Madison is paving itself into oblivion

Thursday, October 27, 2011

From a commentary by Michael Barrett on the Daily Page of Isthmus:

Over the last 11 years, the city of Madison has increased pavement spending at 11 times the rate of population growth plus inflation. So why have both reconstructions and highway expansions increased at far above the inflation and population growth rate? That depends on whom you ask.

Ask a progressive alder from an isthmus neighborhood why he or she votes for all the paving (and they all do), and the answer ranges from roads-as-public-works-savior to roads-as-bargaining-chip-for-park-benches. Never mind the illegality of such log rolling, or the good old fashioned sexism favoring "breadwinner"/manly road building over "women's work"/social services.

Ask a fiscally conservative alder, and you'll find out that they are actually closet socialists -- albeit a socialism for cars, not people.

The mushy-middle alders are easily cowed by the city engineers into believing that unless every street is in freshly steamrolled condition, they will be thrown out of office.

And so we pave. A lot.

Green Drinks, November 2, Great Dane at Doty and King streets

Our next opportunity to gather with other green-minded folks will soon be upon us. Come and network, simply shoot the breeze, or just enjoy a cold one in the good company of Madison Green Drinks.
One block from the Capitol.

Wednesday, November 2, 5:00 PM

Great Dane Brew Pub
123 East Doty Street
Corner of Doty and King Streets
Just one diagonal block from the Capitol Square

State urged to beef up clean energy policies to create jobs

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

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

Two reports show Wisconsin has a significant renewable power industry, but with a stronger state commitment, it could be saving more energy and creating more jobs.

Wisconsin has more than 300 businesses involved in wind or solar energy, providing more than 12,000 jobs, according to a study by the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago.

It found 171 Wisconsin companies that either produce, sell or install wind power equipment or plan wind development.

Another 135 companies are part of the solar energy industry. For example, Cardinal Glass makes solar panels in Mazomanie; Helios recently opened a solar panel factory in Milwaukee.

"These are real jobs; these are real businesses. Many are existing businesses that are branching out into new product lines," said Howard Learner, the center's executive director.

Wisconsin slips five notches in energy efficiency ranking

Friday, October 21, 2011

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

Wisconsin's move to roll back funding increases for programs that help homeowners and businesses save on energy bills was criticized in a report Thursday by a national energy efficiency advocacy group.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy released a scorecard rating states' efforts in the area of energy efficiency.

Wisconsin was in the top 10 several years ago but ranks 16th in this year's scorecard. Massachusetts was the top state overall, and Michigan and Illinois were cited as among the most improved states.

"Clearly, 2011 has not been kind to our economy, but energy efficiency remains a growth sector that attracts investment and creates jobs," said Michael Sciortino, ACEEE senior policy analyst and the report's lead author.

"With even higher energy savings possible, we expect leading states to continue pushing the envelope next year and inspire those at the bottom of the rankings to embrace energy efficiency as a core strategy to gain a competitive advantage by generating cost-savings, promoting technological innovation, and stimulating growth," he said.

Wisconsin has lost some ground while other states have made significant pushes to set up initiatives that provide incentives to consumers and businesses to conduct energy-saving retrofits. Improvements by Michigan and Illinois pushed those states to rankings just behind Wisconsin.

The report saluted efforts in Arkansas, Rhode Island and Arizona, which "worked with utilities and adopted significant energy efficiency regulations," the report says.

"Despite significant progress, some states have slowed or stepped backward in the race to save energy. New Jersey and Wisconsin have both diminished investments in utility-sector energy efficiency and Arizona is considering a law that will reduce transportation efficiency in the state."

Metro Transit announces receipt of $5 million grant

Thursday, October 20, 2011

From a post on Madison Metro's Web site:

Metro Transit is excited to announce that it will receive $5 million dollars as part of a $920 million federal grant announced today by U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood intended to put Americans back to work repairing, rebuilding and modernizing the nation's transit infrastructure. These federal funds were awarded to more than 300 public transportation projects in urban, suburban and rural areas.

Mayor Paul Soglin called Metro Transit officials today to inform staff of this major announcement.

"I am very pleased that Department of Transportation officials listened to the City of Madison as they awarded this $5 million dollar grant," Soglin said. "At a time when Madison Metro ridership is increasing and state funds are decreasing, this additional funding will mean a lot to the citizens of Madison and surrounding communities."

Soglin is currently on his second trip to Washington D.C. to meet with lawmakers and U.S. Department of Transportation officials to stress the importance of additional federal transit funding and its need in continuing the success of transit in the Madison area.

Metro Transit will use this money to add 14 new diesel buses to its fleet, upgrade aging farebox equipment on every bus, and to purchase 25 new transit shelters.

According to Metro Transit General Manager Chuck Kamp, this funding is especially important in order to continue Metro's yearly replacement of approximately 15 buses in its fleet.

"Over the past few years, there has been a dramatic decrease in federal capital funding," Kamp said. "Federal funding is not automatic for these capital purchases. This grant will allow us to continue with our yearly improvements to our fleet."

Free Electric Car Workshop, Middleton, Oct. 25

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

EnAct is hosting a with MG&E

MG&E’s Bob Stoffs and a Chevy Volt owner present about owning an electric car in Dane County and how you can make it work for you!

Learn how the EnAct program works and enter to win a FREE EnAct: Steps to Greener Living Book.

Tuesday, October 25th, 12-1pm
Middleton Public Library
7425 Hubbard Avenue, Middleton

For more information or to register for this program email or call 608-827-7403.

Registration suggested but not required.

This program is open to all knowledge levels, light refreshments provided.

Gas tax doesn't cover cost of roads

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

From an article by Larry Sandler in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The state gas tax would have to rise 50 cents - a 152% increase, to nearly 83 cents a gallon - to cover road costs that are now being paid through property taxes or other general tax revenue, a new study by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers say.

The study, commissioned by the environmental group 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin, challenges some common claims about how transportation is funded in this state.

Highway advocates typically contend roads pay for themselves, through gas taxes and user fees. But that's only true of state-owned highways, which account for just 10% of all Wisconsin roads, the study says.

When local roads are included, property taxes and other general taxes cover 41% to 55% of road costs, says the study, "Who Pays for Roads in Wisconsin?" For local roads alone, property taxes paid 83% of costs, or $9.9 billion, over the five-year period that ended June 30, 2008, found the study, which is being released this week.

That comes out to 20% of the average property tax bill, said Steve Hiniker, executive director of 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin. If roads were fully funded by gas taxes and vehicle fees, local governments could afford to cut property taxes and increase services, instead of raising taxes and cutting services, the environmental group said.

"Taxpayers cover costs that should be borne by road users," says the study by UW-Madison's State Smart Transportation Initiative. By forcing local officials to choose between roads and other services, the study says, "Road subsidies push up tax rates, squeeze government services and skew the market for transportation."

Electric cars on a budget

From an article by Ken Paulman in Midwest Energy News:

A electric car for $6,000? Yes, but there's a catch...

Yesterday, we told you about an Ohio company that offers electric Mercedes SUV conversions for $75,000. That’s more than most people in the U.S. make in a year.

Even the compact EV options aren’t cheap. The 2012 Nissan Leaf starts at about $35,000. Tax credits and incentives can push that price down into the low-20s depending on where you live and assuming you make enough money to actually take advantage of the credit. But that’s still not going to be an option for a lot of people.

So what about used electric cars?

EVs are rare enough that you’re unlikely to spot one at your neighborhood car dealer. But there’s always the internet.

Ebay, for instance, allows you to search by “fuel type” and select “electric.” Just navigate to the Ebay cars-and-trucks page, and scroll down the left column to refine the search. As of this writing, there were 25 EVs for sale on the site.

Another source is the EV Tradin’ Post, which, despite its dated design is updated regularly and features another two dozen or so cars from around the country.

The offerings are limited, but diverse. There are a handful of modestly priced, ready-to-drive conversions, like a 1994 Prizm in California for $10,000 that has new batteries and promises a range of 35-40 miles. Or a 2003 S-10 in Ohio for $8,500.

If you’re handy, there are also some interesting “as-is” conversions that need some work. In Newton, Kansas, there’s a 1976 VW Beetle for $6,000 that runs but could use new batteries. Or this 1981 Ford Escort in Ohio that needs a new controller (bidding currently at $206.50).

Mpower Business ChaMpions: It's all about sustainability

Monday, October 17, 2011

Kathleen Falk: County shows Walker how to create green jobs

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

From a commentary by Kathleen Falk in The Capital Times:

We elect governors to solve problems, not create them.

Unfortunately, when it comes to energy and green jobs, Gov. Scott Walker is making things worse. Here’s how:

One of the big drags on our state’s economy is the amount of money we spend for energy. Right now we send $12.5 billion every year to out-of-state companies to power our businesses and homes and to fuel our vehicles.

Walker is making this problem even worse:

• Walker stopped construction of a new biomass power plant. This renewable energy plant would have produced power locally with the added benefit of buying biomass from local farmers or utilizing waste wood.

• Walker shelved the wind energy siting rules devised through years of negotiation. That cost about 1,100 Wisconsin jobs and dried up $600 million in investments by driving three wind farm companies out of state.

• Walker eliminated the state’s Office of Energy Independence and gutted programs that encourage companies to become energy efficient. He outsourced “Focus on Energy” money to a Louisiana-based company to run the program.

My work as Dane County executive shows what we can accomplish when we work together rather than working to gain personal power and tearing people apart.

I was a frugal county executive — not only does it come naturally since I’m German/Irish from Milwaukee, but the top executive must be careful with taxpayers’ money.

Over a decade ago, faced with the problem of highly polluting methane produced at the county landfill, I found a solution: We converted the methane to electricity and sold it to the local utility — enough to power 4,000 homes a year, eliminate burning 16,000 tons of coal, and earning over $3 million a year for taxpayers.

I also led the charge to retrofit old government facilities, producing energy and cost savings. Dane County boasts solar panels at the airport, zoo, park buildings and county offices. Underneath the new county nursing home is a geothermal system that cools and heats the buildings.

We brought green jobs to Dane County through Cow Power. Dairy is almost a billion-dollar part of the county’s economy. Helping the dairy industry grow and at the same time preventing pollution from hurting our lakes and streams makes real economic sense.

Working with farmers, a private Wisconsin company, the local utility and county government, our county built the first community manure digester in our state. It uses manure from 2,500 cows, produces green energy that fuels the equivalent of 2,500 homes, and keeps phosphorus out of county lakes. It’s so successful that we are now on to a second digester! The Environmental Protection Agency has us speaking to other states in the Midwest so they can do the same thing.

The governor ought to be working with farmers and private companies to replicate Cow Power around the state.

The governor ought to build the biomass plant.

Wisconsin cheese factory promotes renewable energy

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

From the newsletter of Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese:

At Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese we’re green as well as growing. We
have solidified our commitment to sustainability, and proudly display our
new green logo on our website and elsewhere. We know our customers
appreciate the fact that we use 100% green power, and practice water
conservation and recycling. Our commitment is evident in our land
management practices and in the way we care for our cows. We’re a carbon negative company, too, which means we produce more power with our bio
digester than we use for our dairy farm and cheese plant.

Crave Brothers Farmstead Classics cheeses not only
taste good, we hope they make you feel good
about your choice, too. When you choose Crave
Brothers Cheese, you are supporting locally owned
and operated family farms. Our cheese is made from
our farm-fresh milk, produced on a state-of-the-art
farm with sustainability practices that help
preserve the environment for future generations.