11 Jul Wisconsin must lead the pack in developing renewable energy
Madison, Wis. – This past week, we celebrated and commemorated one of the great moments in human history – the birth some 231 years ago of our nation and, with it, modern democracy. It was a moment that grew out of an era of great entrepreneurship, forward thinking, innovation, and invention in science, philosophy, art, and government.
In many ways we live in another such era, and Wisconsin is – as it always has been – poised to lead the way. From education models to biotechnology to Internet technology to healthcare policy, Wisconsin’s thinkers and innovators set the pace for the rest of the nation. They can indeed change the course of history if we create the context for their success. Perhaps the best example of this leadership lies in the realm of renewable energy.
We can no longer debate the need to increase use of renewable energy sources and for better energy conservation. The science is in: global warming is real, and human activity is the principal contributing factor. Americans’ reliance on petroleum – most of which we import from the most volatile regions in the world – threatens our national and economic security. And renewable energy sources offer tremendous potential to build the economy and create good jobs – not in desert oil fields or on offshore drilling rigs, but in our communities, right here in Wisconsin.
Beating them to the pulp
Look, for example, at Flambeau River Paper in Park Falls. When new owners revived the plant and its 350 jobs last year, they immediately began working to turn their own byproducts into biofuel to power their plant. The mill is poised to become the first energy-independent, integrated mill in North America. Moreover, the company recently broke ground to build an entirely new facility dedicated to refining cellulosic ethanol from wood pulp. It will employ 75 additional people in good, family-supporting jobs and inject millions into the economy of North Central Wisconsin.
Further north, the Greater Duluth-Superior Eco-Industrial Development Initiative puts forward a model for regional economic development that others around the nation would do well to emulate. The very impressive diversity of expertise represented in members of the Coalition for Eco-Industrial Development, started in 2004, contributes to a plan for economic development that integrates economic, social, and major environmental issues. They drive current 20th century industrial systems toward sustainable 21st century systems.
Those are just two examples of the entrepreneurial energy, bubbling up in every corner of Wisconsin, exploring new and exciting ways of thinking about energy. But in a vacuum of support from the federal government – without uniform policy to provide a framework for state action, without adequate capital to provide meaningful incentives to implement change — innovations will languish in theoretical conversations and climate change will continue unchecked.
We have the technological capacity to address energy independence and global warming; we lack leadership at the federal level to respond to public demand. Wisconsin proudly steps in to lead the way on sustainability because we must.
The budget currently making its way through the legislature contains significant tax incentives and other funding to leverage private investment and spur growth in renewable energy. These include incentives to install ethanol pumps in gas stations, build biofuel refineries, encourage recycling, and reward angel and venture investments in renewable energy start ups. I invite my colleagues in the legislature to follow the will of the people and fully fund these important investments in Wisconsin’s economy.
While friends and neighbors across Wisconsin create and innovate renewable energy sources and smart strategies for conservation; and as our administration works to build infrastructure for their success, I invite the nation’s lieutenant governors to form a powerful bi-partisan coalition to put these crucial issues on the front burner in every state.
Later this month, at the annual meeting of the National Lieutenant Governors Association, I will call for a vote on a resolution in which lieutenant governors join me in giving more than lip service to this issue. I ask them to commit the resources and time necessary to address these critical issues and drive progress nationwide.
21st Century job creation
Wisconsin led the way on clean government reform, education, and now stem-cell research. The state’s investment in and commitment to developing renewable energy sources and conservation strategies is a sensible, practical means to continue that tradition and create good jobs for a 21st century economy.
Other articles by Barbara Lawton
• Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton: Impact of e-medical records will be felt at home
• Federal bioenergy lab will give Wisconsin a chance to shine
• UW-Madison to receive $125M for bioenergy research center
• Tom Still: Kind approach to leveraging biofuels
• Doyle urges Legislature to support biofuels program
• Investors raise $25 million for biodiesel plant
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