Top 10 things a Wisconsin voter should know for Election Day

Friday, October 29, 2010

From a news release issued by the Government Accountability Board:

MADISON, WI – The Government Accountability Board today released its list of the top 10 things a Wisconsin voter should know for Election Day, Tuesday, November 2.

The number one thing voters should know is that they can register at the polling place on Election Day.

“Election Day registration ensures that everyone who is qualified to vote will get to vote,” said Kevin Kennedy, director and general counsel of the G.A.B. “Unlike many other states, Wisconsin has registration at the polls, so very few voters will likely be forced to vote on a provisional ballot.”

To register on Election Day, Wisconsin voters must provide proof of residence, which includes a current utility bill, lease, university ID card or other official document showing the voter’s name and current address. Voters who have a valid Wisconsin driver’s license or state ID card will be required to use their license number to complete the registration form. Otherwise, they may use the last four digits of their Social Security number.

Number two on the list is that voters can check their registration status with their municipal clerk, or on the state’s Voter Public Access website:

Feds allocate more dollars for Chicago-to-Twin Cites rail

Thursday, October 28, 2010

From an article in BizTimes:

The federal government is allocating another $2.4 billion for high-speed rail projects across the country, on top of the $8 billion for high speed rail that was previously announced as part of the federal stimulus act, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today.

The additional high-speed rail funds will include $44 million for the Chicago-to-Twin Cities corridor, on top of the $822 million that was allocated for the corridor earlier this year, including $810 million for the controversial Milwaukee to Madison line.

The additional $44 million for the Chicago-to-Twin Cities corridor includes $3.7 million to replace two rail bridges between Chicago and Milwaukee that will allow for higher-speed trains to travel between the two cities. The Department of Transportation announcement did not say where the bridges are located, but a recent Chicago Tribune report said the bridges are in Wadsworth, Ill.

UW-Madison earns an "A" for sustainability efforts

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

From a news release issued by the UW-Madison:

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has received the highest possible grade, an A, in a national college sustainability ranking released today.

The grade makes UW-Madison one of just seven schools, out of 322 campuses surveyed across the United States and Canada, to receive top marks on the College Sustainability Report Card 2011, an independent ranking prepared by the Sustainable Endowments Institute.

UW-Madison was also named an Overall College Sustainability Leader for its high score.

The seven “A”s awarded this year are the first granted by the program since it began its rankings in 2006. In addition to UW-Madison, the other top-ranking schools are Brown University, Dickinson College, the University of Minnesota, Oberlin College, Pomona College, and Yale University.

“We have been working hard to make our campus more sustainable and we are very pleased with this reflection of our efforts,” says Faramarz Vakili, the UW-Madison director of sustainability operations. “But we are not going to rest until we know we are doing everything we can as a university to be a great steward of the environment and to make sustainability a state of mind and philosophy of operation in all aspects of the University’s research, education, operations, and community lifestyle.”

Schools were graded on 52 sustainability indicators across nine equally weighted categories: administration, climate change and energy, food and recycling, green building, transportation, student involvement, endowment transparency, investment priorities, and shareholder engagement. Teaching, research, and other academic activities were not included in this analysis.

UW-Madison earned “A”s in eight of the nine categories and a “B” in food and recycling. The report card specifically highlights the new campus-wide Sustainability Initiative, a 24 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions since 2006, sustainability efforts of numerous campus units, and the accomplishments of the We Conserve initiative.

Governor Doyle breaks ground on coal plant conversion to biomass

Monday, October 25, 2010

From a news release issued by Governor Doyle:

MADISON – Governor Jim Doyle today broke ground on the Charter Street Biomass Heating Plant project. The $251 million project is one of the largest biomass projects in the nation and will create construction and clean energy jobs. The project follows Governor Doyle’s 2008 announcement that Wisconsin would stop burning coal at state-owned heating plants on Madison’s Isthmus.

“In 2008, I announced plans to stop burning coal at state-owned heating plants on Madison’s Isthmus,” Governor Doyle said. “Today, we are breaking ground on the Charter Street biomass plant and taking a major step forward to make this goal a reality. The Charter Street plant will turn a waste stream into clean energy, it will keep energy dollars in our communities, and it will help clean our air and water. This project will create great jobs in Wisconsin and will develop a new biomass market from our great fields and farms.”

The Governor’s 2009-2011 capital budget included $251 million for the Charter Street project and $25 million to convert the Capitol Heat and Power Plant to natural gas. The Charter Street plant will support local biomass providers and eliminate over 108,000 tons of coal burned every year. In March, the state stopped burning coal at the Capitol Heat and Power Plant – eliminating 4,500 tons of coal burned by the state each year. When the Charter Street project is completed in 2013, the Doyle Administration will have reduced State of Wisconsin coal use by 65 percent.

The Charter Street project is a joint effort between AMEC and Boldt Construction. The plant’s coal boilers will first be replaced by natural gas and biomass fuel. The plant will run completely on biomass by late 2013, with the capacity to burn wood chips, corn stalks and switch grass pellets and power 300 local buildings.

Madison gets $950,000 grant for rail station planning

Friday, October 22, 2010

From a news release issued by the City of Madison:

City officials announced today that the City of Madison has received $950,000 TIGER II planning grant from the U.S. Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. The grant will fund the planning process for the city's economic development efforts surrounding the high speed rail station.

"The high speed rail station presents tremendous economic development potential for Madison," Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said. "This grant will accelerate our planning efforts and make sure we realize that potential to grow our tax base, create jobs and build effective, intermodal transportation downtown."

"The rail terminal that these funds will go toward will create jobs and stimulate economic growth and educational opportunities in the Madison metropolitan area. I'm proud to support this worthy federal/local partnership to benefit our community," Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin said.

The city's grant application focused on planning efforts to fully leverage the introduction of intercity rail service, link it to other transportation systems, and maximize its local and regional economic impact. The city will work with developers to include several elements in the development surrounding the rail station, including a new hotel to bolster the Monona Terrace convention center, a new underground parking facility, a bike station, intermodal connections to Metro and intercity busses and a public market.

"We have a tremendous opportunity for redevelopment and this will help us get it right," Susan Schmitz, President of Downtown Madison Inc. said.

Would we have said no to the interstate?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

From a column by Dave Zweifel in The Capital Times:

Imagine that back in 1953, Wisconsin decided not to take part in President Eisenhower’s interstate highway system because it wasn’t any costlier for Wisconsin drivers to travel from Madison to Milwaukee on old Highway 30 than it would be to spend tens of millions of dollars to build I-94 between Wisconsin’s two largest cities.

So what if the federal government was going to pick up 90 percent of the cost of construction, the anti-interstate people would argue. Think of all the costs we’d have to bear to maintain the four-lane superhighway, not to mention having to upgrade bridges and intersections somewhere down the line. Some soothsayer might even predict that, hey, in 60 years or so we’d probably have to replace the big downtown intersection in Milwaukee at a cost of $900 million or the one near the zoo to the tune of a billion dollars.

Let some other clueless state have the money, they’d say. We don’t have enough money now for state and county roads as it is and the interstate costs would eat into what scarce resources we have.

Ridiculous? No, not really, because that’s exactly what politicians like Scott Walker and the chorus of “let’s stop the train” zealots are saying about high-speed rail, which in the short run would link Madison and Milwaukee, and in the long run would link to Minneapolis, Chicago and the nation beyond.

Eurostar offers a glimpse at why Wisconsin needs intercity rail

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

From a commentary by Michael Flaherty on

PARIS – The train starts to pick up speed, almost imperceptibly, and within 20 minutes the Eurostar high-speed train has left Paris behind, quietly slicing through the French countryside at 185 miles per hour on its way to London.

Just over two hours later, the five-football-field-long train – one of 20 trains that day – deposits 500 passengers at the St. Pancras International station in central London.

The high-speed Eurostar announced last year it has now transported more than 100 million passengers. That’s 100 million business people, tourists, educators, students, 100 million generators of economic activity among nations that fought each other almost constantly for centuries.

When a Wisconsinite rides the Eurostar, it’s difficult not to reflect on Europe’s success and the debate we’re having over rail in Wisconsin. Or, more succinctly, the debate we’re not having – but ought to.

Wisconsin’s proposed rail system will be nothing like the Eurostar, of course. It will be relatively slow. The trains will be emptier and less efficient, at least at first. They won’t bring nations together or link destinations as world-famous as Paris and London.

But a trip on the Eurostar is a slap on the forehead. It’s a vivid example of what an investment in high-speed rail can do to accelerate growth and economic activity. It’s a window into the future for those willing to invest in a regional economy such as the “I-Q Corridor,” the intellectually rich route connecting Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and the Twin Cities.

For Wisconsin “conservatives” opposed to rail (note the quotes), the Eurostar is a stark reminder that this debate isn’t about a train or the growth of government. It’s about economic growth, economic efficiency and the development of urban and rural areas alike.

International peak oil expert Nicole Foss in Madison Wednesday & Thursday

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

As some of you already know, Nicole Foss – the woman who did the “Century of Challenges” presentation in Madison last month – will be back in the Madison Tuesday afternoon thru Friday morning this week. So we have another great opportunity to meet with her! This came up at the last moment; I’ve taken on organizing her schedule; we want to make it work for as many of you as possible.

We are hosting a pot-luck gathering with Nicole in the Village of Oregon on Thursday evening – and y’all are most welcome! Bring food if you can; skip it if you don’t have time – the important thing is conversation, not mastication.
Time: 6:30 PM, Thursday October 21
Place: Village Hall Community Room, 117 Spring Street, Oregon, WI

I would appreciate any ideas and HELP you could offer. Especially with media contacts: WPR (please, let’s open that door!), WORT, Isthmus, Cap Times, State Journal, etc. Just give them a call – the more people they hear from, the better. If you get a “yes”, let me know so we can schedule a time: 608-444-6190

Here is the schedule right now. If you want to organize a small gathering for any of the “open” times, let me know: 608-444-6190
Tue afternoon – arrive, maybe time for coffee or something
Tuesday @ 7:00 PM – “Fuels Paradise” presentation
Wednesday AM – open
Wednesday @ noon thru ~2:00 – Madison Peak Oil Group special meeting (222 South Hamilton Street)
Wednesday afternoon – open
Wednesday evening – small gathering – tentative
Thursday AM – open
Thursday @ ~1:00 PM – video shoot
Thursday afternoon ~3:00 thru ~6:00 PM – open
Thursday @ 6:30 – pot-luck in V Oregon
Fri AM – open

Will keep you posted.

Hans Noeldner, Facilitator
Madison Peak Oil Group

Say ‘yes’ to sales tax for RTA

Monday, October 18, 2010

From an editorial in The Capital Times:

Forty-two Dane County municipalities will vote Nov. 2 on a referendum that asks whether they would support a half-cent sales tax to pay for commuter rail.

The question is misleading, which explains why it isn’t on the ballot in municipalities with 60 percent of the county’s population, but we nevertheless urge people to vote “yes” to support the start of public rail transportation for the county.

It’s unfortunate that this referendum represents a cynical attempt by unyielding opponents of public rail transportation who believe forcing it onto the ballot this November will result in a resounding “no” vote. The rail opponents want to send a strong message to officials who have been examining transportation alternatives for an ever-growing and increasingly congested Dane County.

The newly formed Regional Transit Authority is in the process of putting together a proposal that will not only include an embryonic commuter rail route between Middleton and Sun Prairie, but expand modern bus services to folks who live within the RTA boundaries and who have to travel to other communities for everything from jobs to schools.

The half-cent sales tax would fund all of those alternatives, not just commuter rail. The overall objective is to address the county’s transportation needs by offering economical public transportation, especially in the face of increasing gasoline prices and the adverse impact of emissions on the environment.

Moving in the Right Direction: Bringing High Speed Rail

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wisconsin's green economy offers 15,100 jobs

Monday, October 11, 2010

From a report published by the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council, The Green Tier Porgram at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and the Wisconsin School of Business:

By 2007, 68,203 businesses in the United States had generated more than 770,000 jobs in the green economy (Pew Charitable Trust, 2009). Every state has a piece of America’s green economy. The leading states include Oregon, Maine,California, Colorado, Massachusetts and Minnesota. Wisconsin is not currently among the leading states:

SOURCE: PEW Charitable Trusts, 2009, based on the National Establishment Time Series 2007 Database; analysis by Pew Center on the Statesand Collaborative Economics

Green job growth in Wisconsin through the 2001 recession (where WI lost 100,000 manufacturing jobs that were never recovered) was anemic. Wisconsin has lost an additional 70,000 manufacturing jobs (through July, 2010) because of the recession of 2008 (Center on Wisconsin Strategy, 2010).

While Wisconsin ranks either first or second in the nation in manufacturing jobs per capita, there is still a great deal of idle capacity in Wisconsin.

In 2007, jobs associated with the green economy accounted for 0.49 percent of all jobs nationally. WI was slightly below the national average with 3,150,000 total jobs and 0.48 percent of them being green.

A closer look at the data reveals that Wisconsin ranks as a top ten state in energy efficiency jobs. Energy efficiency is one of the five types of green jobs identified in the Pew report. Wisconisn ranked sixth in energy efficiency with 2,801 jobs. Midwestern states generally did well in all sectors, with Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois appearing among the top 10 states in multiple sectors.

In 2007, jobs associated with the green economy accounted for 0.49 percent of all jobs nationally. WI was slightly below the national average with 3,150,000 total jobs and 0.48 percent of them being green.

A closer look at the data reveals that Wisconsin ranks as a 2,801 jobs. Midwestern states generally did well in all sectors, with Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois appearing amongthe top 10 states in multiple sectors.

The report concludes:

The United States, and Wisconsin, will be focused on job creation over the next five to ten years. Creating green jobs has to be a part of the future if we hope to maintain our roleas a manufacturing state. Green jobs will gravitate towards states that are the most attractive, or to states that actively increase their attractiveness relative to competing states. The states that actively recruit green businesses will prosper in the longer run.

Wisconsin has a long history of manufacturing strength, and we are increasingly attracting manufacturing companies that are creating green jobs. But we can do more. We have only to look at our neighboring states of Iowa or Minnesota to see the benefit of establsihing Wisconsin as a hotbed of green expertise.

New green businesses can create jobs, generate revenues, and help Wisconsin re-emerge as a bell-weather state in the heartland of America.

MGE doesn't recommend radiant barrier insulation for cold climates

Friday, October 08, 2010

From Madison Gas and Electric's Energy Wise:

Every fall, MGE hears from customers who received a free dinner invitation in the mail to "learn how to drastically reduce your electric and gas bills, with Space Age Technology developed and used by NASA." The product being promoted is radiant barrier insulation, a shiny foil material. The performance and long-term cost-effectiveness of the product depends on what part of the country the home is located in and the amount of existing insulation currently in the home.

MGE doesn't recommend radiant barriers for houses in our cold climate. Why not? The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Florida Solar Energy Center both say that radiant barriers are generally not recommended for houses in a cold climate. In fact, the DOE's "Cool Roof Calculator" says that in Madison, you'd always save more money by adding attic insulation than by installing a radiant barrier in the attic.

Not only that, but customer's tell us that these "free dinner" companies often charge thousands of dollars to install radiant barriers.

MGE encourages you to ask questions anytime you receive these types of solicitations. In addition, you can call MGE's Home Energy Line at 252-7117.

Jimmy Carter redeemed: White House to tap sun for heating water and some electricity

Thursday, October 07, 2010

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

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Solar power is coming to President Barack Obama's house.

The most famous residence in America, which has already boosted its green credentials by planting a garden, plans to install solar panels atop the White House's living quarters. The solar panels are to be installed by spring 2011, and will heat water for the first family and supply some electricity.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the plans Tuesday in Washington at a conference of local, state, academic and nonprofit leaders aimed at identifying how the federal government can improve its environmental performance.

Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush both tapped the sun during their days in the White House. Carter in the late 1970s spent $30,000 on a solar water-heating system for West Wing offices. Bush's solar systems powered a maintenance building and some of the mansion, and heated water for the pool.

Obama, who has championed renewable energy, has been under increasing pressure by the solar industry and environmental activists to lead by example by installing solar at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, something White House officials said has been under consideration since he first took office.

The decision perhaps has more import now after legislation to reduce global warming pollution died in the Senate, despite the White House's support. Obama has vowed to try again on a smaller scale.

Last month, global warming activists with carried one of Carter's solar panels - which were removed in 1986 - from Unity College in Maine to Washington to urge Obama to put solar panels on his roof. It was part of a global campaign to persuade world leaders to install solar on their homes. After a meeting with White House officials, they left Washington without a commitment.

Bill McKibben, the founder of the group, said Tuesday the administration did the right thing.

Businesses can celebrate Energy Awareness Month with practical tips to save energy & money

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

From a news release issued by Focus on Energy:

Boost the bottom line while strategically managing energy use

Madison, Wis. (October 6, 2010)—In honor of Energy Awareness Month this October, businesses around the country are taking steps to reduce energy use by making cost-effective building improvements and getting staff involved to find smart solutions.

With cold weather on its way now is a great time for organizations to make sure they are well positioned to keep energy costs in check and save money this season, and year round. In fact, Focus on Energy, Wisconsin's statewide program for energy efficiency and renewable energy, has already helped Wisconsin businesses save more than $212 million in annual energy costs since 2001.

If organizations are unsure how to get started, Focus offers these free and low-cost best practices to help businesses get ahead this season.

1. Start an energy management team. One cost-effective way to keep tabs on energy costs is to establish an energy team within the organization. Visit for a free toolkit to help create a team and start implementing high-ROI, low-risk projects.
2. Install (and use!) a programmable thermostat. Businesses can save 1 percent on heating costs for each degree they lower the thermostat. Instead of adjusting the thermostat manually, make sure to install a system that will automatically manage the building’s temperature. Already have a system in place? Program it to achieve maximum savings, and don’t forget to adjust it with the shift from Daylight Saving Time, if necessary.
3. Weatherization can yield big savings. Weather-strip and caulk cracks in walls, jams, and floors. Check for worn-out weather-stripping and replace it.
4. Measure the facility for proper attic insulation. Consider upgrading with spray-foam or batt insulation. Additional insulation can be blown into walls, and there are options for insulating flat roofs, crawl spaces, and floors.
5. Maintain heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning equipment regularly. Facilities can reduce the energy use of heating and cooling systems by up to 6 percent simply by having them serviced regularly and changing air filters monthly. Don’t forget to keep the space around the system clean and clear to prevent debris from being pulled into the burners and filters.
6. Purchase energy-efficient equipment and lighting. When it comes time to replace equipment, look for the ENERGY STAR® label—an assurance of quality and energy efficiency. For lighting, install compact fluorescent bulbs for task lighting and high-performance T8 or pulse-start metal-halide systems for larger or high-bay applications. Lighting-control systems such as occupancy sensors and daylight sensors can help save even more.
7. Talk to the experts at Focus on Energy. We’re a one-stop resource for free technical expertise and financial incentives. Call us today at 800.762.7077 or visit

Solar power proves steady investment for Janesville man

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

From an article by Frank Schultz in the Janesville Press Gazette:

JANESVILLE — So you want to invest.

Stock? Too wobbly.

Interest at the banks? Scant.

A rural Janesville man has found an investment that appears to work in any economy: the sun.

The sun, which is not expected to burn out for billions of years, spills massive amounts of energy onto the Earth every day. It also puts cash into Chuck Niles’ pocket.

Niles, a retired General Motors worker, said he’s been thinking about solar power for 25 years. He got serious about it three years ago when he learned that improvements in solar technology have reduced the cost per watt considerably.

Then he heard about government programs that provide huge discounts in startup costs.

Here’s how Niles does the math:

The 90 panels on the roof of Niles’ pole barn and nearby shed on Murray Road south of Janesville cost $130,410, installation included.

A federal program known as Section 1603 of the Recovery Act paid him $39,600. The state Focus on Energy program paid him $32,603.

Niles uses about $35 worth of electricity a month in the barn. The rest goes to Alliant Energy, which pays him monthly. The checks vary with sunshine, but Niles estimates conservatively that the checks will average around $440 a month.

In the meantime, Niles is also getting a federal income-tax break from the depreciation on his investment.

When all the costs and benefits are accounted for, Niles figures his payback period is just five years. He figures his return on investment is about 12 percent.

MG&E to expand electric vehicles charing stations to 24 in and around Dane County

Monday, October 04, 2010

From a news release posted on Business Wire:

MADISON, Wis.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Coulomb Technologies and Madison Gas and Electric today announced plans to install 18 additional ChargePoint® Networked Charging Stations for electric vehicles in and around Dane County. The new stations will bring the total number of ChargePoint stations to 24 within the community. The new Level II (240V/30A) charging station allocation and installation is made possible through a Department of Energy grant to MGE and will be available to the community for the duration of the three year public demonstration project.

Locations for the charging stations are still being determined but are expected to be located in 10 highly trafficked areas within the community. All charging locations will be free and available to the public. Coulomb Technologies’ Midwest distributor Chicago-based Carbon Day Automotive is partnering with MGE to distribute the stations as part of the project.

“Madison is planning for the widespread adoption of electric vehicles today,” said Laura Williams, MGE Market Development Manager.

“In order to learn about time of use, length of charging sessions, the amount of electricity used and how EV charging coincides with home electricity use, we are looking for volunteers to help us collect this data. The data collected will assist us in how we can better serve our customers and plan for EV in our community.”

Consumers interested in the program can sign up at the MGE site for more information.

Willy St. Coop offsets natural gas with third-party-owned solar hot water system

Friday, October 01, 2010

From the Web site of Resource Solar:

The Williamson Street Grocery Cooperative located at 1221 Williamson Street in Madison, Wisconsin is now offsetting its natural gas use (and eliminating approximately 5 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere) via a solar hot water system installed by Resource Solar and financed under a solar thermal power purchase agreement (Thermal-PPA).

Billing commenced [June 10, 2010] and will continue monthly (at a fixed rate) for 6 years. The Co-op will buy the system at the end of the 6-year period for less than a third of what a new system would cost, yet have 80% of system life left.

To read an article in the Willy Street Newsletter about the system, please click on the following: Reader, Feb 2010