Let the battle over train station location begin

Friday, January 29, 2010

From an article by Chris Murphy in The Capital Times:

Thursday's big news was the announcement that some $810 million will be spent in Wisconsin to create high-speed (110 mph) passenger rail service between Madison and Milwaukee in the next several years. Mayor Dave Cieslewicz is pumped, and the squabbling between the "why-are-we-paying-this-ridiculous-sum-of-money" and the "time-for-rail-has-come-again" crowds has already begun. Thursday's Journal main story racked up some 69 comments in that vein.

But given that the line is going to happen, the next big question is where will the Madison station be? Plan A is Dane County Regional Airport, but there was already a big push underway for a downtown stop at a site backers are calling "Yahara Station" near the intersection of First Street and East Washington Avenue. Matthew DeFour of the Wisconsin State Journal reports that the state will have the last word on station location, but that County Executive Kathleen Falk wants the airport and Mayor Dave would like a downtown stop.

Maybe both could happen. Or something else entirely. Dane County Board Chairman Scott McDonell tells Joe Tarr of Isthmus he thinks the stalled Union Corners development at East Wash and Milwaukee Street would make more sense.

Wisconsin to get $810 million for high-speed train

Thursday, January 28, 2010

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

Wisconsin will receive $810 million in federal stimulus money to establish high-speed passenger rail from Milwaukee to Madison and to study the possibility of extending it to the Twin Cities, President Barack Obama's administration will announce Thursday.

That would eventually bring 110 mph passenger rail service from Chicago to Madison after years of fruitless attempts to jump-start the project and give Madison its first passenger rail service since 1971.

As part of a national rollout following Obama's State of the Union address Thursday, federal Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan is expected to be in Milwaukee for an afternoon press conference to discuss Wisconsin's share of $8 billion in awards for high-speed rail

"This is a major job creation project that will provide a long-term boost to our economy," Gov. Jim Doyle said in a statement. "Through high-speed rail we will connect the major centers of commerce in Wisconsin and in the region. This was a national competition and the results clearly demonstrate that Wisconsin had a very strong application."

The Obama administration estimates the awards will create tens of thousands of jobs in the nearer term for workers laying and improving track and building stations. Supporters argue high-speed rail also could spur long-term economic growth just as the nation's Interstate highways did a generation ago.

Obama said in his address Wednesday that he would be in Tampa, Fla., Thursday and that workers there plan to start construction of a high-speed rail line.

Business leaders demonstrate support for Clean Energy Jobs act, denounce WMC ads

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

From a news release from Advocates for Creating Renewable Energy, a coalition which includes RENEW Wisconsin:

Madison, Wis. – One day before the State Senate is scheduled to hold public hearings on the Clean Energy Jobs Act, Wisconsin business leaders are criticizing attack ads run by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and demonstrating their support for the legislation, highlighting the bill’s potential to create jobs, boost our economy, and foster energy independence.

Business leaders responded to radio ads released last week by the special interest organization Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC), which use flawed facts and figures to create the perception that the Clean Energy Jobs Act will actually hurt Wisconsin’s economy, when the vast majority of studies demonstrate the bill will provide an economic boon for the state.

“WMC’s deceptive advertisements would have you believe that putting Wisconsin residents to work transitioning toward clean, homegrown energy sources will somehow hurt our economy,” said Dionne Lummus of Wave Wind, LLC. “The real drain to our economy, however, is the nearly $20 billion our state spends on dirty out-of-state fossil fuels every year.”

WMC relies on a November 2009 study conducted by the Beacon Hill Institute and the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute to support its claims. However, that study relied on models that are not unique to the Clean Energy Jobs Act and analyzed several provisions not even included in the bill.

“Wisconsin residents deserve a fair and accurate presentation of the facts,” said Tom Green, Project Development Manager at Wind Capital Group.

Despite WMC claims that CEJA will cost Wisconsin jobs, conservative models generated by a collaboration of non-partisan state organizations estimate that the legislation will actually create at least 15,000 jobs in the state

Governor releases FAQs on Clean Energy Jobs Act bill

Monday, January 25, 2010

From the frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the Clean Energy Jobs Act bill:

Enhanced Energy Efficiency and Conservation
Q: Won’t increased funding for statewide energy efficiency programs come out of the pockets of Wisconsin ratepayers? We shouldn’t be raising energy costs during an economic downturn by adding more fees to our utility bills.

A: Investing more money in energy efficiency has a demonstrable, risk-free payback for Wisconsin residents and businesses. Over the long run we will use less energy, which means we’ll actually be reducing our energy bills.

The cost of conserving energy is far less than the cost of building new power generation. Energy efficiency and conservation efforts are the least-cost means of mitigating carbon pollution.

Investing in energy efficiency also translates into stable, family-supporting jobs, particularly within the building and construction trades and at the 50+ businesses in Wisconsin that manufacture Energy Star appliances, windows, and other products. . . .

Renewable Fuels
Q: Will an Enhanced Renewable Portfolio Standard require the build-out of costly electric generation that Wisconsin doesn’t need, while doing nothing to reduce the demand for electricity? Don’t renewable energy sources cost more than coal and natural gas?

A: Each year, we send over $16 billion out of state to purchase coal, natural gas, and petroleum products to meet our energy demands. Every dollar we spend on these fossil fuels is a dollar that leaves Wisconsin. By increasing our state’s renewable portfolio standards, we are guaranteeing that more of our energy dollars remain here, and creating thousands of jobs for Wisconsin families in construction and building trades work, and, in the longer term, supply-chain jobs in our manufacturing, agricultural, and forestry sectors.

Also, the EPA has moved to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, which means that costs associated with burning coal and natural gas will continue to rise. We cannot continue to pretend that exclusive reliance on fossil fuels for power generation is either sustainable or affordable in the long term. We need to speed our transition to a cleaner energy economy and position Wisconsin as a leader in this growing industry before other states get ahead of us.

As we add renewable sources of energy to our fleet, many of the older and less efficient fossil fuel burning units will gradually be retired, and Wisconsin’s generation capacity will fall in line with demand. Initial infrastructure costs associated with a transition to renewables will be off-set by producing cleaner and reliable renewable energy for Wisconsin over the long-term. Meanwhile, the cost of renewable generation technologies continues to fall when compared to fossil fuel alternatives.

Increased reliance on renewable energy is central to creating a more sustainable Wisconsin. Life cycle costs associated with fossil fuel have a significantly greater adverse impact on public health, quality of life, and the environment.

Advanced Renewable Tariffs
Q: Won’t Advanced Renewable Tariffs simply increase the cost of energy for everyone by subsidizing certain types of renewable technologies at a cost that is higher than the market would otherwise tolerate? Don’t Advanced Renewable Tariffs duplicate the efforts of the Renewable Portfolio Standard?

A: Evidence from around the world suggests that feed-in tariffs lead to faster deployment of renewable generation sources than a stand-alone Renewable Portfolio Standard. Advanced Renewable Tariffs will help harness the power of Wisconsin’s rich agricultural resources by making it easier and more cost-effective for farmers to take farm-waste and generate electricity with it to power their farming operations and deliver clean, renewable energy back to the grid.

Incenting the deployment of smaller-scale, more distributed renewable generation sources cuts down on our state’s transmission infrastructure costs and will reduce our reliance on out-of-state renewable power in the long term.

This policy helps level the playing field so individual homeowners, farmers, and businesses can earn a return on investments in renewable energy that is similar to the returns that utilities earn.

Madison's sustainability mirage

Friday, January 22, 2010

From an article by Michael Barrett on the Isthmus Daily Page:

Gleaming atop Madison's new Fire Station #12 sits its green crown jewel — a solar panel. Station #12 on the city's far west side is so green it was just awarded the U.S. Green Building Council's "Platinum" status. Mayor Dave Cieslewicz is shouting the news from the mountaintops. Here it is, a full flowering of his Natural Step program for a sustainable city.

But there it sits, in car-mandatory suburbia, surrounded by pavement and plentiful parking, walkable to nowhere. Walkscore.com rated the fire station's address a 2 (out of 100), dubbing it "auto-dependent."

Contrast this with Fire Station #3 on Williamson Street. It's walkable to everything, deemed a "walker's paradise" with a Walkscore of 97. It is nestled between neighborhood retail and residences. It sits on one of the liveliest blocks in town. Streams of pedestrians, bikes and buses flow by. And it has a solar panel.

But this 1950s-era building will never win a green architecture award. The U.S. Green Building Council and others are too focused on new buildings, paying little heed to issues of context.

And therein lies the problem with the approach taken by Mayor Dave. The Natural Step, his citywide strategy to save energy and reduce waste, is a thoroughgoing, top-to-bottom, cross-disciplinary, holistic, green paradigm. But Madison would achieve far more if it focused on preserving natural and food-providing areas, instead of paving them over.

In the case of Fire Station #12, the car-mandatory nature of the neighborhood completely negates the green gains achieved through architecture, and then some.

Air-quality improvements offset climate policy costs

From a news release issued by the UW-Madison:

MADISON - The benefits of improved air quality resulting from climate change mitigation policies are likely to outweigh the near-term costs of implementing those policies, according to a new study.

Coming on the heels of the international climate talks in Copenhagen and a proposal earlier this month by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to tighten smog standards, new research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests that climate change policies should be assessed on the basis of potential benefits as well as initial costs.

Writing online Jan. 22 in the journal Environmental Research Letters, University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers Gregory Nemet, Tracey Holloway and Paul Meier report that the value of "co-benefits" - especially improved public health due to better air quality - rarely factors into assessments of climate change policy.

"The debate is really about how expensive this is going to be, and it excludes the social benefit," says Nemet, an assistant professor of public affairs and environmental studies at the La Follette School of Public Affairs and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW-Madison. "That hasn't really been part of the equation."

Rather, policy assessments and decisions typically focus on cost-minimization without balancing those costs against the value of the resulting benefits, an approach that misrepresents the true economic impact of climate change policies, the researchers say.

In a survey of existing studies on air quality co-benefits, the researchers found 48 estimates ranging from $2 to nearly $200 per ton of carbon dioxide avoided, with an average benefit of $50 per ton. The highest values were in developing countries, where reducing pollution is likely to have the greatest impact on human welfare.

These benefits far outweigh the costs of carbon dioxide mitigation, which currently proposed policies limit to less than $30 per ton.

RENEW denounces WMC’s “fact-free flip-flop” in radio ad on energy bill

Thursday, January 21, 2010

From a news release issued by RENEW Wisconsin:

RENEW Wisconsin’s Executive Director Michael Vickerman assailed the credibility of a new radio ad launched by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) that characterizes the Clean Energy Jobs Act bill as an unaffordable extravagance.

“WMC executed an astonishing fact-free flip-flop with its claim that the legislation (AB 649/SB 450) would raise an average family’s electricity bill by more than $1,000 a year. What’s astonishing about it that WMC is conveniently forgetting existing ratepayer protections, which it endorsed – and claimed credit for — when similar legislation passed in 2006,” Vickerman said.

When the state’s current renewable portfolio standard (RPS) was passed (which directed utilities to source 10 percent of their electricity from renewable generation by 2015), WMC ran an article on its website with the headline “’Energy Efficiency and Renewables Act’ Will Protect Ratepayer Dollars.” That article can be accessed at http://www.wmc.org/display.cfm?ID=1256.

The article says that WMC was instrumental in ensuring that “ratepayer groups will have a clear opportunity to seek delays in the implementation of new renewable portfolio standards, should they have an unreasonable effect on electric rates.”

The Clean Energy Job Act bill would continue those ratepayer protections enacted in 2005 Act 141. So far no utility or energy advocacy group has requested an implementation delay under the current renewable energy standard.

Clean energy grows green jobs in state

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

From a commentary by State Rep. Fred Clark (Baraboo, 42nd Assembly District) in the Baraboo News Republic:

While the housing market begins what will likely be a long, slow, recovery, homeowners looking to make investments in energy efficiency are providing one of the few bright spots for local contractors.

On January 30, for example, an array of area businesses will fill the basement of the West Square Building during Sustain Sauk County’s "Home Energy Savings Workshop" to meet residents looking to improve their homes and save money on energy bills in the long-term.

Meanwhile, the Clean Energy Jobs Act (AB-649), introduced last month in the legislature, promises to help boost opportunities for Sauk County workers learning new skills in home weatherization and efficiency, or starting new businesses to meet the emerging demand for solar energy systems and other renewable technologies.

The Clean Energy Jobs Act follows the recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change, including setting a statewide goal of "25 by ’25." That is, 25% of Wisconsin’s energy should come from renewable resources like wind, solar, and bio-fuels by the year 2025.

AB-649 is one of the largest pieces of stand-alone legislation the legislature will consider this year, and as you might expect, almost everyone can find something they like — or something they dislike — about it. For example, opposition is likely to be strong to a relaxation of the rules governing construction of nuclear power plants in Wisconsin. I support opening a door (or at least a window) to new nuclear power, in part because every credible report I have seen suggests we cannot meet our goals for reduction of fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions without nuclear power as part of that mix.

In March, MGE plant to make gas its primary fuel

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

From an article by Judy Newman in the Wisconsin State Journal:

In March, the century-old Blount Street power plant Downtown will make natural gas - not coal - its primary fuel.

The change will cut down on air pollution in the city but will also mean the elimination of nine jobs at the Madison Gas & Electric plant, employees were told last week.

"The amount of coal we plan to burn this year (at the Blount plant) compared to just a few years ago is significantly less. It is way, way down," MGE spokesman Steve Kraus said Monday.

That's not so much due to a conscious effort by the Madison utility company to scale back, prior to plans - announced in 2006 - to stop burning coal at Blount altogether by the end of 2011.

The power plant has burned less and less coal over the past couple of years as demand for elecricity has shrunk with the stunted economy, and as the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator, which runs the Great Lakes-area power grid, has called the plant into service less often, Kraus said.

"So our need to buy coal has gone down to virtually nothing," he said.

Built in 1903, the Blount Street power plant was a baseload plant for decades, supplying electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to Madison. But as new generation has been built in recent years - including the natural gas-fueled power plant on the UW-Madison campus that provides steam and chilled water to heat and cool campus buildings, in addition to generating up to 150 megawatts of electricity - the Blount Street plant has been relegated to secondary status.

Metro Commute Cards available for all

Monday, January 18, 2010

RENEW Wisconsin offers Metro Commute Cards to its employees.

Metro now offers small employers the same program that the City of Madison, University and other large employers already use.

Whether your organization has one, ten or 1,000 employees, the Metro Commute Card can make a difference. The Metro Commute Card is an annual unlimited ride pass that is now available to ALL businesses. The Commute Card provides organizations with a way to offer an attractive employee/member benefit to lessen the demand for on-site parking and to help sustain the environment.

To learn more about the benefits of the Commute Card program and how it can work for your organization, contact Peg Anthony with Metro Transit at 608-266-6545 or visit www.mymetrobus.com for more information.

Important points of the new program:

In 2010, each ride costs $1.15 (no transfers issued – a transfer requires an additional swipe of the card and an additional $1.15)

Employer has complete flexibility as to how employees are billed back, if at all.

Portage property management firm reducing energy costs with solar electric

Friday, January 15, 2010

From a news release issued by Focus on Energy:

MADISON, WI – Focus on Energy, Wisconsin’s statewide resource for energy efficiency and renewable energy, and Alliant Energy are pleased to announce that LCH Properties LLC, a Portage-based property management firm, has received a financial incentive in the amount of $28,289 from Focus on Energy for a recently-completed renewable energy project.

The dollars will go toward an 11.52-kilowatt solar electric project that was installed on the property of Christine and Gerald Hart, owners of LCH Properties LLC. The solar electric project consists of four, 2.88-kilowatt dual-axis tracking systems that are estimated to produce about 19,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually.

State Senate sets hearing dates for Clean Energy Jobs Act

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A news release from the Wisconsin State Senate:

Madison – Sen. Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee) and Sen. Mark Miller (D-Monona), co-chairs of the Senate Select Committee on Clean Energy announced a public hearing schedule on SB 450, the Clean Energy Jobs Act.

“The major challenges of an economic downturn and global climate change present us with a major
opportunity,” said Sen. Miller.

“The series of public hearings we’ve set, each with a specific set of topics, will enable us to hear how the Clean Energy Jobs Act will affect Wisconsin residents, business, our economy and our environment,” said Sen. Plale. “We look forward to a productive discussion on this important piece of legislation with the public and committee members.”

Informational Briefing
Wednesday, January 20th
10:45am, 412 East, State Capitol

Public Hearing
Wednesday, January 27th
10:00am, 412 East, State Capitol
Topics: Public Service Commission; Industrial Energy Incentives

Public Hearing
Wednesday, February 10th
10:00am, 412 East, State Capitol
Topics: Vehicles; Fuels; Planning; Transportation Infrastructure; Energy Efficient Buildings and Equipment; Bioenergy

Public Hearing
Thursday, February 11th, 10:00am
411 South, State Capitol
Topics: Goals; Program Coordination and Evaluation; Public Education; State and Local Government; Cap and Trade Report

Please visit the Legislative Council website for materials related to SB 450:

North Mendota Parkway: Urbanization and water quality issues

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Though the workshop title seems to focus on water quality, a discussion might better consider the implications of peak oil for the parkway. From an announcement made by the Nelson Institute:

Please join us for the first forum seminar of the semester. This spring the topic is "Exploring the Challenges of the Yahara Lakes." A proposed highway development north of Lake Mendota -- a "north beltline" -- might affect future development patterns, farming and water quality. We'll look at the proposed North Mendota Parkway and explore implications for the Lake Mendota watershed.

BRIAN STANDING, Senior Planner, Dane County Planning and Development

Panel Discussion:
EILEEN BRUSKEWITZ, Dane County Board of Supervisors
DON HOFFMAN, Board Chair, Town of Springfield
EILEEN KELLY, Planning Director, City of Middleton
KENNETH POTTER, Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering and Chair, Water Resources Management Program

5:30 - 7:00 PM
Bus Routes 82, 1 and 9. Free parking in Lot 17.

Wisconsin’s business community is a house divided

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

From a post by Steve Jagler on Milwaukee Biz Blog:

The controversy over Gov. Jim Doyle’s proposed Clean Energy Jobs Act illustrates a deep philosophical divide that is emerging within Wisconsin’s business community.

In some ways, the emerging chasm pits the politics of tomorrow against the politics of yesterday.

On one side of the divide – in favor of the green jobs plan - stand the coalition for Clean, Responsible Energy for Wisconsin’s Economy (CREWE) and the Wisconsin Business Council.

The CREWE includes venerable companies such as CleanPower, Alliant Energy, EcoEnergy, Johnson Controls Inc., Xcel Energy, C5•6 Technologies, Axley Brynelson, Madison Gas and Electric, Orion Energy Systems, Forest County Potawatomi Community, Wisconsin Energy Corp., Poblocki Sign Company, Emerging Energies of Wisconsin, MillerCoors, American Transmission Co., WPPI Energy, DTE Energy Services and Kranz, Inc. . . .

The plan also has the support of the Wisconsin Business Council, which includes leaders from several of the state’s key businesses, including American Transmission Co., Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, AT&T Wisconsin, Commerce State Bank, Dean Health System, Midwest Natural Gas, MillerCoors, Mortenson Construction, Orion Energy Systems and Park Bank (in Madison). . . .

On the other side of the divide stands the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), which is joined by 22 other business organizations, including the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC), in opposition to Doyle’s proposal.

The WMC cited a study by the conservative Wisconsin Policy Research Institute that contends the proposed green legislation would kill 43,093 private-sector jobs in Wisconsin. . . .

Adding even more intrigue to this philosophical divide among Wisconsin’s business community is the fact that many members of the CREWE and the Wisconsin Business Council in favor of the green jobs plan also are dues-paying members of the WMC, the MMAC and the other organizations that are against the plan.

“It’s really created massive fault lines within the business community between the deniers (of global warming) and those that think something must be done,” said Thad Nation of the CREWE. “It’s probably going to get messier before it gets better.”

Wind Project Approval Will Recharge State’s Economy

Monday, January 11, 2010

January 11, 2010

Michael Vickerman
RENEW Wisconsin

RENEW Wisconsin hailed today the Public Service Commission’s approval of what will become the state’s largest wind farm to be built in Columbia County.

Known as Glacier Hills, the proposed 90-turbine project will produce approximately 400 million kilowatt hours of clean renewable electricity annually, while directing $648,000 a year in local aid payments to Columbia County and the townships of Randolph and Scott.

“This project is certain to deliver a shot in the arm to wind-energy equipment suppliers, skilled laborers, and construction contractors throughout the state, not to mention area landowners and local governments,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide membership organization that advocates for renewable energy.

If We Energies’ experience with its previous wind project is any guide, this project will account for more than 400,000 labor hours during construction, according to Vickerman.

The state’s 10% renewable energy standard is the main policy driver behind this project, he said.

Vickerman said: “To be certain that Glacier Hills will not be the last large wind project constructed in Wisconsin, the Legislature must raise the current renewable-energy standard on utilities. The provisions in the recently introduced Clean Energy Jobs Act, which we strongly support, would lift that requirement to 25% by 2025.”

“The state can lock in additional jobs and revenue streams to localities by passing the Clean Energy Jobs Act this winter,” Vickerman said.


Doyle launches Clean Energy Jobs initiative

Friday, January 08, 2010

From a news release issued by Governor Jim Doyle:

MADISON – Governor Jim Doyle today was joined by business leaders, labor, legislators and environmental organizations as he launched the Clean Energy Jobs Act, a landmark legislative package to accelerate the state’s green economy and create jobs. New industry-recognized research shows the package will directly create at least 15,000 green jobs in Wisconsin by 2025.

“Addressing climate change is not just an environmental issue, it’s about creating green jobs,” Governor Doyle said.

“The Clean Energy Jobs Act offers new standards to help accelerate Wisconsin’s green economy. I am calling on the Legislature to update renewable portfolio standards to generate 25 percent of our fuel from renewable sources by 2025 and set a realistic goal of a 2 percent annual reduction in energy consumption by 2015.”

The Clean Energy Jobs Act, State Senate Bill 450 and State Assembly Bill 649, implements the recommendations of Governor Doyle’s Global Warming Task Force to address climate change and grow the state’s green economy through several key measures:
• Enhanced renewable portfolio standards – A new 20 percent standard would be set for 2020 and a 25 percent standard would be set for 2025. The current 10 percent standard would be accelerated from 2015 to 2013. By advancing our current renewable portfolio standards, and setting new standards, we will ensure more of our energy dollars stay in the state, creating thousands of jobs for Wisconsin families in fields like construction, manufacturing, and agriculture.
• Enhanced energy efficiency and conservation efforts – Graduated statewide electricity savings goals would be set, leading up to a 2 percent reduction by 2015 and annual reductions thereafter. The cheapest way to lower carbon emissions is through energy conservation. By setting achievable conservation goals, this bill will help reduce energy costs in businesses and homes across the state.

A comprehensive economic assessment of the Clean Energy Jobs Act found that the package would directly create at least 15,000 green jobs in Wisconsin by 2025. More than 1,800 jobs would be created in the first year alone. The assessment also found that between 800 and 1,800 construction jobs would be created each year from 2011-2025, and more than 2,000 manufacturing jobs would be created once the laws are fully implemented.

Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin’s executive director said:

Wisconsin's existing 10% Renewable Energy Standard has driven significant investment in rural, forestry and agriculture markets by encouraging the construction of large wind, biogas, biomass and solar projects. Increasing the Renewable Energy Standard to 25% in 2025 would continue to generate more of the lucrative payments to landowners and biofuel / biomass providers as well as create more jobs constructing and maintaining the additional projects are built to meet the new standards.

The bills also include three of the proposals backed by the Homegrown Renewable Energy Campaign:

• Renewable Energy Buyback Rates, also called an Advanced Renewable Tariffs, would set utility payments for small renewable energy producers who want to "feed energy" into the electric grid, enabling farmers and rural businesses to help Wisconsin become more energy independent with biopower, wind and solar.
• The Biomass Crop Reserve Program would award contracts to farmers to plant native perennial plants, which the farmer can then sell for bioenergy production, helping to solve the chicken-and-egg problem of jumpstarting the homegrown fuels market.
• A Low-Carbon Fuel Standard would be a market-based approach to promoting the cleanest, low-carbon fuels for Wisconsin, and would put Wisconsin in a position to capture the rapidly-developing clean energy market by using Wisconsin's abundant natural resources like switchgrass.

Statements of support for the legislation came from Customers First!, WPPI Energy, CREWE, Clean Wisconsin, ACRE, MEUW, Sierra Club, and others.

Group says to ignore flawed energy analysis

Thursday, January 07, 2010

From the introduction to a report issued by Wisconsin Environment:

Madison – As the state of Wisconsin begins to consider the Clean Energy Jobs Act, legislation aimed at reducing the state’s dependence on fossil fuels and creating new jobs in the clean energy economy, Wisconsin Environment Research & Policy Center released a new report today debunking recent claims made by special interest groups attacking the initiative.

In the last month, opponents of the initiative have relied on a November 2009 paper by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute [WPRI], “The Economics of Climate Change Proposals in Wisconsin,” to suggest that transitioning the state to a clean energy economy would result in massive economic disruption. Wisconsin Environment RPC has provided a new, detailed analysis of the flawed methodology used in the WPRI report.

“Wisconsin decision-makers need well-thought-out analyses of economic and environmental challenges –- including from those who, like WPRI, bring a libertarian perspective to the debate -– if the state is going to address those challenges in the most effective way,” said Dan Kohler, Director of Wisconsin Environment. “Unfortunately, WPRI’s analysis does not meet even the most basic standard of accuracy, and, as such, makes no useful contribution whatsoever to the ongoing policy debate.”

Wisconsin Environment RPC, in its new report “Flawed from the Start: How the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute Gets the Economics of Energy Policy Wrong”, found that the WPRI report fails to acknowledge the many obvious economic and other benefits that would result from a broad effort to repower Wisconsin with clean energy. Among the long list of benefits (apparently) not considered in the analysis are the following:

• Avoided costs of electricity generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure resulting from reduced energy demand or the incorporation of on-site renewable generation.

• Increased income for Wisconsin farmers resulting from increased use of biofuels and the potential to lease lands for wind turbines and other forms of renewable energy development.

• Health benefits (including reductions in absenteeism, early mortality and possibly health care costs) from avoided fossil fuel-related pollution, including reductions in pollutants that form smog and soot, and mercury deposition in waterways.

• Avoided economic impacts of global warming in Wisconsin, including predicted changes that threaten to reduce the productivity of agriculture, increase the possibility of dangerous floods, shift the composition of Wisconsin forests, affect the winter recreation industry, and more.

• Reductions in the risk to individuals, businesses and government posed by sudden shifts in fossil fuel prices. Energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy both have hedging value as insurance against sudden spikes in fossil fuel costs.

Previously, the coalition for Clean, Responsible Energy for Wisconsin’s Economy (CREWE) and RENEW Wisconsin issued similar critiques of the WPRI report.

Board appears open to urban ag charter school

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

From an article by Susan Troller in The Capital Times:

It's no secret that the Madison school district has generally taken a cautious -- some might say dim -- view of charter school proposals. But a well-organized pitch for Badger Rock, a charter middle school that would focus on environmental sustainability, with an innovative program for urban agriculture, alternative energy and project based learning, seemed to resonate well with the Madison School Board during a preliminary proposal on Jan. 4. The Board will vote on Jan. 11 whether to give the Badger Rock planning group the go ahead to develop a Charter School Planning Grant through the Department of Public Instruction.

A constellation of high-profile partners -- including "genius" grant winner Will Allen of Growing Power in Milwaukee, the Madison-based Center for Resilient Cities and Community GroundWorks -- are already in place for the world-class urban agriculture and green design campus, with or without a charter middle school component. There is also considerable interest from other environmental groups and the University of Wisconsin in the proposal, which could become a flagship for urban agriculture in the United States. The group raised well over the $500,000 purchase price for the site during a brief fundraising effort last fall, former Madison Mayor Joe Sensenbrenner, board president for the Center for Resilient Cities, said. Sensenbrenner said he believed there was signficant interest in the project from a variety of national, regional and local supporters.

Public transportation investments produce more jobs, more quickly

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

From a news release issued by WISPIRG:

Madison, WI (December 17)- Today, the Joint Committee on Finance will hold an informational hearing on the oversight of American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funds and the jobs it has created and saved in Wisconsin. The Committee should note that the latest stimulus spending data shows that investments in public transportation projects produce more jobs, more quickly, than investments in highway construction projects. In addition to producing the most jobs for the money, public transportation projects build the transportation systems we need for the future while reducing oil consumption, global warming pollution, and traffic congestion.

“It is clear that prioritizing investments in public transportation projects over investments in highway construction projects would benefit Wisconsin in the short run by creating more jobs, more quickly, and in the long run by building a 21st century transportation system for the state.” said WISPIRG Advocate Johanna Lathrop.

The latest data on stimulus spending shows that investments in public transportation projects create more jobs than investments in highway construction projects. In the ten months since ARRA was signed, investing in public transportation has produced twice as many jobs as investing in roads. According to data released today by WISPIRG, Center for Neighborhood Technology, and Smart Growth America, every billion dollars spent on public transportation projects produced 16,400 job-months. Every billion dollars spent on projects funded under highway infrastructure programs produced 8,000 job-months.

Minnesota gets on board for rail plan

Monday, January 04, 2010

From an article by Bob Von Sternberg in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune:
The much-touted high-speed rail line between the Twin Cities and Chicago reached an important milestone Thursday with the release of Minnesota's final statewide rail plan.

The plan, released by state transportation officials, doesn't resolve the knottiest political hurdle about the rail line: Its route through southeastern Minnesota.

It does, however, put the state on record supporting a project that could cost several billion dollars.

According to the plan, freight and passenger rail 20-year capital costs could range from $6.2 billion, with nearly two-thirds of that provided by federal, state and local government. The Twin Cities-Chicago line is expected to top $1 billion alone.

The plan was ordered last year by the state Legislature, well before a scramble erupted in many states to push their own high-speed rail plans. That was triggered by the infusion of $8 billion in federal stimulus money specifically earmarked for such rail lines nationwide.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, previously not a big advocate of high- speed rail, endorsed the Twin Cities-Chicago route last spring.

The plan recommends that both St. Paul and Minneapolis would have stops on the line.

But the transportation department, for now, hasn't endorse a route through southeastern Minnesota that has pitted local officials against each other