A Cruel Month for Renewable Energy

Posted on May 6, 2010. Filed under: Climate change, Economic development, Energy Efficiency, Energy Policy |

From a commentary by Michael Vickerman, RENEW Wisconsin’s executive director:

Renewable energy businesses and activists entered the month of April with high hopes of seeing the State Legislature pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA), a comprehensive bill designed to propel Wisconsin toward energy independence, along the way creating thousands of new jobs and strengthening the sustainable energy marketplace. This comprehensive bill would have raised the renewable energy content of electricity sold in Wisconsin, while stepping up ratepayer support for smaller-scale renewable energy installations throughout the state.

Unfortunately, on April 22, the State Senate adjourned for the year without taking action on the Clean Energy Jobs Act bill, effectively killing the measure and leaving hundreds of businesses and individuals who campaigned for the bill empty-handed.

If life imitates poetry, then the line that opens T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land—“April is the cruelest month”—aptly encapsulates the evolution of a campaign that overcame many obstacles in the final weeks only to be undermined by the unwillingness of Senate leaders to schedule a vote on the bill. The sense of anticipation that began the month was swept away by a combination of personal feuds, extreme partisanship, and increasingly polarized public attitudes toward climate change. That the bill’s demise coincided with the 40th anniversary of Earth Day was seen by supporters as an especially cruel twist of fate.

It certainly didn’t help matters that the some of the state’s most politically entrenched constituencies banded together to fight CEJA at every stage of the process. Among the hard-core opponents were Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the Paper Council and the Farm Bureau. Their vociferous opposition scuttled bipartisanship, eliminating the possibility that a Republican legislator would vote for the bill.


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