Assembly speaker says Clean Energy Jobs Act will return

Friday, April 30, 2010

From a blog post by Patrick Marley in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Madison -- Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan (D-Janesville) said Thursday he expected bills would be taken up in next year's legislative session to curb global warming, create regional transit authorities and reform how elections are run.

The three bills were among those that didn't pass in the legislative session that ended last week.

"I believe it will come back and it may come back in a different version," Sheridan said of the global warming bill.

Sheridan said he thought Democrats had good prospects for maintaining control of the Assembly. They took hold of the house for the first time in 14 years after the November 2008 election.

All Hands on Deck! Community gardening bee Saturday

Thursday, April 29, 2010

From the newsletter of Fitchburg Fields:

Please join us this weekend for a community gardening bee!

Just like the Amish community will raise a barn in a day or two, so too can we create a 4000 sq. ft. garden and raspberry patch in a weekend, if you come out in large numbers. Last year 23 people volunteered: this year, with twice as much land, we need 50 volunteers.

You don't need to know anything: just be able to use a shovel or rake, or write on stakes, or pitch hay, and we'll provide the guidance.

 Sat., May 1, from 9 a.m. to 1p.m.: Creating garden beds
 Sat., May 1, from 1 to 3 p.m.: Creating a raspberry patch
 Sun., May 2, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Planting early crops like potatoes, onions, peas and lettuce.

Please sign up here for as many hours as you like on these workdays. There is no charge. Children are welcome, but you must care for them.

Please bring a shovel or garden rake (well marked) if you have one, and your own water, food, and sun protection.

Whether you are en experienced gardener, a novice who wants to learn, a friend of the hungry, or someone looking to meet friendly, dedicated people, you'll be glad you came!

Extreme green makeover from MG&E

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

It’s the ultimate in recycling – an entire building redesigned for smarter, more efficient energy use. In this story, watch what happens when the US Bank Plaza on the Capital Square gets an Extreme Green Makeover.

Renewable Energy Not Responsible for MGE Rate Increase

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April 27, 2010

Michael Vickerman
RENEW Wisconsin

Renewable Energy Not Responsible for MGE Rate Increase

Higher costs associated with fossil fuel generation are driving Madison Gas & Electric’s costs higher, according to testimony submitted by company witnesses. The utility filed an application last week with the Public Service Commission (PSC) to collect an additional $32.2 million through a 9% increase in electric rates starting January 2011.

The bulk of the rate increase can be attributed to expenses associated with burning coal to generate electricity. A 22% owner of the 1,020-megawatt (MW) Columbia Generating Station near Portage, Madison Gas & Electric (MGE) and the owner plant owners plan to retrofit the 35-year-old facility to reduce airborne emissions. The cost of Columbia’s environmental retrofit is expected to total $640 million, of which MGE’s share is about $140 million.

MGE also owns an 8% share of the state’s newest coal-fired station, the 1,230-MW Elm Road Generating Station located in Oak Creek. A portion of the proposed rate hike would cover lease payments and other expenses at that plant.

MGE’s application does not attribute any portion of its proposed rate hike to renewable energy sources. However, MGE plans to increase the premium associated with its voluntary Green Power Tomorrow program from 1.25 cents per kilowatt-hour to 2 cents. RENEW estimates that the premium hike will collect more than $1 million in 2011 from the approximately 10,000 customers participating in the program.

According to the utility’s web site, 10% of MGE's electric customers purchase some or all of their electricity from renewable resources. Moreover, Green Power Tomorrow has the second highest participation rate of all investor-owned utilities in the country according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Not surprisingly, MGE anticipates subscribership in Green Power Tomorrow to decrease if the PSC approves the higher premium. Currently, the program accounts for about 5% of total electric sales. Program subscribers include the City of Madison, State of Wisconsin, Dane County Regional Airport, Madison West High School, Goodman Community Center and Home Savings Bank.

According to MGE, sinking fossil fuel prices have widened the difference between wholesale power costs and the cost of supplying customers with renewable energy. However, it is worth remembering that the cost of supplying power from MGE’s renewable energy assets, such as its Rosiere installation in Kewaunee County and Top of Iowa project, did not increase last year and will not increase in the foreseeable future.

“Even though the cost of MGE’s windpower supplies is not going up, Green Power Tomorrow customers will take a double hit if the PSC approves this rate increase and request for higher premiums,” said RENEW Wisconsin executive Director Michael Vickerman. “It’s a ‘heads-I-win-tails-you-lose’ proposition that will wind up rewarding customers who drop out of the renewable energy program because coal is cheaper.”

“It would be short-sighted to penalize renewable energy purchasers just because fossil fuel prices are in a temporary slump,” Vickerman said. “But if MGE is allowed to institute this penalty at the same time it imposes the cost of cleaning up an older coal-fired generator on all of its customers, including its Green Power Tomorrow subscribers, it would have a profoundly negative impact on the renewable energy marketplace going forward.”

“This is the wrong time to be throwing up barriers to renewable energy development. We at RENEW will fight proposals that reward fossil fuel use and penalize renewable energy,” Vickerman added.
RENEW Wisconsin ( is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that acts as a catalyst to advance a sustainable energy future through public policy and private sector initiatives.

Promote biking by donating a bike

In celebration of Earth Day, DreamBikes and The Fiore Companies are hosting a bike donation event this Thursday, April 29, from noon-1 p.m. at 222 W. Washington Street.

DreamBikes will have a van set up in front of the building, and accepts used bikes in any condition. Dream Bikes partners with The Boys and Girls Club of Dane County to help teens prepare themselves for the professional world. The teens learn how to clean, repair, and sell used bikes to members of the community.

For information on DreamBikes, visit; for information on this Thursday’s event, contact Maria Sadowski at or call 608-204-0400.

Expert on rail travel: Two train stations best option

Monday, April 26, 2010

From an article by Matthew DeFour in the Wisconsin State Journal:

The state Department of Transportation is planning on one Madison Amtrak station in 2013, but one expert found that having two stations, downtown and at the local airport, is what works best in many other cities.

Author James McCommons, who spent a year riding 26,000 miles across the United States by rail, is speaking Tuesday about his book, "Waiting on a Train," at the Madison Central Library.

Having two stations makes train service more convenient in Milwaukee, which has stops at the airport and downtown, McCommons said. He also saw stations in both locations in European cities, where he recently rode trains for 50 hours over a two-month period.

"In Europe, they have both a downtown stop and an airport stop because they know you need to bring all these modes together," McCommons said. "We need better connectivity between these modes."

One thing he observed in his travels is that rail passengers won't necessarily take well to having to switch to a different mode of transportation, such as a bus, to get to their destination, an argument that favors locating the Madison station Downtown.

In many other places, the airport also is connected by train so that passengers have only a short walk between modes of transportation.

Wisconsin Democrats say no to Clean Energy on Earth Day

Friday, April 23, 2010

A news release issued by Clean Wisconsin:

MADISON -- Hours ago, the democratically controlled state Legislature failed the people of Wisconsin when it adjourned before taking up the Clean Energy Jobs Act.

"It's ironic that on Earth Day, our Democrat-led state Legislature effectively killed a vital piece of clean energy legislation," says Keith Reopelle, senior policy director, Clean Wisconsin. "Senate Democratic leaders Jeff Plale and Russ Decker's refusal to schedule the bill for a vote guaranteed the bill's demise."

The Clean Energy Jobs Act would have created more than 15,000Â jobs for Wisconsinites. Just yesterday, Wave Wind, a wind energy service provider in Sun Prairie, sent an open letter to the state Legislature noting that the delayed passage of the bill forced the company to lay off 12 employees. Had the bill passed, Wave Wind would have created 100 new high-quality jobs.

"The world is transitioning to a clean energy economy, and Wisconsin is getting left behind," says Reopelle. "Wisconsin has now lost the manufacturing and design jobs that would have been created by the bill  to China, California and Illinois."

The bill also would have lowered energy bills for homeowners and businesses with its renewable energy and energy efficiency provisions, allowing Wisconsin to make incremental but critically important steps toward reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and increasing our energy independence.

"It is a travesty that Wisconsin's Legislature missed the opportunity to take action on such an important bill for the health of our state's economy and environment," says Reopelle. "While today's inaction is definitely a setback, thanks to the hard work of our allies in the Legislature and coalition partners, we have laid the foundation for future clean energy legislation and remain hopeful that Wisconsin will soon return to its forward-thinking roots."


Clean Wisconsin, an environmental advocacy organization, protects Wisconsin's clean water and air and advocates for clean energy by being an effective voice in the state legislature and by holding elected officials and polluters accountable.

Babies and cats want Clean Energy Jobs Act passed; 25% renewables by 2025

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The video is one of eight in Wisconsin Environment's Clean Energy Jobs Act Video Contest.

From a news release issued by Wisconsin Environment:

Vote for your favorite in the Clean Energy Jobs Act Video Contest

Madison – As the legislature considers the Clean Energy Jobs Act, citizens from across Wisconsin have created short videos to show why our state should pursue a clean energy future. The video submissions were entered into a contest sponsored by Wisconsin Environment.

“Wisconsin’s citizens know we can achieve a clean energy future,” said Dan Kohler, Wisconsin Environment Director. “Legislators should watch these videos to get a sense of the passion people have for getting off our dependence on fossil fuels and harnessing clean technologies to clean our air.”

The video contest will be decided through online voting happening through April 21st at the Wisconsin Environment website. The winner will be announced on Earth Day, April 22nd.

Vote now for the winner:

MG&E and other utilities in group urging passage of Clean Energy Jobs Act

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

From a news release issued by CREWE, a coalition of the following organizations -- CleanPower, Alliant Energy, EcoEnergy, Johnson Controls, 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, Kranz, Inc. and Greenwood Fuels:

(MADISON, Wis.)—The coalition for Clean, Responsible Energy for Wisconsin’s Economy (CREWE) today urged the State Assembly to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) in order to create thousands of jobs and reduce electricity costs for Wisconsin consumers and businesses.

“The amended Clean Energy Jobs Act provides even more benefits than the original version, so our representatives must make the obvious choice and pass this bill,” Thad Nation, executive director of CREWE, said. “In fact, a recent survey shows that business leaders are eager to undertake energy efficiency efforts as a means of saving money and growing their respective businesses.”

CREWE member Johnson Controls surveyed more than 1,400 executives in North America and found that improving energy efficiency in buildings is their top priority. According to the Public Service Commission, the energy efficiency provisions in the new CEJA are likely to save Wisconsin ratepayers billions of energy dollars over the next several years.

The Assembly will vote on the bill Tuesday.

Among the amendments, a more aggressive energy efficiency policy will keep electricity affordable and target Wisconsin’s manufacturing, large commercial and and institutional sectors, which in turn will produce
many high-quality, well-paying jobs, Nation added.

Let's pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act to celebrate Earth Day!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tomorrow the Assembly will be voting on the Clean Energy Jobs Act.

RENEW Wisconsin and dozens of other organizations have been working hard to pass the job-creating legislation.

Clean Wisconsin set up a Web site where you can easily send an email to your legislators to urge them to vote "yes" for the bill.

Contact them now, before the Assembly votes.

Let's make this happen!

Legislators Fire Blanks at Clean Energy Jobs Act

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A commentary by Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin:

Immediate release
April 15, 2010

More information
Michael Vickerman
RENEW Wisconsin

Statement of Michael Vickerman
Executive Director – RENEW Wisconsin

Legislators Fire Blanks at Clean Energy Jobs Act

In an April 13 statement, Reps. Mike Huebsch (R-West Salem), Phil Montgomery (R-Green Bay), and Scott Gunderson (R-Waterford) contend that the substitute amendment for the Clean Energy Jobs Act, released earlier this week, will drive up electric rates across Wisconsin. As ammunition for their argument, the representatives point to recent requests in Iowa to raise electric rates, which they attribute to the state’s renewable energy policy.

The argument advanced by these three lawmakers is truly absurd, given the facts of the situation. In the first place, Iowa’s Alternative Energy Production (AEP) law, which dates from 1983, requires the state’s two largest electric utilities to add a mere 105 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity between them. By 1997, both utilities had achieved full compliance with that law. That mandate has not been increased or modified since that time.

Fast forward to April 2010. Windpower capacity alone in Iowa now totals 3,670 MW, and the Hawkeye State is now the second largest producer of wind-generated electricity in the nation behind Texas. According to the Iowa Policy Project, windpower accounted for 14% of the state’s electric output in 2009. Additional information on windpower development in Iowa can be accessed here.

The vast majority of Iowa’s windpower capacity was built for reasons other than complying with the state’s renewable energy policy. Iowa utilities invested in windpower because it is the lowest cost generation option available to them. Here’s what MidAmerican Energy Company, Iowa’s largest investor-owned utility, says about its windpower assets.

MidAmerican began building wind turbines in 2004 and has made the investment without raising customers’ electric rates. The price of electricity per kilowatt-hour … for MidAmerican customers is lower today than it was in 1995, and the company has committed to not seek an electric rate increase to become effective until 2014, which is nearly 20 years without a rate increase.

Given MidAmerican’s experience with windpower, it is clear that the allegation from Reps. Huebsch, Montgomery and Gunderson was spun without any apparent connection to reality. The proper place to file a claim this ludicrous is in a manure digester, where it can be broken down into usable energy.

It’s worth pointing out that a significant percentage of Iowa’s wind capacity serves Wisconsin utilities, among them Madison Gas & Electric (MGE), which owns the 30 MW Top of Iowa 3 installation and purchases additional supplies of wind-generated electricity from independently owned facilities there. These facilities were constructed after 2006, the year Wisconsin’s current renewable energy standard was enacted. Yet MGE’s residential ratepayers have seen annual rate increases of only 1.5% in the last four years. Compared with other expenses, such as college tuition, health insurance premiums, and vehicle registration fees, electricity cost increases have barely been noticeable.

Windpower’s rapid growth in the Upper Midwest has also contributed to the reduction of fossil fuel consumption, resulting in lower natural gas prices. That benefit is passed through directly to Wisconsin energy users in the form of lower heating bills. Indeed, over the last 12 months, overall energy costs declined measurably for most Wisconsin households and businesses, thanks to the prolonged slump in natural gas prices.

There is no surer way to control energy bills than to reduce the state’s reliance on imported fossil fuels through increased conservation and substituting renewable resources wherever practical. The choice before the Legislature is clear cut and momentous. Either it can embrace a 15-year commitment to invigorate the state’s economy through sustained investment in clean energy or it can decide to coast along on current energy policies until they lapse several years from now and lose their force and effect.

We at RENEW believe the Clean Energy Jobs Act will propel the clean energy marketplace into an economic powerhouse that will generate jobs and help Wisconsin businesses remain competitive. We strongly support the passage of the Clean Energy Jobs Act bill as amended.


RENEW Wisconsin is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that acts as a catalyst to advance a sustainable energy future through public policy and private sector initiatives. More information on RENEW’s Web site at

Groups urge passage of new version of Clean Energy Jobs Act legislation

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Diverse groups lined up to support passage of the rewritten version of Clean Energy Jobs Act legislation when the new provisions were announced on Tuesday. Group already releasing statements of support include:

+ Clean Wisconsin.
+ Wisconsin Business Council
+ Clean, Responsible Energy for Wisconsin’s Economy (CREWE)
+ Wisconsin Environment
+ WPPI Energy.

According to the bill's co-authors the highlights of the bill make the following changes:

+ Increases the use of renewable resources to meet the state’s future energy needs, requiring 25 percent of Wisconsin’s energy needs are met by renewable sources by 2025, creates new opportunities for Wisconsin.
+ Establishes graduated statewide electricity savings goals that lead up to a 2 percent reduction by 2015 and annual reductions of 2 percent thereafter, this will help reduce energy costs to businesses and homes across the state.
+ Large conservation and efficiency projects that meet workforce standards could count toward a portion of the RPS, which accelerates savings and provides options for utilities to create jobs.
+ Supports the development of small scale renewables such as solar, wind and manure digesters through expanded Focus on Energy grants and loans that will now total $25 million per year each year for a four year period. This will allow Wisconsin Companies to grow their business and create more jobs.
+ Modifies, but not repeal, Wisconsin’s moratorium on nuclear power plants. The language has been tightened to remove the threat of constitutional challenge by tying those changes to the state’s traditional regulatory authority over the need and siting of any plant.
+ Adjusts several transportation provisions, including the elimination of the California vehicle emissions standard; the proposed low carbon fuel standard tied to decisions in other states; and boiler efficiency standards that could cause conflict with EPA regulations.

The co-authors also asked the Public Service Commission to update its cost analysis of the legislation, taking into account the changes made in the substitute amendment.

Peak Oil and The Madison Peak Oil Group

“America is addicted to oil.” -President Bush, State of the Union Address 2006”

"I believe we have peaked out at 85 million barrels of oil a day globally." -T. Boone Pickens, 2008.

"The Peak Oil Debate is essentially over and we have won. What remains is a quibble over timing." –Dr. James Schlesinger, first Secretary of Energy, former Secretary of Defense and Director of the CIA, 2010.

What we need to do is to alarm the governments. [Big] growth in demand is coming from China, the Middle East, India…The question is whether…we can [sufficiently] increase production…Even if demand did not grow for the next 20 years, to compensate for the decline in existing fields,…we would have to find and develop four new Saudi Arabias….

Inadequate investment by oil producers risks an "oil crunch" in the next five years which will jeopardize any hope of world economic recovery.

Fatih Birol, Chief Economist, International Energy Agency (IEA) 2008 and 2010


The "Peak Oil" pattern is an essential key to understanding the history and the future of energy resources. Oil production from finite resources can not increase ever upward or follow a straight line forward. The natural pattern for exploitation of a limited natural resources in a limited geographic area is a bell-shaped curve peaking at approximately the mid-point of resource extraction. This was discovered by M. King Hubbert, a petroleum geologist, observing the pattern in individual oil fields and production regions. In the beginning, discovery and consumption accelerate to a peak (or wider plateau) until half of the resource has been consumed. Past this point, the most easily accessible deposits have been exploited and production must shifts to more difficult and expensive sources. Production eventually dips into permanent decline--at varying rates and with temporary humps along the way.

Those who claim that this pattern is not universal are the widespread "cornucopians"—largely economists—who believe that oil production can be expanded almost without limits as new technology and investment are applied. A related fallacy is that production will continue on an even plateau to exhaustion and that constant future oil supply can be anticipated by dividing total reserves by current consumption.

Hubbert successfully confounded these views when he predicted the peak of oil production in the U.S. in 1970 (see above chart.) Based on similar analysis, a majority of world geologists and energy analysts predict a peak of world oil production somewhere between now and 2035, with steadily declining production thereafter.

Without adaptation, high fuel prices and supply shortages may render a severe shock to the U.S. economy, because we are highly dependent on a high constant flow of oil from world markets at relatively low prices. Relatively small and temporary oil supply short falls and speculative price spikes in 1973, 1979 and 2008 caused very high gas prices and shortages and triggered severe recessions.

When oil demand finally outpaces supply, the U.S. will face a severe and permanent drag on its oil-based economy. Without unlimited cheap oil, our car-based life-style and dispersed communities will be difficult to maintain. We can adapt successfully, but not without effort and change. Preparation now avoids suffering later.

#1 The key issue is the daily FLOW of OIL to the world market—not the ultimate oil in the ground—because operation of the modern economy depends on a continuous flow of liquid fuel. Complex physical, economic and governmental factors can combine to limit flow below potential. Lately, many of these forces are becoming unfavorable.

#2 The MIX OF "OIL" (or liquid fuels) of the future will be more difficult and expensive to extract per unit of energy produced. According to the International Energy Agency, the availability of "Conventional" cheap, free-flowing, reasonably-accessible crude oil peaked in 2007, and will continue to decline in the future. This oil will be largely replaced by "unconventional oil" that must be extracted from deep offshore wells, remote Arctic locations, or heavy oil embedded in sand and rock. The energy produced versus the energy required for its production will be much less favorable than for crude oil.

#3 The pace of OIL DISCOVERY has long ago fallen behind accelerated consumption. The rate of world oil discovery peaked in the 1960s and there have been few new "giant" fields found since then.

#4 The rate of DECLINING PRODUCTION from existing oil fields is very close to current capacity additions. An International Energy Agency (IEA) survey of existing world oil fields found a depletion rate of 4.5% per year (twice previously estimated). If new projects falter, there is a serious risk of oil shock in the next few years.

#5 NEW TECHNOLOGY OFFERS HOPE, but has not significantly changed the amount of oil discovered or the amount of oil that can be extracted from crude oil fields. This is despite such advances as 3-D seismic exploration mapping, directional drilling, hydraulic fracturing, and deep sea technology—and in spite of high market prices and increased investment.

#6 COST WILL LIMIT our ability to produce and use oil: Oil prices above perhaps $100 per barrel may drive our economy into recession. Unfortunately, these higher prices are needed to produce the new difficult oil. Some oil may prove too costly to produce.

#7 THERE MAY BE A "PEAK EXPORT" POINT IN WHICH OIL SUPPLIED TO THE WORLD MARKET MAY DECLINE BEFORE TOTAL PRODUCTION PEAKS. The International Oil Companies now control only 10% of the world's oil reserves, and must work in partnership with the OPEC cartel and National Oil Companies, which may not permit maximum production. 35 exporting nations have ceased exporting oil after their own production peaked.

#8 HUGE NEW CONSUMERS NOW COMPETE for limited world supplies: The oil demand of China, India and emerging nations is growing at over 10% per year. In the event of a price spike, they may be more able to pay inflated prices because of their larger financial reserves.

The peak of world oil production cannot be precisely predicted because of the complex interaction of the many forces above.

• Many informed sources see oil production precariously balanced on a bumpy plateau since 2005—about 86 million barrels/day—subject to periodic "oil crunches" as demand recovery bumps into supply limits.

• Disruptions in the next five or so years may still be followed by production growth, but a growing number of expert fear that world oil supply is nearing permanent decline.

• Major Energy Agencies—the International Energy Agency and U.S. Energy Information Agency—implicitly recognize limits on oil production in 10 to 20 years, but do not want to be responsible for predicting an early or severe crisis.

• Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA), consultants noted for optimism, predict a peak plateau of oil production in 2025 through 2040—hardly very reassuring.

Personally understand the near term risk and long term inevitability of reduced energy supplies. Overcome the psychological and political forces for denial.

Support a dynamic national energy program to encourage reduced gasoline consumption and development of replacement fuel capabilities. Prepare to support a range of measures from mileage standards to higher fuel taxes.

Support a ten year restructuring of our transportation system locally and nationally. Encourage robust local transit systems, high-speed intercity passenger rail, shifting freight from road to rail and water, and overall electrification.

Personally reposition ourselves to use less transportation. Use public transit or buy an electric or hybrid car. Live near work and vital services.

Adopt a transition lifestyle based on local resources of food and mutual assistance. Plant a garden.

The Madison Peak Oil Group (MPOG) was founded under the leadership of RENEW Wisconsin, an organization promoting renewable energy, to broaden the community discussion of the energy future. MPOG members closely follow of the research of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas-USA (ASPO), which leads the discussion of the risks of constrained fossil fuel supplies. Locally, MPOG supports the restructuring of the area transportation system through a strong Region Transit Authority, and improved intercity bus and local transit systems. It is also is participating in development of transitional lifestyles for the post carbon era.

What Can You Do Now?
First, educate yourself from the abundant online resources: the Madison Peak Oil Group , ASPO-USA, The Oil Drum, and Post Carbon Institute.

Then come to a Peak Oil Group meeting at 222 S. Hamilton on the first Thursday monthly. Or invite a presentation to your group.

Contact Us
Hans Noeldner, Coordinator, 608-444-6190

Ed Blume, Website, 608-819-0748

Wisconsin's scaled-back global warming bill unveiled

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

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

A revised state clean energy and global warming bill unveiled Tuesday scales back the scope of the bill but retains a commitment to expand use of renewable energy and open the door to construction of nuclear reactors in Wisconsin.

The revisions, obtained by the Journal Sentinel, were drafted in response to concerns raised by business groups and politicians that the original bill was too unwieldy, too controversial and potentially too costly.

Jettisoned from the package were mandates concerning transportation fuels, including a requirement that Wisconsin require greater use of low-carbon transportation fuels such as biofuels.

To reduce the overall cost of the package, the bill allows energy efficiency gains to count toward a portion of a mandate that 25% of Wisconsin's electricity come from renewable power sources by 2025.

A combined energy efficiency and renewable energy standard is also part of federal legislation that passed in the U.S. House of Representatives last year.

The state bill would allow one-fifth of the mandate to come through energy savings, most likely from major energy saving initiatives by factories and other big energy users.

Another change responds to concerns raised by utilities concerning a mandate that had been in the earlier bill concerning small renewable energy projects around the state. The mandate has been replaced with expanded funding for small renewable energy projects. The new proposal states a preference that much of that money be allocated toward manure digesters on Wisconsin dairy farms.

The latest version also underscores the consequences of the weak economy and declining sentiment for taking action on global warming.

Doyle signed an executive order creating the task force in April 2007 - well before the collapse in the economy. In December 2009, after details were known, many business groups attacked it and said the recommendations would harm the energy-intensive manufacturing sector.

But some other industries and companies, notably Johnson Controls, the state's largest public company, said the bill would create jobs and align the state to take advantage of emerging trends in sustainability.

At the same time, the public appears less concerned about climate change. A national Gallup Poll in March showed that the percentage of respondents who believe the seriousness of global warming is "generally exaggerated" has increased from 35% to 48% in two years.

"As introduced, the Clean Energy Jobs Act would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs, and help keep rising energy bills in check," said Keith Reopelle, senior policy director at the environmental group Clean Wisconsin, said in a statement. "The substitute amendment represents a compromise that will still accomplish all of these goals, but to a lesser degree than the original bill."

Clean Wisconsin is still reviewing the details of the changes.

"As we understand them, the changes in the substitute amendment will result in even more jobs and lower energy bills in the next few years by increasing short-term commitments to energy efficiency," Reopelle said. "However, paring back the renewable energy standard will likely result in less rate relief in the long term, because renewable energy helps hedge against the rising cost of fossil fuels."

Dane County Cow Power is farming for the future

Sunday, April 11, 2010

From a guest column by Scott Schultz, executive director of the Wisconsin Farmers Union:

Manure happens. Farmers know that all too well.

Farmers also know that well-managed manure can be a valuable resource instead of being a waste with the potential of polluting lakes or drinking water.

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk has recognized manure’s resource capabilities, so has championed a novel manure solution. The Dane County Cow Power project, a community digester in the town of Vienna, will take the manure from 2,500 cows and produce electricity. In the process, manure is broken down by bacteria, releasing gases that can be burned in an electric-producing generator. The project will power more than 2,500 homes, and special technology in the digester will remove much of the phosphorus -- the nutrient that stimulates lake algae.

The idea of turning waste into energy has been around for centuries. But removing phosphorus in the process is new -- and a very big clean-water innovation. Only a handful of digesters are doing it. This project can be a model that can be replicated across the Midwest.

The project has three winners -- dairy farmers who need better solutions to manage their manure, utilities that can buy electricity produced from cows rather than coal, and people who want clean water to drink and clean lakes to swim and fish in.

The United States has 140 biogas digesters while the European Union has nearly 10,000. Wisconsin leads the nation with 32 digesters counting Dane County’s Cow Power project. Germany, about twice the size of Wisconsin, is the world leader in biogas production and has 5,300 digesters, mostly from small farms. They employ more than 10,000 people in the biogas industry.

Moving toward a more renewable energy economy will take big ideas. Making renewable energy from manure is one of them. Dane County’s Community Cow Power project is smart farming for the future.

Don't blame Greyhound!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Sent: Thursday, April 08, 2010 3:59 PM

To: Various city officials and alders

Subject: You can't be serous in blaming Greyhound for the "recent chaos"

On behalf of the Madison Peak Oil Group, Inc., we were incredulous to read the following statement, blaming Greyhound for the "recent chaos:"

Throughout the discussions Greyhound was repeatedly told that the recent chaos was not acceptable. They were specifically told that the recent chaos could not happen again. Greyhound stated that they are committed to serving Madison and to finding a location that works for the city and their customers.

The Madison Peak Oil Group was the first and one of the only voices in Madison to raise concerns in February of 2009 about the demolition of the Badger Bus Depot on West Washington Avenue. Our members testified to numerous city committees and the council about the need for the city to plan for a bus stop.

The city's response: Absolute disinterest! Completely blank faces when we asked whether staff and committee members had any questions or comments!

If a city staff person again says, "this chaos is unacceptable," we hope that the person is looking in a mirror.


Ed Blume
Facilitator, Madison Peak Oil Group, Inc.
222 S. Hamilton St.
Madison, WI 53703

From: Schmidt, Chris
Sent: Thursday, April 08, 2010 11:55 AM
Cc: Piraino, Janet; Mikolajewski, Matthew; Harmon, Ray; Dryer, David; Cieslewicz, Dave; Kamp, Charles; Cooley, Timothy
Subject: City meeting with Greyhound recap

Dear Alders,

At 4pm Wednesday, April 7 there was a meeting called by Ray Harmon that brought together several city staff members (from Traffic Engineering, Metro, and Planning and Economic Development), three representatives from Greyhound, Alders Bidar-Sielaff, Maniaci, and Schmidt, and former Alder Robbie Webber (acting in her position as chair of the LRTPC). The purpose of the meeting was to discuss short, mid, and long range plans for a Greyhound location. The Greyhound representatives included their Regional Vice President out of Dallas, their District Manager from Chicago, and their Area Manager from Minneapolis.

Greyhound updated everyone on their plan to have the station, with ticketing, at the TA truckstop at I-90 and US 51. During the discussion they were advised that Kelley Williamson Mobil on West Washington was available as a site for an intercity bus stop. It was decided that Greyhound would contact KW to explore the feasibility of using that location. Our ordinance does allow that, however there could be space issues with putting two buses at the curb at the same time, so Greyhound will contact Badger Bus to determine if there will be a problem with conflicting schedules. KW could work as just a loading site, especially if they retain a ticketing site at the TA trusckstop. In light of that Greyhound will also look for a site that can act as a mid-term solution, something they can use for a few years without moving. City staff offered to help Greyhound locate a site if they desire. Greyhound currently has a local broker working to find them a site. The long-term solution that was discussed was a multi-modal station. Greyhound is very interested in being involved in those discussions at an early stage. They've worked with other cities on such stations.

Throughout the discussions Greyhound was repeatedly told that the recent chaos was not acceptable. They were specifically told that the recent chaos could not happen again. Greyhound stated that they are committed to serving Madison and to finding a location that works for the city and their customers.

To summarize:
1) In the short term, Greyhound will continue to open their station at the TA truckstop. They will contact Kelley Williamson to see if they can do pickup and possibly sell tickets there. We also stressed the importance of contacting Alder Veveer since KW is in his district.
2) They will look for a mid-term solution to serve in the interim until we have a multi-modal station in place. City staff is ready to help as needed.
3) They support the concept of a multimodal station and want to be engaged in related discussions.

Alder Bidar-Sielaff contacted Alder Verveer on Wednesday night to update him on the discussion that had occured.


Alders Schmidt, Manaci and Bidar-Sielaff

More fed funds may be available for high-speed rail plans

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

From an article in The Milwaukee Business Journal:

Although opponents are still trying to stop a high-speed rail project between Milwaukee and Madison in its tracks, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced this week that it is making even more federal dollars available for states to plan additional rail lines.

The FRA said it will begin accepting applications this week for $115 million in planning and construction project funds for more high-speed intercity passenger rail.
Wisconsin could apply for some of that additional federal money to help with the planning to extend the line to the Twin Cities.

The agency will make available $50 million in planning project funds appropriated under the U.S. Department of Transportation fiscal 2010 budget and approximately $65 million in residual construction project funds appropriated under its 2009 budget.
“We are excited to move forward the President's vision on high-speed rail and are working quickly to get funding in the hands of states,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.

“We look forward to working with states to lay the groundwork for their high-speed rail programs and also help other states get specific projects off the ground so that jobs can be created in the near-term,” said FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo. “These funds supplement the President’s initial down payment on high-speed rail and represent a commitment to developing a world-class transportation network.”
Applications and proposals for the funds will be due back to FRA by May 19, with selection announcements to be made over the summer.

RTA talk with Steve Hiniker

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Date: Tuesday April 13, 2010
Time: 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Location: 455 N Park (Humanities Bldg.) Rm. 2619
Notes: Co-sponsored by UW Student Bus Advocates and Madison Area Bus Advocates

Rate dispute might doom local wind power project

Monday, April 05, 2010

From an article by Karen Rivedale in the Wisconsin State Jounral:

A local company's plan to build a small wind farm just outside Madison and create more than 100 jobs is hanging by a thread amid a standoff with Madison Gas and Electric Co. over the price of electricity to be generated at the site.

The company, Wave Wind LLC of Sun Prairie, says it needs 8 cents per kilowatt-hour to make the project viable. MGE is only willing to pay 2.9 cents.

"That rate won't even allow us to put a shovel in the ground," said Tim Laughlin, president of Wave Wind at 4589 Highway TT. "The utilities have to recognize that (green power) will be part of the culture. It will be part of what we're dealing with on all levels, and they'll have to figure out a way to make it work."

Wind-farm supporters say the project - which the company likely will move to another state if a deal can't be worked out - would produce clean energy for 2,400 homes annually, for just a few pennies more on a $50 monthly bill.

But MGE says it can get renewable energy even more cheaply now and potentially well beyond 2020.

Renewable energy expert Michael Vickerman agreed that locally produced wind energy wouldn't be the cheapest option, given competition from states like Iowa and Minnesota, which have stronger, steadier wind patterns.

But he said a local wind farm could still generate significant energy and would cost only "marginally more" than other sources, with benefits beyond dollars and cents.

"MGE has a customer base that is deeply committed to sustainable energy," said Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a Madison nonprofit that promotes clean energy. "It sends a powerful signal to component manufacturers, to the construction and building trades, to local governments and to economic development officials."

MGE officials did not return calls for comment.