Students to rally for high speed rail

Friday, May 22, 2009

From a news release issued by WISPIRG:

While many students head home, start their summer jobs, or begin long vacations, some students in the WISPIRG Student Chapters are hitting the road in support of high speed rail. Forty students will travel next week from Green Bay to Milwaukee to Madison to La Crosse over four days to show support for Wisconsin’s proposed high speed rail route.

President Obama seeks to connect our cities in “priority corridors” (including the Chicago-Milwaukee-Madison-Twin Cities route) with high speed rail. Congress this year passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which will spend $8 billion for high speed rail on projects that have not yet been determined. Governor Doyle and WISDOT Secretary Busalacchi are advocating to bring high speed rail to Wisconsin; they are seeking Recovery funds to connect Madison and Milwaukee with intercity rail as part of the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, a nine-state project that would connect over 100 Midwestern cities and link the region’s major economic centers. Doing so will give us more transportation choices, alternatives to lengthy airport delays, and reduced dependence on oil, while helping to rebuild our economy. Wisconsin would especially benefit because it is perfectly situated in the corridor connecting Chicago to the Twin Cities.

Enthusiasm for the project among students and other young people is infectious. At most stops students are planning a short bike route through each town to the location of the media event. WISPIRG students will wear matching t-shirts and carry a giant map of the proposed train route. Events will also include a human-powered train with many people, much like a Chinese dragon costume.

Come join us to show support for bringing high speed rail to Wisconsin!

Monday, May 25
10am Green Bay - National Railroad Museum
1pm Appleton - Houdini Plaza, downtown Appleton
3pm Oshkosh - Opera House Square

Tuesday, May 26
10am Milwaukee - Downtown Transit Center
1pm Brookfield - Town Hall
3pm Oconomowoc - Maxims, 115 E. Collins St.

Wednesday, May 27
10am Madison - State Capitol
3pm Portage - TBD

Thursday, May 28
10am Wisconsin Dells - TBD
3pm La Crosse - The Train Station, 601 St. Andrews

Keynote speakers set for Energy Fair, June 19-21

Thursday, May 21, 2009

From details of the Energy Fair, sponsored by the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, in Custer, Wisconsin:

Friday, June 19 at 1 pm
Antonia Juhasz

Antonia Juhasz is an author and political activist. She was the author of The Bush Agenda: Invading the World One Economy at a Time in 2006, Alternatives to Economic Globalization for which she received the 2004 Project Censored award. In 2008, she published The Tyranny of Oil.

Saturday, June 20 at 1 pm
Alan Weisman

Alan Weisman spoke at the 10th Anniversary Energy Fair, and we’re happy to have him join us another ten years later to celebrate our progress and help us look forward to another 20 years.

Alan Weisman is an author and journalist whose reports from around the world have appeared in Harper's, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, Orion, Wilson Quarterly, Vanity Fair, Mother Jones, Discover, and more.

His most recent book, The World Without Us, (a staff favorite) is a bestseller, and was named the Best Nonfiction Book of 2007 by both Time Magazine and Entertainment Weekly.

Sunday, June 21 at 1 pm
Wendy Williams

Wendy Williams, an is the author of Cape Wind: Money, Celebrity, Class, Politics, and the Battle for Our Energy Future on Nantucket Sound. The Wall Street Journal called Cape Wind "a ripe subject, populated with the sort of people who would be among the first to count themselves as friends of the Earth but the last to accept an environmentally friendly energy source if it meant the slightest cloud on their ocean views."

Williams has written for many major publications, including Scientific American, The Christian Science Monitor, The Boston Globe, The Providence Journal and The Baltimore Sun. She has been journalist-in-residence at Duke University and at the Hasting Center. The author of several books, she lives on Cape Cod.

Automakers, Obama announce mileage, pollution plan

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

From an Associated Press article by Ken Thomas, published in The Capital Times:

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's new fuel and emission standards for cars and trucks will save billions of barrels of oil but are expected to cost consumers an extra $1,300 per vehicle by the time the plan is complete in 2016.

Obama on Tuesday planned to announce the first-ever national emissions limits for vehicles, as well as require an overall or industry average fuel efficiency standard at 35.5 miles per gallon.

Carol Browner, the White House energy and climate director, publicly confirmed the new initiative in appearances on morning network news shows, calling it a "truly historic" occasion and saying tougher standards are "long overdue."

The plan also would effectively end a feud between automakers and statehouses over emission standards — with the states coming out on top but the automakers getting the single national standard they've been seeking and more time to make the changes.

Obama's proposed change in rules would for the first time combine pollution reduction from vehicle tailpipes with increased efficiency on the road. It would save 1.8 billion barrels of oil through 2016 and would be the environmental equivalent of taking 177 million cars off the road, said senior administration officials speaking anonymously, ahead of the announcement.

New vehicles would be 30 percent cleaner and more fuel-efficient by the end of the program, they said.

MGE will expand solar program

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

From a news release issued by Madison Gas and Electric:

Madison, Wis., May 19, 2009 . . . Madison Gas and Electric (MGE) will expand its Clean Power Partners solar energy program by more than three times.

MGE received permission last week from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to increase this pilot program from 300 kilowatts to 1 megawatt, said Gary Wolter, chairman, president and CEO, at the 2009 MGE Energy Annual Meeting.

In 2008, the program's capacity was doubled from its original 150 kilowatts. Clean Power Partners is now fully subscribed with a total of 62 solar installations—40 residential and 22 commercial/industrial projects.

Clean Power Partners encourages customers to install solar photovoltaic systems on their homes or businesses and then sell the energy back to MGE for $0.25 per kilowatt-hour. The solar energy is part of MGE's green pricing program—Green Power Tomorrow.

MGE's green pricing program was recently recognized for having the second highest participation rate of all investor-owned utilities in the country by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewal Energy Laboratory.

In addition, MGE ranks in the top 1% nationwide in green power sales as a percentage of total retail electricity sold. MGE ranks sixth out of a total of 850 utilities. The company increased wind power capacity by more than 12 times in 2008 as four new wind farms in Wisconsin and Iowa began production.

Open house and tour of We Energies wind farm, May 20

Monday, May 18, 2009

A view of the Blue Sky Green Fields wind farm from the project's operations center.

An announcement from We Energies:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009
3 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Blue Sky Green Field Office
N9470 County Highway W
Malone, WI 53049

Tours will be given approximately every 30 minutes. Please stop by at your convenience during the tour hours listed above. No reservations required. The turbine is located a short walking distance from the parking area. Please wear sturdy shoes suitable for walking on a graveled surface.

The Blue Sky Green Field Wind Energy Center, located in the towns of Calumet and Marshfield in northeast Fond du Lac County, is designed to generate 145 megawatts (MW) of electricity, and is capable of powering approximately 36,000 average residential homes. The site consists of 88 wind turbines.

Construction of the project began in June 2007. On May 19, 2008, Blue Sky Green Field was placed into commercial operation. We invite you to visit our facility and learn more about wind energy.

If you have any questions, call 920-980-3224.

Green success: City of Madison, Air Force, Vilas Zoo

Friday, May 15, 2009

Individuals and business can help by purchasing renewable energy through MG&E's Green Power Tomorrow or Alliant's Second Nature and by taking the Mpower Pledge.

RENEW's spring newsletter now online

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The spring edition of RENEW's newsletter includes the following articles:

Legislature to Tackle Wind Permitting
The Importance of Doing the Math
Stimulus Package 101
Policy Drives Solar Hot Water Market
PSC Investigates Renewable Tariffs
Open Letter from RENEW President

Solar power economically viable here

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

From a letter to the editor of The Capital Times by the UW-Madison Environmental Studies 112 Honors Group:

Dear Editor: There's a common misconception that being green is the same as being economically impractical. Seen as nothing more than a conscience pleaser for the rich, renewable energy has long been perceived as expensive and beyond the reach of the average American. However, when it comes to solar power, this really isn't the case. Through a large number of economic incentives and buyback programs, solar power can pay for itself and then some within years and simultaneously help in the fight against global warming.

Although there is an initial expenditure, state, federal and industrial help abounds. Companies such as We Energies and programs like Wisconsin Focus on Energy offer cash-back rewards for up to a quarter of the installation price, and electric companies like Alliant Energy and Madison Gas & Electric also offer 10-year contracts in which a solar panel keeper can sell energy back to the grid at about $1 a kilowatt per day for a small system. This extra source of income can hit $6,000 a year for a medium-sized system alone. Between the tax exemptions, rebates, grants and buybacks, solar panel systems pay for themselves in a matter of years and are a wise investment for any savvy consumer. And, with a life of 30 to 50 years, they become a long-term moneymaker.

The economic benefits extend to the entire economy as well. Solar energy is a fast-growing field, and the numbers speak for themselves: For each megawatt installed, 36 jobs are created . . . .

Environmental Studies 112 Honors Group

Editor's note: UW-Madison's Environmental Studies 112 Honors Group spent the spring semester researching the feasibility of solar power.

Metro Transit may use added revenue to increase service

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

From an article by Dean Mosiman in the Wisconsin State Journal:

After Madison increased bus fares 50 cents to $2 last month, Metro Transit is now proposing to use some of that new revenue to boost service.

Metro wants to restore Route 10, which would link the Near East Side and UW Hospital and create 15-minute service between the UW-Madison campus and the hospital.

The proposal also includes increasing service on 10 other routes, including adding trips and cutting wait times at transfer points on Route 18 and adding a morning trip on Route 20.

Metro’s proposal would add nearly 30 hours of service a day at an annual cost of $390,000. If approved, the changes would take place in August.

House Democrats agree on cash for clunkers

Monday, May 11, 2009

From an Associated Press article by Dina Cappiello published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Key lawmakers agreed Tuesday on a strategy for replacing gas-guzzling cars with more fuel-efficient models, but much tougher negotiations lie ahead on a bill that would, for the first time, limit emissions linked to global warming.

President Barack Obama summoned three dozen House Democrats to the White House to build consensus around climate and energy legislation that is under increasing criticism from Republicans and members of his own party.

The administration has endorsed the bill broadly, saying it would advance key parts of the president's domestic agenda, namely slowing global warming and transitioning to a clean energy economy.

But the details have largely been left to the House Energy committee, which is still working on the final language and has postponed a vote due to cost concerns raised by the panel's moderate Democrats.

Committee members emerged from the meeting Tuesday claiming a modest victory. They said they agreed to embrace a "cash for clunkers" plan that would provide $3500 or $4500 to people who replace old, low-efficiency cars with new, more fuel-efficient models.

Riding the current of change

Friday, May 08, 2009

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

Chicago - Anyone looking for signs that sectors of the economy have found some shelter from the recession needed only to walk the halls of the McCormick Place convention center Thursday.

With more than 1,200 exhibitors, the world's largest trade show for the wind power industry saw record attendance in its bid to prove that energy from wind has escaped the label "alternative."

"When you look at this show, you wouldn't know there's a slowdown in the economy," Kim Zuhlke, an executive at Alliant Energy Corp., said while standing between massive booths at the conference Thursday.

Organizers of Windpower 2009, sponsored by the American Wind Energy Association, weren't sure how their conference would do, but the show ended up attracting more than 20,000 people. That's 60% more than attended last year in Houston, the association said.

The recession has hit the wind power industry just like every other sector of the economy, as projects stalled for lack of financing. In an industry forecast earlier this year, the association said the wind industry is likely to slow this year after setting records for new projects last year.

"Everyone's been in a holding pattern. It's not just wind energy - the entire country had taken a pause," said Ellen Shafer of Broadwind Energy, based near Chicago.

But the mood at the convention this week has been one of optimism, said Shafer, whose company has two Wisconsin subsidiaries - TowerTech, a Manitowoc maker of wind towers, and Badger Transport of Clintonville, a trucking company specializing in hauling the oversized components that are the ingredients of a wind farm development.

First public charging station for electric cars

Thursday, May 07, 2009

From an article on Alternative Energy News:

During a low-key ceremony just over a week ago, the first public high-voltage charging station for electric vehicles was inaugurated at the Gateway Center in East Woodland California. Representatives from Tesla Motors were on hand to help demonstrate with six Tesla Roadsters. The power station is capable of charging an electric car in about one hour and is meant to set an example for future stations being planned in other states.

The station is a result of collaboration between developers and the city, and is located east of Interstate-5 off County Road 102 at the Gateway Center. It contains one Tesla, two AVcons, one small paddle inductive charger, plus two neighborhood electric vehicle standard outlets. Plug-in America estimates that some 200-300 EVs of various types are located within 100 miles of the site, which will accommodate all new EVs and PHEVs.

Like cyclist's death, our way of life is a tragedy

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

From a letter to the editor of The Capital Times by Hans Noeldner, an activie participant in the Madison Peak Oil Group:

Dear Editor: Our failure as a community to support and reward those who attempt to go about their lives at a walking or bicycling pace is bad enough. But the recent cyclist fatality near Brooklyn reminds us that we-the-drivers often pose a life-and-death threat to non-motorists.

The swift, the powerful and the heavily armored so thoroughly dominate most of our public thoroughfares today that merely walking or bicycling across them can be hazardous. (Walk or bicycle along them? Forget it!)

Our pervasive (if unintentional) disregard for the "least among us" -- those annoyingly slow, small, vulnerable creatures called pedestrians and bicyclists -- represents one of the most flagrant injustices in our society. We've made things even worse by withdrawing ever more frequently into our supersized vehicular exoskeletons. Many of us now consider a three-ton armored personnel carrier a practical necessity for conveying our youngster to extracurricular activities. "My child needs to participate just like other normal children, and I need a big SUV to keep her safe!"

. . . .Not only is the Brooklyn cyclist's death a tragedy; our sprawling, hyper-mobile, resource-gobbling way of life is a tragedy as well. And so long as we cling to our steering wheels; so long as our leaders deploy American troops all over Earth to ensure an uninterrupted flow of cheap energy into our tanks, nothing will change.
. . . .

Renewable energy education and training opportunities in Wisconsin

Monday, May 04, 2009

Focus on Energy provides links to renewable energy training courses -- professional development, technical colleges, and universities.

Regional transit authority for Dane County gets state budget panel OK

Friday, May 01, 2009

From a story by Scott Bauer in The Capital Times:

The Legislature's budget committee on Friday approved a plan to use a mixture of higher sales taxes and car rental fees to pay for high-speed rail and other transit projects in the two most populated parts of the state.

The measures, part of the two-year state budget, must pass the full Legislature and be approved by Doyle before it becomes law.

In Dane County, a half-cent sales tax could be imposed to pay for commuter rail and other transit projects.

In Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha counties up to $16 could be charged on car rentals to pay for a commuter rail line connecting the three southeastern Wisconsin cities. A new board created to oversee the rail line's construction also could levy $50 million in bonds to help pay for it. The project has been discussed for years but always stalled over ways to pay for it.

Also, Milwaukee County would be allowed to impose a 1 percent sales tax to pay for a countywide regional transit authority. The $132 million raised each year would pay for transit, parks, cultural and emergency medical services. Fifteen percent would go to the city of Milwaukee.

On a 9-7 vote, the committee voted against Gov. Jim Doyle's proposal to create a regional transit authority in the Fox Cities to help pay for the existing regional bus system using up to half a cent sales tax. . . .

Commuter rail supporters include environmentalists, business groups, organized labor and local governments, and organizations representing the disabled and elderly. They supported commuter rail to ease congestion, create jobs and spur economic development.