Friday, April 30, 2010
Now several other organizations, including RENEW, fleshed out the orginal veto request with a second letter:
We, the undersigned businesses and organizations, urge you to veto SB 273, which would undermine Wisconsin's current renewable energy standards under Act 141. Signing this bill will result in less renewable solar, wind and biomass energy for Wisconsin at a time when our economy and our environment desperately need more, not less, of these technologies to decrease our dependence on dirty fossil fuels.
New development companies across the country are attempting to define gasification facilities as "green" renewable energy. Yet this technology, a glorified form of incineration that is burdened with many of the same cost and environmental drawbacks, has never been successfully deployed anywhere in this country. Developers are seeking tax incentives, grants and renewable energy credits at the expense of recycling and true renewable energy programs.
Please end your tenure as Governor by vetoing the bill that will undermine Wisconsin’s efforts to become a leader on genuine renewable energy. The benefits of doing so will be recognized for years to come.
The letter came from the Sierra Club – John Muir Chapter * Waukesha Environmental Action League * Midwest Environmental Advocates * Advocates for Renewable Energy * Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters * Clean Wisconsin * Wisconsin Environment * Citizens Utility Board * RENEW WI * Physicians for Social Responsibility * Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice.
Click here for a description of SB 273, as amended.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Let us count the ways in which this Legislature has failed in its duty. We do not speak of any particular issue or any particular position which the Legislature took, because the truth is that it took few.
There were some good results from this session, such as the law which formalized a transportation authority to make progress on KRM commuter rail. But there is much that didn’t move — bills on regional transit, election reforms, and energy and jobs. We do not advocate for every clause of every one of those bills. We decry the lack of action. It is true that one function of a legislature is to let bad ideas expire quietly, but the overarching issues of transit and jobs and energy must not fail. They must be dealt with in some manner.
The Democratic leadership bears a large portion of the blame, for many major bills did not come to the floor until the closing days of the session, leaving members little time to digest, discuss and amend. But Republicans must also be held responsible for an amazing rigidity and intransigence that produced few constructive suggestions or compromises.
Mordecai Lee, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee political science professor, labeled the Legislature’s inaction an example of what is wrong with modern lawmaking. That presumes the goal is to make laws or decisions.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
State programs receive $20 million to help owners retrofit homes, businesses
Milwaukee, Racine and Madison will launch or expand programs to help homeowners and businesses retrofit buildings to cut energy use. The programs are part of a $20 million initiative funded by the federal stimulus package.
The three cities were partners in a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to Madison-based Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corp. and announced by Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday.
The money will be used to set up or expand programs that lower the cost of making energy-saving changes in homes and businesses.
The Wisconsin project was one of 25 nationwide that won more than $450 million in total funding. The Energy Department received applications for more than $3.5 billion.
The state had sought $65 million through the federal "retrofit ramp-up" program. The goal: bring down the cost of energy-saving home improvements such as air sealing, insulation and other initiatives offered by the state Focus on Energy program.
Milwaukee recently launched a solar-financing program, and Racine has started an energy-efficiency retrofit program that will expand with the new funding.
"This initiative will help overcome the barriers to making energy efficiency easy and accessible to all - inconvenience, lack of information and lack of financing," Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement. "Block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, we will make our communities more energy efficient and help families save money. At the same time, we'll create thousands of jobs and strengthen our economy."
Monday, April 26, 2010
April 23, 2010
RENEW Wisconsin Calls for Veto of Waste-to-Energy Bill
RENEW Wisconsin called on Governor Jim Doyle to veto a bill that allows garbage to qualify as a renewable energy resource.
“The bill (Senate Bill 273), passed in the last hours of the final legislative session, would lead to a cutback in new clean-energy installations using solar, wind, biogas, and biomass,” said Michael Vickerman, executive director of RENEW Wisconsin, a statewide renewable energy advocacy organization.
The bill would credit electricity from gasification of garbage toward the amount of renewable energy each Wisconsin utility must supply under current law.
“By failing to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act, the Legislature essentially froze the overall percentage of renewable energy that Wisconsin utilities must supply to customers,” said Vickerman.
“Adding solid waste to the list of eligible resources without raising the percentage above the current requirement will result in a reduction of electricity derived from truly sustainable renewable resources.”
“No way can anyone legitimately say that this bill expands renewable energy in Wisconsin.”
“All in all, this session will be remembered as a wasted opportunity for clean energy and job creation,” Vickerman said.
“When we entered the month of April, we had high hopes for the Clean Energy Jobs Act, a bill that would have forcefully sent Wisconsin down a path to energy independence while creating thousands of new jobs. Instead, the Legislature crammed garbage down the throats of utility customers.”
“No other legislative body in history has managed to trash Earth Day and the legacy of Wisconsin’s own Gaylord Nelson as completely as the Wisconsin Senate whose leaders wouldn’t allow a vote on the Clean Energy Jobs Act,” according to Vickerman.
“Governor Doyle can honor Gaylord Nelson by vetoing SB 273.”
Friday, April 23, 2010
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 Â 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.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
The state Legislature could give Wisconsin's celebration of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day on Thursday a real boost by approving the latest version of the Clean Energy Jobs Act. The bill is aimed at reducing the state's reliance on fossil fuels and encouraging the growth of green technology and green jobs. A recent analysis by the state Public Service Commission says the measure will result in lower costs for energy consumers in coming years.
Given the threat posed by the reality of climate change and the opportunity to start creating jobs in a new industry, it's clearly a bill that deserves passage. The same threat and opportunity also should spur Congress to finally move forward on meaningful climate change legislation.
In addition to the good it would do, such legislation at the state and federal levels also would be a fitting tribute to the late Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day, which has spurred so much important environmental legislation over the past four decades.
The bad news in Wisconsin, however, is that it appears the bill won't be approved in the legislative session that ends Thursday. According to an article by Journal Sentinel reporters Patrick Marley and Jason Stein, the bill is on life-support in the Assembly because lawmakers feel they don't have the votes to pass it there.
And Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker (D-Wausau) has already signaled he won't let the bill pass in the Senate because of concerns it will raise utility rates, although we suspect that Decker's real opposition is based on political disagreements with Gov. Jim Doyle, who was hoping to make this bill part of his legacy.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
April 21, 2010
We Energies Wins Praise for Support of Clean Energy Jobs Act
A leading renewable energy advocacy group praised Milwaukee-based We Energies for its support of the Clean Energy Jobs Act legislation (Assembly Bill 649).
On Tuesday (April 20), We Energies distributed a memo explaining its support to all members of the state Assembly.
We Energies’ memo followed a similar memo last week from Clean, Responsible Energy for Wisconsin’s Economy (CREWE), a coalition of businesses and utilities supporting the legislation. Other utility members of CREWE are Alliant Energy, Madison Gas & Electric, WPPI Energy, Xcel Energy, and American Transmission Company.
The memo from Joel Haubrich, We Energies, said:
We Energies urges support for AB 649.
Throughout the process we have supported moving from our current 10% by 2015 renewable mandate to the 25% by 2025 renewable mandate. It will be a massive effort to meet the requirements in the legislation but we will . . . work to achieve the goal when it becomes law.
Recently, we asked the authors for specific changes to the legislation. On Monday, April 19, we believe we resolved our concerns and now can support the bill.
The changes we believe the authors have agreed to include: 1) incorporating language on “utility rate of return,” 2) removing the ambiguity as to who can perform energy conservation work, 3) allowing efficiency to count from 2016 to 2020 and 4) changing nuclear findings to previously agreed upon language.
We Energies urges support for these amendments and urges support for AB 649. (Emphasis in the original.)
RENEW Wisconsin (HUwww.renewwisconsin.orgUH) 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.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
(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.
Monday, April 19, 2010
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!
Friday, April 16, 2010
A stripped-down version of a bill to control carbon emissions was introduced by lawmakers on Tuesday, a measure that would sharply increase the use of renewable energy and open the door to new nuclear reactors in Wisconsin.
The revisions were drafted in response to concerns of business groups and politicians who said the original bill was too unwieldy, controversial and, potentially, costly.
Supporters said their changes will answer many of those concerns, and in a statement, Gov. Jim Doyle termed the revised bill "a good compromise that will bring down consumer costs."
"Wisconsin is a manufacturing state, and we can't afford to lose this opportunity to become a leader in solar and wind manufacturing to other states and countries like China," Doyle said.
By increasing renewable power and weaning Wisconsin's reliance on out-of-state coal and natural gas, supporters aim to boost green jobs and the economy while cutting emissions of carbon dioxide. The state now spends $16 billion a year on fossil fuels imported to make electricity.
The bill, years in the making, joins a heavy legislative docket awaiting consideration before the end of the session on April 22. Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan (D-Janesville) indicated legislators are still working on the bill.
"We're working to hopefully come together on a package," he said. . . .
Republican opponents issued a statement saying that a survey of investor-owned utilities shows that compliance costs with the proposed regulations would exceed $15 billion.
They also complained lawmakers will not have adequate time to digest the 150-page legislation and demanded another public hearing.
"There will be little time to review this complicated piece of legislation before a vote is taken," said Rep. Jim Ott (R-Mequon). "There will be no way most legislators will be able to fully absorb the content of a 150-page bill that was drafted in secret."
Noting that electricity rates are rising in Iowa and Minnesota to pay for more wind power, Rep. Mike Huebsch, (R-West Salem), said, "Why we should going down the path to higher energy costs is beyond me." [See RENEW Wisconsin's response.]
No more hearings
A key sponsor, Rep. Spencer Black (D-Madison) called such talk "ideological rhetoric." He said the bill wouldn't get another hearing, but that lawmakers would have enough time to review it.
Also, a group that includes Milwaukee-based We Energies and renewable energy and energy efficiency firms such as Glendale-based Johnson Controls Inc., said Tuesday it was pleased with the modifications.
"It appears that this new legislation has taken into account many of the concerns over the cost and implementation of provisions in the original Clean Energy Jobs Act," said Thad Nation, executive director of Clean Responsible Energy for Wisconsin's Economy.
Roy Thilly, president and CEO of utility company WPPI Energy in Sun Prairie and co-chair of the state global warming task force, said the initial bill represented the full recommendations of the panel and that the revised bill underscores the dramatic change in the state's economy since the task force wrapped up its work two years ago.
"They've done a really good job listening to what everybody said and they've made any number of changes," he said of the bill's authors. "It's their bill now. They made some very substantial changes and fixed a number of problems that were identified."
Environmental groups praised the compromise, saying it retained provisions that would boost energy efficiency, expand renewable energy and create jobs.
"On balance, if it's passed we will be on a good track for the next 15 years," said Michael Vickerman, executive director of Renew Wisconsin, a renewable-energy advocacy group. "Right now I'm seeing the signs of deceleration in Wisconsin's renewable energy marketplace."
Thursday, April 15, 2010
April 15, 2010
Statement of Michael Vickerman
Executive Director – RENEW Wisconsin
Legislators Fire Blanks at Clean Energy Jobs ActIn 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 www.renewwisconsin.org.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
+ 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 include:
+ 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.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
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."
Monday, April 12, 2010
The Legislature should approve the legislation to set up interim regional transit authorities in seven southeastern Wisconsin counties.
Republican legislators who support business growth need to pay attention to what business leaders are saying about transit in southeastern Wisconsin. And Democratic legislators who support jobs for families in their districts need to pay attention to what union leaders and those families are saying about the issue.
On this issue, many business and union leaders are united in their support for a regional transit system that can link workers to jobs. And they're hardly alone. Local officials who have publicly supported improved transit on these pages or elsewhere in recent months include Milwaukee Common Council President Willie L. Hines Jr., Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Wauwatosa Ald. Dennis McBride and even County Executive Scott Walker (although he opposes an increase in the sales tax to fund transit).
Nurses have written about the public health aspects of a diverse transportation system that includes reliable transit. Supporters of the arts have argued that transit is important to a healthy arts community.
And this is the moment. A bill pending in the Legislature needs to be approved by the end of this legislative session later this month. Failure to do so would be a blow to business and jobs, commuters and families.
This should not be a partisan issue; although they may have different electoral bases, Republicans and Democrats are united in their voiced support for a strong economy, business expansion, job growth and the infrastructure needed to provide the right links.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Madison - A sales tax of up to 0.5% could be levied in Milwaukee County to fund public transportation under a regional transit authority bill an Assembly committee endorsed Thursday.
By an 8-2 vote, the Assembly Transportation Committee supported the bill, which would allow creation of interim transit authorities in Milwaukee and other counties in southeastern Wisconsin that eventually could merge into the existing Southeastern Regional Transit Authority. But the measure still faces a steep climb to pass both chambers of the Legislature before lawmakers end their regular business on April 22.
Seven Democrats and one Republican on the committee approved a complex, 52-page amendment before recommending the bill. Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan (D-Janesville) praised the bipartisan vote as a positive sign for the bill's chances. The amended proposal would . . . allow local governments to create interim regional transit authorities in Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Ozaukee, Walworth, Washington and Waukesha counties. Those authorities could raise money for their public bus systems, including the financially troubled Milwaukee County Transit System, through a sales tax or through membership fees charged to their local government members.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Energy efficiency a great idea here
I applaud the City of Racine for recognizing that energy efficiency is a win-win-win situation ("Stimulus funds used for new energy-saving loan program," March 13).
Homeowners will "win" when the program reduces their energy bills.
Simple improvements, such as increasing insulation or replacing old, inefficient appliances, really have an impact. On average, each dollar invested in efficiency saves three dollars in avoided energy costs.
Our local economy will "win" in two ways. The program will increase the demand for appliances, weatherizing and other efficiency upgrades, which means greater sales for businesses. These jobs can't be outsourced, since they involve work on local homes.
The other economic "win" comes when homeowners start seeing smaller heating and electricity bills. That will leave them more money to spend in local restaurants and shops.
The third "win" is for the environment. Way too much of Wisconsin's electricity still comes from dirty coal plants and the coal from environment-destroying mountaintop removal. Less electricity used means less coal burned and more mountain areas unharmed, which means cleaner air and water.
Monday, April 5, 2010
The Marquette interchange in Milwaukee cost more than $800 million to rebuild between 2004 and 2008, and few people seriously questioned whether that “subsidy” of Wisconsin’s highway transportation system would pay for itself many times over.
Milwaukee’s Zoo interchange, the mix-master for I-94, I-894 and Highway 45, could cost $2.3 billion to rebuild once work begins in 2012. Again, most people familiar with the volume of statewide commerce passing through that intersection can agree reconstruction is a much-needed investment.
But suggest a relatively tiny $7.5 million per year subsidy for a high-speed rail line that could redefine Wisconsin’s connections to Chicago and the Twin Cities, and the same folks who barely blink at billion-dollar concrete projects turn into raging fiscal hawks.
That penny-wise, pound-foolish approach should be questioned. Wisconsin has a chance to build a high-speed rail line, with hard-to-get federal money, that will change the economic destiny of its largest cities and many of its smallest communities. Yet this promising track for economic development is being opposed by those who claim a small state subsidy will somehow break the bank.
Before the political debate gets too overwrought, let’s examine the economic reasons why Wisconsin should embrace building a Milwaukee-to-Madison rail line and improving the existing Milwaukee-to-Chicago connection.