products Laboratory. Improving production of biofuels from woody materials is an important goal for the Forest Service and continues a long tradition of biomass utilization research. Improved efficiency in converting woody biomass to energy provides additional opportunities for stewardship of both public and private forested lands by making more efficient use of materials generated from forest management activities.”

Automaker gets okay to sell low-speed electric cars in Wisconsin

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

From an article by in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

It looks something like a regular car, but the Zenn micro automobile is powered from a household electric outlet rather than a tank of gasoline.

On Friday, the Canadian car manufacturer was licensed by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to sell vehicles here.

As early as next Tuesday, an ordinance could be introduced in Milwaukee that would allow the use of Zenns and other neighborhood electric vehicles on city streets.

Only about 35 Wisconsin municipalities have such ordinances. Even in Janesville, where Wisconsin's first Zenn dealership is located, the little cars can't be legally operated on city streets.

"Right now, we can't drive our cars off of the dealership lot," said Tim Thompson, owner of Green Autos, in Janesville.

The big carmakers have experimented with highway-speed electric cars for years but have yet to deliver a mass-market product.

Companies such as Zenn have gone down a different road with low-speed electric cars that can be driven where the speed limit is 35 mph.

The $12,700 Zenn can go about 35 miles on a single charge of its lead-acid batteries. Smaller than a BMW Mini Cooper, it has a top speed of just 25 mph and can carry two passengers and a load of groceries in 13 cubic feet of storage space.

Power is blowin' in the wind

Monday, January 14, 2008

From an article by Brian Bridgeford in the Baraboo News Republic:

BARABOO - Wind energy is one renewable resource that can help keep the lights on while being kind to the Earth, said members of a panel Saturday in Baraboo.

More than 60 people from Baraboo and around Sauk County overflowed a basement meeting room in the West Square Building during a community forum on wind power sponsored by Sustain Sauk County. The group exists to inspire thought locally on how to create communities that provide for human needs without depleting the environment, said Judy Spring, voluntary coordinator for the group.

Among the speakers was farmer Stan Hellenbrand of Springfield Township north of Madison. He said he is working with the Madison-based firm EcoEnergy to install six wind turbines on his property.

Curt Bjurlin of EcoEnergy said his company is looking for new places to place wind turbines in Wisconsin and surrounding states. The firm has about 1,400 megawatts of wind turbines under development.

The company has to find places that are windy enough to make installing the $3 million turbines worth the cost and which are close enough to the power grid to connect easily, he said. They also have to follow a variety of regulations such as setbacks of 1,000 feet or more from nearby residences.

Wind energy is not a "gold mine" as far as the amount of profit it produces, Bjurlin said. However, there are investors willing to fund wind farms because once they are installed the fuel is free and they provide a steady, reliable income.

Candidates on energy policy

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Web site of the Foreign Affairs Council has extensive information on the presidential candidates:

Most candidates agree that increasing energy independence is critical to national security. Many of them have co-authored legislation related to conservation, such as improving auto gasoline efficiency, developing alternative energies, such as ethanol, or expanding fossil-fuel exploitation, such as offshore drilling. As natural resources become depleted, and relations between the United States and some important oil-producing countries become increasingly strained, energy policy has emerged as a crucial campaign issue.
The site has links to these candidates' positions:

Democratic Candidates
Joseph Biden, Jr.
Hillary Clinton
Christopher Dodd
John Edwards
Mike Gravel
Dennis Kucinich
Barack Obama
Bill Richardson

Republican Candidates
Sam Brownback
James Gilmore
Rudolph Giuliani
Mike Huckabee
Duncan Hunter
John McCain
Ron Paul
Mitt Romney
Tom Tancredo
Fred Thompson
Tommy Thompson

Escape from Affluenza, January 13

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Escape from Affluenza is a one-hour PBS special providing practical solutions to the problem of “affluenza” — an epidemic of stress, waste, over consumption and environmental decay. Escape from Affluenza shows how some Americans are calling a halt to keeping up with the Joneses and abandoning the consumer chase. The program is a sequel to the popular special, Affluenza which premiered on PBS in September, 1997.

Free local showing
Sunday, January 13
5:00 pm
Oregon Village Hall
117 Spring Street, Oregon, WI
(Enter at lower level across street from Oregon Bowl)
Free refreshments including local fare.

The discussion that follows the one-hour viewing of the DVD will include an opportunity for attendees to write down personal goals for living more sustainably in the coming year.

Sponsored by OWLS - Oregonians Working and Living Sustainably

What's your 'footprint' on Earth? Just look down

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

From a letter to the editor of The Capital Times by Hans Noeldner:
What is your environmental "footprint" on Earth? You can find calculators online and worksheets in study guides, but there is a far more direct way to comprehend it: Just look at what is below you during your day.

Do you see your feet striding through the grasses of a meadow, or wending their way along a woodland trail, or pacing rows of crops in a farm field?

Do you see the floor of a building? Is the building yours alone, or do you share it with others? Does it rise upward with multiple stories to minimize the area of Earth that is denied natural life by its foundation? Or does it sprawl laterally to suffocate a square foot of soil for every square foot of interior space?

Do you see a sidewalk or a bike path? Are you alone or amid a bustling throng? Will 50 paces bring you to your next destination? Will 100 revolutions of the pedals fetch you home?

Do you see the footrest of a bus or train? Are the other seats mostly full or mostly empty? How many miles of track or lane do you travel on your daily and weekly errands?

Board considers environmentally friendly jail

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

From a story on WKBT La Crosse:

The La Crosse County Board is looking into ways to make the new county jail expansion as environmentally friendly as possible.

On Monday, the board learned more about Wisconsin's Focus on Energy program, which could give La Crosse funding for the project if it uses energy efficiently.

Potter Lawson Architects lead the discussion, and told board members they could decide to use water more efficiently in the new jail, or to optimize its use of solar energy. These could eventually save the city 8 to 9 percent in operating costs.

The goal of the meeting was to learn about all of the different ways to use energy efficiently, and to start making goals for the jail project, which is still months away from construction.

Board members seemed optimistic about the possibilties.

Investors put their hope in wood pellets

Monday, January 07, 2008

From an article by Jane Brissett in the Duluth News Tribune:

MARCELL — Tink Birchem believes she has a solution to high heating prices as well as all the pollutants they produce.

She and other investors are putting millions of dollars into making what they believe is the heating fuel of the future: wood pellets.

European countries are far ahead of the United States in use of pellets fuel. If Birchem’s new company, Valley Forest Wood Products, can’t sell at home its 50,000 ton capacity, she’ll sell the pellets abroad, she said.

Eventually, though, she’s sure there will be a big market for them domestically. “The United States is going to catch on, but when?” Birchem said.

Opening of the plant in Marcell is a new chapter for Tink Birchem and her husband, Jerry Birchem, who also own Birchem Logging of Mountain Iron and are founding members of a logging cooperative, Forest Management Systems in Buhl. The investors include other loggers, family members and a Spanish company. Tink Birchem is the company’s CEO.

Walling Out Wind

Friday, January 04, 2008

From a commentary by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin:

What is it about living within sight of large wind turbines that spooks certain people to the point of irrationality?

Consider the example of Trempealeau County in western Wisconsin. At the urging of a local citizens group, the County Board there adopted an ordinance last month that requires wind turbines higher than 150 feet tall to be set back no less than one mile from neighboring residences, schools, churches and businesses. This is by far the longest setback distance on wind turbines imposed to date by a local government in our state.

Now, the population density of Trempealeau County (38 residents per square mile) is less than half of the statewide average of 103 residents per sq. mile. Even so, as one developer pointed out at the hearing, there is not one acre of land that can legally host a commercial wind generator under this ordinance.

Why would a local board effectively ban wind turbines within its jurisdiction? Those backing the ordinance say that the one-mile setback is necessary to protect the health and safety of its citizens. Turbines, they contend, may produce sounds and electrical currents that can cause illnesses, even though no peer-reviewed study documenting such a phenomenon exists.

Peak oil pushing crude oil prices to record highs

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Immediate release
January 3, 2008

More information
Madison Peak Oil Group
Elizabeth Campbell

RENEW Wisconsin
Michael Vickerman

Oil price rise underscores declining resources

This week’s record high price for oil – over $100 per barrel -- continues to signal the worldwide declining supply of crude oil, according to two Wisconsin energy groups.

“The petroleum age will come to a close this century. With prices at this level and two-thirds of our oil now being imported, we’re reaching the point where large numbers of us cannot afford it,” according to Elizabeth Campbell, a spokesperson for the Madison Peak Oil Group, a group trying to raise awareness among citizens and policymakers on the “inevitable” decline in oil supplies.

According to, “peak oil” is the point in time at which the maximum global petroleum production rate is reached, after which the rate of production enters its terminal decline. If global consumption is not mitigated before the peak, the availability of conventional oil will drop and prices will rise, perhaps dramatically.

In a typical commodity shortage, higher prices entice suppliers and producers to boost output. In the case of peak oil, “The amount of oil remaining in the ground cannot fulfill our increasing demand in the U.S. and throughout the rest of the world,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide nonprofit organization that advocates for public policies and private initiatives to support renewable energy.

Commonly, oil price analysts blame higher prices on political or social turmoil in oil producing countries, investors’ market strategies, refinery shutdowns, or other “above ground” factors.

All of those causes are short-term influences, said Campbell, and prices will fluctuate up and down. However, oil is a finite resource and world supplies available for U. S. imports are headed downward. The long-term price trend will be “inexorably upward.”

“We have to face reality. Until demand for petroleum goes down, prices will continue to climb,” Vickerman stated.

“We must prepare for a future of declining petroleum supplies and higher costs for anything and everything that depends on oil – food, clothing, asphalt, transportation, plastics, and nearly everything else in our lives,” Campbell added.

The Madison Peak Oil Group supports a Dane County regional transportation authority, for example, “to reduce our excessive and ruinous dependence on petroleum.” The group also advocates stronger action from the federal government to reduce the U.S. dependence on petroleum.