Protest on Fossil Fools' Day

Monday, March 31, 2008

Fossil Fools' Day protest at the Hummer dealership (Fish Hatchery Road & the Beltline) Tuesday April 1st at 5pm called by the Madison Infoshop (more info 262-9036) and supported by other organizations.

Besides being a conspicuous consumer of oil, the HUMMER is also a military vehicle and is purchased and driven by some American civilian cheerleaders of the Iraq War..

Bring signs, costumes, skits, games, noisemakers and friends.

Bicyclists will be meeting at Brittingham Park's shelter (near Monona Bay) at 4:15pm and forming a bike caravan to the Hummer dealership.

Books, books, books

You can buy books from Amazon or on e-Bay or any number of other Internet sites. OR you can buy them from people and organizations dedicated to renewable energy and sustainable living. Here are two possibilities:

Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA)


UW-Stout discovers its ZENN fits sustainability philosophy

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Electric vehicles "fueled" by electricity from renewable sources would cut pollutants and green house gasses while reducing reliance on petroleum. From a story by Pamela Powers in the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram:

Receiving a parking ticket can be a stressful event, but UW-Stout students might feel a little better if they know that the vehicle used by university parking personnel is an environmentally friendly electric car.

UW-Stout's Zero-Emission, No Noise (ZENN) electric vehicle is part of campus sustainability efforts.

Ten feet long and 5 feet wide, the Canadian-made ZENN seats two people. Its estimated operating cost is 1 to 2 cents a mile. By comparison, a conventional gas vehicle costs 8 to 12 cents a mile.

The car - designed for neighborhood or urban use - has a maximum speed of 30 mph, said Sgt. Keith McCarten of UW-Stout's security and police services.

"Stout has always been a technology leader," McCarten said. "The move on campus is to do things that are sustainable. This seems right for the economy, ecology and to cut the carbon footprint as a whole.

Shell and Virent collaborate on biogasoline project

Saturday, March 29, 2008

An article from the Wisconsin State Journal:

Virent Energy Systems of Madison is working with Shell oil company on a joint development project to convert plant sugars into gasoline.

The project, which has been in the research phase for a year, would use Virent's Bioforming platform technology to create new biofuels that could be used as an alternative to oil-based gasoline in standard engines.

Plant sugars already are used to make ethanol, which is blended with gasoline.

The plant sugars used in the Virent process can come from non-food sources such as cornstalks, switchgrass or wheat straw.

Virent has 68 employees at its local biofuel development facility at 3571 Anderson St. Based in the Netherlands, Royal Dutch Shell has operations in more than 130 countries.

Protesters call for lower gas prices outside Kind’s office

Friday, March 28, 2008

From an article by Joe Orso in the La Crosse Tribune:

Frustration over high gasoline prices that show no sign of coming down led protesters to line up with signs Monday outside U.S. Rep. Ron Kind’s office in downtown La Crosse.

Consumption of petroleum products during the four weeks ending March 14 fell 3.2 percent compared with the same period in 2007, Energy Information Administration statistics show.
So if Americans are conserving fuel, the protesters asked, why do prices at the pumps remain high?

And will it keep going up?

“We’re told on the news, ‘Get used to high oil prices,’” said John Hemmersbach, 47, a dairy farmer in Cashton, Wis. “Why? Why should we pay more for fuel?”

About 20 protesters — including farmers, a truck driver, a hair stylist, a car salesman and children — held signs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. outside Kind’s office at 205 Fifth Ave. S., calling for lower gas prices. A steady stream of vehicles drove by, some honking in support.

“Tell Kind it’s cutting into my beer money,” a driver shouted from a delivery truck.

Kind was holding a listening session in St. Croix County on Monday, said Anne Lupardus, Kind’s communications director. She said the cost of fuel has been a top priority for him.

“He understands people are frustrated by the high prices of gas,” Lupardus said. “He himself is frustrated by it. Every American is frustrated by it.”

In January, she said, Kind began calling on the Bush administration to temporarily halt purchasing crude oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The emergency stockpile of oil, created in 1975, is 95 percent full, she said, and yet 70,000 gallons of oil continue to be added to it every day. Halting purchases could save consumers 25 cents per gallon at the pumps, she said.

She also noted Kind supported passage of the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Tax Act of 2008 and the Energy Independence and Security Act.

But despite government efforts, consumers still feel crunched by high gas prices.

Paul Dwyer, whose milk-transporting business has five trucks on the road, said last month’s fuel bill was $34,000. Two years ago, with two trucks on the road, his monthly fuel bills were about $5,000, he said.

“I just want to know why diesel is 80 cents more than gas,” Dwyer said.

Do wind turbines make too much noise?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Apparently the Fond du Lac Reporter filmed the new wind turbines in Fond du Lac County and posted the footage on You Tube:

A bubbling brook and birds can be plainly heard while the turbines spin. A passing automobile drowns out all other sound.

Fighting Global Warming: The Oregon Model

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Click image for larger view.

Duck farm blames closing on ethanol-fueled cost increases

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

From an article by Michael Burke in The Journal Times (Racine):

YORKVILLE — Maple Leaf Farms blames ethanol production and soaring feed costs for its decision to permanently close most of its local duck-raising operations.

The Milford, Ind.-based company announced Friday that it will close the duck slaughtering and processing operations at 2319 Raymond Ave. (Highway U).

The move will eliminate about 175 of its 210 jobs in this area, the world’s largest producer of duck meat reported. Maple Leaf Farms spokeswoman Nora Macon said the 175 jobs lost will include one at the company feed mill in Burlington and one or two jobs at the hatchery at 24830 Washington Ave. in Dover.

The company said it will shut down its slaughter/processing facility within two months “in an effort to respond to rising feed ingredient and operating costs.”

Macon said those other costs include rising fuel prices. However, the family-owned company primarily blamed ethanol production, spurred by government subsidies, for its decision. Ethanol production has competed for corn, driving up corn prices throughout the country.

“We struggled to make this decision because it is a difficult time to displace any employees,” company Co-President Scott Tucker stated in a news release.

“Unfortunately, we have analyzed the situation, and the only way we can cope with skyrocketing feed costs brought on by the government’s misguided ethanol policies is to cut our own production and consolidate some of our operations.”

Air Force prod aids coal-to-fuel plans

Monday, March 24, 2008

From an Associated Press article by Matthew Brown in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. (AP) -- On a wind-swept air base near the Missouri River, the Air Force has launched an ambitious plan to wean itself from foreign oil by turning to a new and unlikely source: coal.

The Air Force wants to build at its Malmstrom base in central Montana the first piece of what it hopes will be a nationwide network of facilities that would convert domestic coal into cleaner-burning synthetic fuel.

Air Force officials said the plants could help neutralize a national security threat by tapping into the country's abundant coal reserves. And by offering itself as a partner in the Malmstrom plant, the Air Force hopes to prod Wall Street investors - nervous over coal's role in climate change - to sink money into similar plants nationwide.

"We're going to be burning fossil fuels for a long time, and there's three times as much coal in the ground as there are oil reserves," said Air Force Assistant Secretary William Anderson. "Guess what? We're going to burn coal."

Tempering that vision, analysts say, is the astronomical cost of coal-to-liquids plants. Their high price tag, up to $5 billion apiece, would be hard to justify if oil prices were to drop. In addition, coal has drawn wide opposition on Capitol Hill, where some leading lawmakers reject claims it can be transformed into a clean fuel. Without emissions controls, experts say coal-to-liquids plants could churn out double the greenhouse gases as oil.

The Power of Efficiency: Opportunities to Save Money, Reduce Pollution and Expand the Economy in the Midwest

Sunday, March 23, 2008

From a press release issued by WISPIRG:

Madison, WI—Aggressive energy saving policies would provide for ongoing economic stimulus, saving consumers money, creating jobs and driving Wisconsin’s economy, according to a new report released today by the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG).

The reportThe Power of Efficiency: Opportunities to Save Money, Reduce Pollution, and Expand the Economy in the Midwest – details how existing energy efficiency technologies, practices, and policies would stimulate our economy through saving Wisconsin families hundreds of dollars off rising utility bills, while also reducing harmful air and global warming pollutants. . . .

The report outlines efficiency opportunities in three Midwestern states—Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa. Detailed in the report are vast opportunities for increased efficiency in residential, commercial and industrial construction, retrofits of existing heating, cooling and lighting systems, and replacing inefficient appliances. For example:

• Simply requiring all new residential furnaces to be 20% more efficient in Wisconsin would, by 2020, save 500 gigawatt-hours of electricity and 2.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas annually—enough to supply more than 33,000 homes;

• Retrofitting lighting systems in commercial buildings and institutions to reduce electricity use for lighting by 40 percent could save 3,600 gigawatt-hours of electricity every year in Wisconsin, or about 5 percent of current statewide electricity consumption;

• Saving energy leads to lower energy prices. For example, if Midwestern states reduced natural gas consumption by 1 percent per year for five years through energy efficiency, wholesale natural gas prices would decline by as much as 13%.

Agreement settles Sparta ethanol plant controversy

Saturday, March 22, 2008

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

SPARTA, Wis. — Century Foods International will buy the proposed 83.7-acre Sparta ethanol plant site from Coulee Area Renewable Energy LLC.

CARE will not build an ethanol plant within three miles of Century Foods’ Sparta plants.

And all lawsuits filed during the yearlong fight over the proposed site will be dismissed.

Those are highlights of a 15-page settlement agreement the Sparta City Council approved Tuesday night.

Besides the city, Century Foods and parent company Hormel Foods Corp., CARE and Friends of Sparta — a citizens group that opposed the proposed Sparta ethanol plant — are parties to the agreement as well. All of the parties were plaintiffs and/or defendants in lawsuits over the site.

CARE President Dave Rundahl declined to comment Tuesday on the agreement, or on whether his group still plans to build an ethanol plant at another location. He did say CARE still has an option to buy land near Bangor, Wis.

In December, CARE filed a lawsuit in Monroe County Circuit Court that claimed Century Foods and Hormel breached terms of an October settlement that called for Century Foods to buy CARE’s Sparta site at an agreed price. The lawsuit said the two companies breached the agreement by insisting on a new condition — that CARE board members agree not to allow an ethanol plant on land they personally own.

In the December lawsuit, CARE asked that Century Foods be required to buy the Sparta site under the terms in the settlement agreement. The site is near Century Foods’ largest Sparta plant.

In its answer to the lawsuit, Century Foods said the October settlement memorandum was a non-binding “agreement to agree” and was subject to conditions that never occurred.

Under Tuesday’s agreement, Century Foods will pay $2.5 million for the Sparta land and for other rights.

Higher cost for diesel fuel likely to impact consumer goods

Friday, March 21, 2008

From an article by Doug Zellmer in The Northwestern (Oshkosh):

A gallon of diesel fuel is at an all-time high in Wisconsin and that means higher costs for the trucking industry — and ultimately for consumers.

Diesel generally sold for $4.14 a gallon, rounded to the nearest penny, in Oshkosh Thursday. The Midwest price for diesel fuel overall is about $1.30 more a gallon than a year ago, said Matt Hauser, director of government affairs for the Wisconsin Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association.

Overall, a gallon of diesel fuel in the state on average costs nearly $4.09, according to a survey by AAA Wisconsin.

Paul Ketring, of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, said he assumes the cost of diesel sooner or later will mean higher prices in the store from groceries to other consumer goods.

"It is going to impact everything that is transported or moved, including food because of the higher cost of diesel," he said. "The higher cost of diesel is impacting the trucking industry and the railroads."

Charlie Bridges, who drives an 18-wheeler and stopped in Oshkosh Wednesday afternoon, called the price of diesel "is just nuts."

Bridges, who drives for Knight Transportation of Phoenix, Ariz., said he pretty much keeps the heater off at night when he's at rest in the sleeper compartment of his truck cab to conserve fuel.

His truck carries 225 gallons of diesel fuel and at $4.14 a gallon it costs $931.50 for a fill-up. He said his 18-wheeler gets about six miles to the gallon on the road.

Global warming task force hears peak oil message

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Larry Walker delivered the following testimony on behalf of himself and the Madison Peak Oil Group to the Governor's Task Force on Global Warming:

My name is Larry Walker, and I was a participant in the Transportation working group last fall. I am here today on behalf of the Madison Peak Oil Group and would like to make some observations from that perspective.

I've spent a number of hours closely reading the Interim report, and overall my reaction is "Where's the Beef?"

The Interim Report falls far short of meeting the Governor's mandate to roll Wisconsin's greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 levels. True, one of the recommendations proposes reducing electrical consumption by 2% and natural gas by 1each year through 2024. But a close reading discloses that these reductions are only relative to the Reference Case. The Reference Case projects emissions growing at about 1% per year, so the recommendation actually proposes essentially no change in natural gas and only a 1% per year reduction in electricity. And that's against 2004 levels, which are already 16% above the 1990 target.

Examining the other 8 recommendations shows that most of them list the amount of GHG reduction as TBD: To Be Defined, no quantitative estimate made. Three of them do, commendably, given numeric estimates annual savings. But the sum of these is only 3 million tons per year, or 2% of the 2024 Reference Case.

Of course I understand that this is only an interim report, that the final report will include a number of recommendations from the working groups. But as I surveyed the documents from the Transportation group, I saw that most of its recommendations also listed TBD for annual reductions. I understand that these are awaiting the results of the TAG modeling exercise, but again, digging deeper into the working group's documents, I saw that most of the Transportation group's recommendations are not scheduled to be modeled.

So I have a great concern that the final report will not contain clearly documented quantitative results. Without these results, the report cannot be taken seriously as a commitment to get back to 1990 levels.

Finally, on behalf of the Madison Peak Oil Group, I would like to point out that even 1990 levels of energy consumption are likely to be unsustainable. A flat or declining level of world fossil fuel production can already be seen. Strong growth in energy demand from developing countries is equally evident. This combination virtually guarantees that, either through inadequate physical supply or by unaffordable prices, Americans will be forced to make very, very significant reductions in energy consumption.

While this would appear to be good news from a greenhouse gas perspective, it means that modest incremental programs will not do much to help the citizens and businesses of Wisconsin make a comfortable transition to a low-energy economy. The Governor's Task Force needs to propose strong, actionable programs that will reward those who make major reductions and, yes, punish those who do not.

Too many of the recommendations use words like "support", "encourage", "study", "track", "recognize" and "influence". While useful, such approaches are no substitute for hard policies, substantial tax credits, and mandated changes in behavior. These kinds of measures will be politically unpalatable, but not nearly as much so as houses going unheated and businesses closing down when serious energy shortages set in.

A good starting place would be a complete rewrite of the "Improved and Innovative Rate Designs" section of the Interim Report. No matter how closely I read it, I cannot see any indication that it even suggests, let alone requires, real and effective changes in rate structures. Wisconsin desperately needs to enact tiered rates for electricity and natural gas, similar to those in effect in California: low base-rates for modest consumption can protect lower income households, while sharply-increasing rates for higher levels of consumption will give predictable and concrete incentives to conserve. But nothing in that section actually says this needs to be

I strongly urge the Task Force to use this "teachable moment" to send a wake-up call to the people and businesses of Wisconsin. It does them no favor by making recommendations that take many years to phase in and at best only return us to a level of energy usage that will not be sustainable even in 5-10 years, let alone out to 2024 or 2050...

Thank you.
Other news coverage of the task force hearing appeared in the La Crosse Tribune.

Second dealer wants to sell electric cars

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Columbia ParCar (Reedsburg, WI) builds the
four-passenger neighborhood electric vehicle above.

From an article by Michael Burke in The Journal Times (Racine):

UNION GROVE — Before long, we could see a little vehicle that looks like a cross between a car and a golf cart, silently roaming the streets.

The village is considering authorizing the use of neighborhood electric vehicles, or NEVs. Billy Martin, owner of Martin Chrysler, is hoping the measure is adopted so he can begin selling Chrysler’s Global Electric Motorcar.

The street-legal little cars cruise around without producing noise or emissions on a 110-volt charge.

“I hope to sell 10 or 12 a year,” Martin said. “The first year we might have a boom.”

By state law, NEVs are allowed on streets with 35 mph speed limit or less, where a municipality has passed an enabling ordinance. Martin hopes other area cities and villages, one by one, will approve the vehicles.

It’s a laborious way to advance the greenest car in existence. If Union Grove adopts an ordinance, Martin said, “I’ll go to Waterford next. Then Burlington, Lake Geneva ...”

He said NEVs are catching on “all over” and are especially popular in retirement communities in Southern states.

“They’re just now starting to flood into other areas,” Martin added.

Martin Chrysler, 1422 Main St., will become just the second Wisconsin dealer of the Global Electric Motorcar, or GEM. The models range from two to six seats and have a base price of about $6,800-$12,500.

Wisconsin’s other GEM dealer, Hill Automotive in Portage, has carried the cars since 2004. But, except for an initial spurt, sales have been as slow as the cars’ 25 mph top speed, salesman John Helmann said.

Sustainable energy for transportation, April 10, Madison

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

From the National Association of Engineers and the Wisconsin Public Utility Institute:

The health of the US Economy is largely dependent on its mobility. Questions currently taking center stage are: How will we move people and freight around the block and around the world efficiently and cost effectively?

While demand for petroleum is expected to exceed world oil production capacity in the coming decades, alternatives such as tar sands or corn ethanol may be constrained by pending greenhouse gas limits. A combination of new fuels, new vehicles, and new ideas is necessary. But what might the right combination be?

This National Academy of Engineering seminar will highlight the perspectives of experts in transportation infrastructure, emissions, biological fuels and vehicle propulsion to discuss "What's next?"
More information at WPUI.

Introduction to Biodiesel Fuel

Monday, March 17, 2008

From Kenneth A. Walz, Ph.D., Chemistry and Engineering Instructor at Madison Area Technical College:

This hands-on course covers the fundamentals of biodiesel with an emphasis on fuel production, quality control, engine performance, and vehicle emissions. Students will produce biodiesel by the transesterfication process and perform ASTM measurements to determine chemical and physical properties of fuel. Test engines will be operated on biodiesel to evaluate performance and emission properties. This course is designed for diesel technicians, fleet managers, chemical process operators, and others with an interest in the technical aspects of biodiesel production and use.

Course: 10-468-122, 1 credit
Format: Three day short-course
When: June 3-5, 2008
9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Where: Madison Area Technical College
Truax Campus
Registration #: 65099
Enrollment Info: 608-246-6210
Class Size: Limited to 20 students. Sign up early to reserve your space!
See timetable for more details.

Fitchburg plans for a sustainable village

Sunday, March 16, 2008

From an article by Gena Kittner in the Wisconsin State Journal:
A "sustainable village," complete with natural sewage treatment, a school of organic agriculture and businesses powered by the sun, wind and renewable organic fuel could find a home in Fitchburg.

But first local organizers need to raise about $25 million for the 250-acre project.

"It will be a place to learn about sustainability ... firsthand," said Phyllis Hasbrouck, chairwoman of Fitchburg Fields, which is spearheading the effort. "This kind of sustainable village is what every large community is going to need as a learning place and example."

Plans for the carbon neutral eco-village include 30 modest homes, a five-car community garage, four-seasons farmers' market and a "bike and breakfast" inn.

"All of these things have been done before (in) other places ... (but) as far as we know, this is the first place that would put them all together," Hasbrouck said.

The plan is not so far fetched for a city that calls itself "Wisconsin's Recycling Leader."

Organizers hope to capitalize on the growing trend in eco-tourism and the parcel's proximity to Madison, already a popular "green" destination, and plans to raise money via the Internet — much of it from outside of Dane County — and through a capital campaign, Hasbrouck said.

Oil prices seep over economy

Friday, March 14, 2008

From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

The price of crude oil surged to a trading record of $111 a barrel Thursday, continuing a run-up that has led to record gasoline prices and high home heating costs while sending expensive ripples through the economy.

The latest example: We Energies of Milwaukee asked state regulators to approve an increase of $79 million in electricity rates. That would be an increase of $2.24 a month, or 2.6%, in the average residential consumer's bill.

A key reason for the request is the record price of diesel fuel used by trains carrying coal from Wyoming's Powder River Basin to the utility's coal-fired power plants.

Some energy analysts expect the pain to continue. The federal Energy Information Administration said the price of a gallon of gasoline will hit $4 in some regions this year, and it projects the price of a barrel of oil will average $94 in 2008.

"We will look back at $3 gas as cheap," said Randy Udall, who has studied oil trends and global warming as director emeritus of the Community Office for Resource Efficiency in Aspen, Colo.

Necedah Ethanol plant is running

Thursday, March 13, 2008

From a story by Amanda Becker in the Tomah Journal-News:
NECEDAH—The Castle Rock Renewable Fuels ethanol plant in Necedah had its official grand opening Friday after 14 months of preparation.

“I have been looking forward to this day for a long time,” plant manager Bernie Hoffman said.

The plant actually began producing ethanol Feb. 2 and is running efficiently, above capacity and under budget, Hoffman said, adding “that is something to be proud of.”

During the grand opening ceremony, Hoffman said home-grown renewable energy now is needed more than ever.

“It’s important to keep battling until we do something about Wisconsin’s dependence on foreign fuels,” said state Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center.

He added the ethanol plant has created a market for corn in Juneau County that previously did not exist.

Hoffman said the Castle Rock plant will grind more than 20 million bushels of corn per year, which equals about 56 bushels per day.

The corn used at the plant will be purchased within a 70-mile radius, Hoffman said.

Corn-based ethanol could worsen "dead zone"

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

From a Reuters story by Deborah Zabarenko posted on

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Growing more corn to meet the projected U.S. demand for ethanol could worsen an expanding "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico that is bad for crawfish, shrimp and local fisheries, researchers reported on Monday.

The dead zone is a huge area of water -- some 7,700 square miles -- that forms above the continental shelf of the Gulf of Mexico every summer. It contains very low levels of oxygen.

The dead zone starts in Midwestern corn country when farmers fertilize their fields with nitrogen. The fertilizer run-off flows down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico, making algae bloom on the surface and cutting oxygen to creatures that live on the bottom.

The low levels of oxygen in the zone make it difficult for crustaceans and bottom-feeding fish to survive, said Simon Donner, who worked on the study published the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Crustaceans will likely struggle to stay alive, Donner said by telephone. Fish will swim out of the zone, potentially devastating local fisheries, he said.

"We're already at a point where recommendations have been made that nitrogen levels in the Mississippi River have to decrease by up to ... 55 percent in order to shrink the dead zone," said Donner, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

"And now with this incentive to produce more corn and use more fertilizer, we're pushing in the other direction," Donner said. "The two policies are just completely incongruous."

Wind siting process needs reform

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

To: All State Legislators

From: Madison Peak Oil Group

Re: Passage of wind siting reform bills (AB 899, SB 544)

The technology is mature. The investors are willing. The utilities are ready to take deliveries. And farmers and rural landowners throughout Wisconsin are eager to harvest the wind and help our state to meet a significant portion of our electrical demand using a 100% renewable, zero-emissions energy source.

Meanwhile, prices for oil, natural gas, and coal – fuels that are imported into Wisconsin -- are going through the roof.

But unfortunately, a handful of opponents are managing to sabotage real progress towards greater energy independence for Wisconsin. In the process they are blocking UsmallU wind projects and denying UsmallU rural landowners of badly-needed “wind farm” royalty income – modest revenue streams that would help family farmers and wildlife habitat owners to resist the relentless pressures of suburban and exurban sprawl.

Already, the backlog of stalled wind energy projects across Wisconsin is approximately 400 megawatts, about one-quarter of the generating capacity as a mid-sized coal or nuclear plant and enough to make a large contribution toward the renewable energy requirements of the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS). Although state law prohibits local jurisdictions from resisting wind energy developments unless the local regulations serve to protect public health and safety, a lack of state-wide standards for projects under 100 megawatts has given NIMBY (not in my back yard) wind energy opponents a big loophole to use scare tactics and the kind of obstructionism that forces township governments to either write their own wind energy standards from scratch or basically reject all proposals for UsmallU wind energy projects out of hand. Roy Thilly, co-chair of the Wisconsin Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming and president of Wisconsin Public Power, Inc. described the impasse this way: “The way things stand now, it’s easier to build a 100-megawatt wind farm in this state than to put up two or three turbines.”

It’s not fair. Mid- and small-sized wind energy developers, small land owners, and local municipalities deserve the same uniform, scientifically-rigorous standards and approval procedures as those which apply to ALL electrical energy projects over 100 megawatts. Consider the absurdity of restrictions which forbid the erection of a few wind turbines within a mile of neighboring residences but allow the construction of a full-size coal power plant or subdivision or major highway a few hundred yards away!

Every electrical energy source has an impact on the environment, but today’s commercial wind turbines, which number about 100,000 worldwide, do not threaten the health and safety of neighboring residents. The biggest impact of wind energy is visual – large towers standing astride rural hills and plains. If farmers and other people who actually make a living on the land are willing to host wind towers on their own properties, people who move to the country merely for aesthetic reasons should not be able to deny them a supplement to their livelihood.

Prompt action by the Wisconsin legislature is needed to resolve the current situation before our state’s ability to attract wind energy developments is further damaged. The Wisconsin State Legislature should pass AB 899/SB 544, which would:

(1) Grant the Public Service Commission the authority to establish, by rule, permitting standards that are uniformly applied by local or state government to all wind energy installations, regardless of size and location; and
(2) Create a procedure for appealing to the Public Service Commission those decisions rendered by local jurisdictions on wind energy installations under 100 megawatts.

Please call or email your State Representative and State Senator today and ask them to vote to pass AB899/SB 544. To find out how to contact your legislators visit Wisconsin State Legislature.


I thought you should know about natural gas and other energy sources

Monday, March 10, 2008

A analysis by Kay Schindel:

The current global and US commodity market situation makes it necessary to share these news [items] with you.

Despite recession and curbed fuel demand, energy prices have been steadily going up. Oil traded at $ 108/barrel today while the 2007 average was at around $75. Natural gas traded at $10/MMBtu today ($ 7.50 in 3/07), according to Bloomberg. Since utilities lock prices for several months this won't have much impact on current energy bills. However, it will have an impact later this year.

The impact of the oil price you can see when you drive by a gas station. Similarly important is the natural gas situation. Traditionally the US has been importing natural gas from Canada and Mexico, which have seen increased demand and declining production themselves. The North-American production gap is made up with imported Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). LNG is imported from regions with a surplus of natural gas. Mostly Russia and the Middle East. The percentage of US natural gas consumption is steadily climbing due to declining home-production and increasing demand. This causes three serious problems. Cost is the obvious one with much energy needed to liquefy natural gas at -260°F, to build terminals in both the US and the producer country, and to run LNG tankers.

Logistics and security is another problem since no US harbor community wants to have an LNG facility in their backyard and an LNG tanker can cause an explosion similar to a small sized nuclear bomb. There also is the problem of time since it takes some time to plan and finally commission an LNG facility. Currently there are 16 LNG facilities operating in the US and 40 more are planned as of now. However, due to future global shortage of natural gas and the lack of exporting countries, not all projects might happen.

The third problem is independence. Russia has been using, and is continuing to do so, cuts in delivery to negotiate prices and other political issues. It also is moving away from being a democracy. The Middle East as the other LNG supplier is not less difficult to deal with.

What implication does that have to us? Natural gas is the major heat fuel source (LPG is a natural gas byproduct) and traditionally has been cheaper and cleaner than coal and oil. Most of the recently installed electric power generation is firing natural gas, and many future installations will use natural gas due to its cleaner combustion compared to coal. Therefore, there will be an impact on heating AND electricity prices.

In 2002 Alan Greenspan already realized that "tight natural gas supplies present an extremely serious problem".

As predicted often in the past, the producing countries will exhaust their reserves and will have to cut exports to meet domestic demand. This prediction is materializing more and more and is becoming a market reality today.

This applies to other fuels as well. China became a net coal importer in 2007, The UK stopped exporting natural gas and is importing now,...

The nuclear fuel situation is even worse. At current consumption the world wide supply will last less than 60 years and only 7% of the reserves are in the US. There might be a trend to build more nukes, which will shorten the supply to much less than 60 years.

In addition to worldwide shortage of fuel, it will become more expensive (and energy consuming) to explore and mine commodities assuming "easy to get" commodities have been exploited first.

Another worrisome market trend, that will affect poor nations more than us, is that rising demand for fuel increases food production cost and diverts more food crops to biofuel production. The last year has seen 40%-70% increases in raw food material corn, wheat etc.).

I thought you should know.

Canadian ruling could halt planned oil-sands project

Friday, March 07, 2008

From an article by David Ebner in The Globe and Mail:

CALGARY -- Oil sands projects could face tougher regulatory scrutiny after a federal court judge yesterday found the approval of Imperial Oil Ltd.'s $8-billion oil sands mine insufficient on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.

A federal-Alberta review panel approved Imperial's Kearl mine last year, saying it was in the public interest, although it worried about "critical challenges" on environmental issues and local problems in Fort McMurray. Alta.

The panel didn't explain why it decided that 3.7 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year - equivalent of 800,000 cars on the road - wouldn't be significant, Federal Court of Canada Judge Danièle Tremblay-Lamer said in a judgment published yesterday.

"The panel dismissed as insignificant the greenhouse gas emissions without any rationale," Judge Tremblay-Lamer wrote, calling on the panel to revisit the specific question.

The court victory by environmental groups, four of which had appealed the panel ruling, signals that the spotlight and assessment of oil sands projects will become ever-more intense.

While the decision focuses on the panel's decision to approve the mine rather than evidence presented by Imperial and its parent company, Exxon Mobil Corp. of Texas, it was hailed as a "landmark" in the oil sands by environmental groups.

Shawn Denstedt, a partner at law firm Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP in Calgary who works on many oil sands regulatory applications, said companies are ready to deal with tougher assessments. "The scrutiny of projects is becoming more and more stringent," he said.

"This is another speed bump in the regulatory approval process, not a roadblock," he said, adding that expected regulations on greenhouse gases from the federal government will provide further clarity.

Trying to site a wind farm in the Town of Stockbridge

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Marilyn Propson, a farmer and possible host of a wind turbine in the Town of Stockbridge in Calumet County, spoke to a legislative committee considering a bill that would reform the wind site permitting process in Wisconsin.

Under the current permitting process, vocal wind opponents have convinced town boards to impose restrictions that effectively prohibit any wind generation in the towns.

Assembly Bill 899 would require town boards to adopt siting ordinances "consistent with" siting criteria developed by the Public Service Commission. The two posts following this one provide more backgroun on the siting issue.

Here is the text of her statement:

Hello - My name is Marilyn Propson. I live in the Town Stockbridge, in Calumet County. My address is W4342 Quinney Rd., Chilton 53014. I hope to be the voice representing hundreds of landowners and thousands of acres of land in Wisconsin ready and willing to be part of the effort to move forward with wind energy projects. I hope the State of Wisconsin will take note that there is no shortage of landowners willing to sign on to host wind turbines.

I’d like to share a little history of the Town of Stockbridge with you today. I obtained the information before 2006 from a neighbor, Marvin Ecker, Jr.

Attempt #1 – In the spring of 1998, Madison Gas & Electric (MGE) came into the Town of Stockbridge and approached landowners to see if there was interest in siting a wind project. Three families signed lease options. Stockbridge then enacted a 24-month moratorium. The Public Service Commission approved MGE’s application, but, as a result of the moratorium, MGE had to walk away from Stockbridge. Lawsuits were filed. The result – no turbines.

Attempt #2 – In June 2004, Marvin Ecker, Jr. obtained permission to build a single small turbine on his land. In May 2005, Marvin put up the turbine now standing on Quinney Hill. Stockbridge enacted another moratorium. The result – one farm-sized turbine.

Attempt #3 – In April 2005, shortly before Marvin’s small turbine was erected, he applied for another permit to host four large turbines. In his words, while seeking the necessary permits, he was given the run-around. This triggered more legal action. The result – no turbines.

Attempt #4 – In early 2006, Midwest Wind Energy approached landowners in the Towns of Stockbridge and Brothertown for yet another try at a wind energy project. By November 2006, 33 families controlling 5,000 acres had signed on. In May 2007, the Town of Stockbridge adopted a 90-day moratorium. Later that month, Midwest Wind Energy sent a memo to Stockbridge landowners stating that development activities would be suspended due to the moratorium. In September 2007, Stockbridge enacted a Wind Energy Systems Licensing Ordinance, which was so restrictive that Midwest Wind Energy’s project was no longer viable. In January 2008, the Town of Stockbridge received two Notices of Claim. The result – no turbines.

I risk sounding repetitive by chronicling the turbine siting history of the Town of Stockbridge, but we have such a vivid history of failure that actions paint a more revealing picture than words could ever convey. In the past, the Stockbridge Town Board has shown a total disregard for turbine siting recommendations made by either Calumet County or the State of Wisconsin. The Board is familiar with litigation and does not fear it. As participating landowners in this wind project, we are part of the majority of citizens who are ready to embrace the prospect of alternative energy fueling our futures.

But there is a core group in Stockbridge that remains opposed to wind development, and they are relentless in their zeal to take the reins and steer the Stockbridge Town Board—and now the Calumet County Board—toward their goal, which is no turbines in Stockbridge. They were instrumental in the recall election of County Board Supervisor Jerry Criter, whose district includes all of Brothertown, and parts of Stockbridge and Chilton townships. They were unsuccessful in removing him from his position, but their defamatory allegations will not be forgotten any time soon. Nor will the taxpayers soon forget the unnecessary financial burden caused by a bogus sense of urgency created by the recall effort, as Jerry’s term would have expired 49 days later.

I believe that this Township and this County, along with many others across the state, have exhausted their resources trying to resolve this conflict. We appear to be too polarized to make any further progress. It is time for the State to take up the laboring oar in this effort, to find a common ground workable to settle our differences and move forward toward achieving our goals. Please adopt legislation to establish uniform standards for local review of wind projects.

DePaola supports wind siting reform bills

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Ross DePaola, a member of the Madison Peak Oil Group and RENEW Wisconsin, submitted comments on wind site permitting reform:

March 4, 2008

Senator Jeff Plale
Rep. Phil Montgomery

Subject: AB 899/SB 544 Wind Siting Reform Bill

Dear Senator Plale and Rep. Mongomery,

I am writing in support of this legislation to require the Public Service Commission to promulgate common rules for wind-powered generators.

Wisconsin is a State that is heavily dependent upon coal energy for electric generation.
Figure 1 from the 2006 version of Wisconsin Energy Statistics clearly shows how the mix of energy used for electric generation comes primarily from coal. In addition to this, note that as our appetite for electricity grows, the overwhelming response has been to increase coal consumption, either domestic or imported.

As a consequence for our increasing use of coal, Wisconsin’s emission of CO2 has increased as shown in Figure 2.

If there is any chance that we may begin to reduce our dependence on coal, we must encourage the development of indigenous, renewable and carbon-free technologies such as wind and solar. . . .

ACT NOW! Support bills on wind siting reform!

Monday, March 03, 2008

You may have noticed in the last few months the amount of time and energy RENEW Wisconsin has put into reforming the permitting process for wind projects. You can see news articles, editorials, commentaries, and more about the permitting problems at RENEW’s blog:

RENEW’s proposed reforms have been drafted into Assembly Bill 899 (AB 899) and Senate Bill 544 (SB 544), bills which will be considered at hearings on March 4 and March 5.

We need your immediate help to attend one or both hearings on the two most important renewable energy bills of this legislative session:

10:30 a.m., Tuesday, March 4, room 412 East. The Assembly Committee on Energy and Utilities Assembly will take testimony and vote on Assembly Bill 899.

12:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 5, 2008, room 330 Southwest. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Utilities and Rail will take testimony and vote on Senate Bill 544.

We expect a large and vocal anti-wind contingent at both hearings.

We must make an equally strong display of support for wind energy and the siting reforms!

Please attend one or both hearings.

If you cannot attend a hearing, please take the talking points in the attached and put them into your own words in a letter to Senator Jeff Plale and Rep. Phil Montgomery, and send them to Noah Seligman by e-mail ( or U.S. postage (Noah Seligman, Cullen, Weston, Pines and Bach, 122 W. Washington Avenue, Madison, WI 53703). Noah will collect the letters, and we’ll present them at the hearings.

If you want to call to express your support, call Senator Plale at 608.266.7505 or (800)361-5487 and Rep. Montgomery at (608) 266-5840 or (888) 534-0004.

If you have any questions or need more information, feel free to contact Michael Vickerman at