Wisconsin’s scaled-back global warming bill unveiled
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.”