15 Feb Wisconsin can lead the nation to energy independence
The security challenges created by our dependence on risky sources of foreign oil combined with the rising costs and instability from Asia’s growing demand and our own storm ravaged infrastructure requires bold leadership by policy makers. We must pursue home-grown solutions including the use of corn based ethanol, biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol and other emerging “biorefining” opportunities.
Everyday in Wisconsin over $15 million dollars leaves the state to pay for gasoline from other states and nations. By producing and selling biofuels here, we can create good paying jobs and keep more of that money available for investment.
Brazil is the proven model of ethanol. In 1978, the country was 85 percent dependent on foreign oil. Now, after a series of policy innovations raised the content of ethanol in fuels and required the use of flex-fuel vehicles, the country has reduced its dependency to almost zero and is fast becoming a major exporter of biofuels.
Air quality and climate benefits:
Brazil’s conversion to ethanol has reduced the levels of lead, sulfur, hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide while dramatically reducing its global climate change impact. Smog forming emissions like nitrogen oxide (NOx) have remained about the same. Opponents of the proposed E10 ethanol fuel standard claim that smog will increase in Southeast Wisconsin leading to more stringent enforcement of environmental requirements which might hamper the region’s economic development.
In fact, the potential for small increases in smog can be offset by adopting flexible air regulations and “Green Tier” strategies to reduce emissions during the summer ozone season. Manufacturers might receive flexible compliance or other incentives for employing innovative technologies and practices to reduce emissions in the region. For example, Quad/Graphics has reduced its smog forming emissions from rotogravure printing by 93 percent since 1990 despite increasing production by 661 percent! Green Tier can help companies reduce emissions while boosting productivity and the market for biofuels.
The energy deficit myth:
Critics of biofuels also argue that it takes more energy to produce them. Recent analysis by the Argonne National Laboratory of 22 studies concludes that the energy deficit is a myth. Current science shows “corn” based ethanol contains 1.2 to 1.8 times as much energy as the fossil fuels used in its production and five times as much for cellulosic ethanol which can be produced from corn stover, sawdust, paper pulp and from energy crops such as switchgrass.
Cellulosic crops also reduce runoff, topsoil erosion and pesticide use as compared to traditional row crops. Smart Growth and other strategies can be implemented to support our “working lands” while protecting sensitive environmental corridors from the impacts of energy crop production.
Raising the content of ethanol in fuels even further is another option for Wisconsin. E85 (85% ethanol blended with 15% gasoline) has low evaporative emissions and does not produce extra NOx as compared to E10. At the 2006 L.A. Auto Show, General Motors announced its commitment to build even more flex-fuel vehicles, and to increase public awareness and the number of E-85 filling stations nationwide. In New York, policy makers are working to make E85 and other biofuels available at service stations across the state and to make those fuels “tax free”.
A recent Energy Center of Wisconsin study prepared for the Governor’s Consortium on Biobased Industry shows the state is well positioned to lead the emerging Bioeconomy. Governor Doyle formed the group to develop an active strategic plan to “…promote economic growth and energy security in Wisconsin by using biobased products and bioenergy in environmentally sound ways…”
The report shows that Wisconsin has the diverse land resources and existing infrastructure in dairy, agriculture and forestry products, the skilled workforce in manufacturing and the leading research and development capabilities of the UW system to pursue the cutting-edge technologies of the future Bioeconomy.
Moreover, by promoting biofuels today, policy makers can spur the investments we need to develop value-added products from biomass including the new plastics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals of tomorrow. In short, we can revitalize the states rural and Northwood’s economies while spurring entrepreneurship and creating more high paying jobs.
We can keep Wisconsin “Green & Growing” – through biofuels development, setting flexible Green Tier strategies, protecting our working lands and spurring investments in the new “Bioeconomy”, we can also lead the nation to a more secure, profitable and environmentally sound future.