Politics Blog: Climate change bill draft calls for more clean energy, greenhouse reductions

2009-12-11T11:50:00Z Politics Blog: Climate change bill draft calls for more clean energy, greenhouse reductionsBy MARY SPICUZZA and JASON STEIN mspicuzza@madison.com 608-252-6122 madison.com

Wisconsin would receive 25 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025, cut its greenhouse gas emissions, and conserve energy while moving away from its dependence on coal, the draft of a global warming bill released Thursday said.

Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, who helped draft the legislation, said he believes it will create jobs in Wisconsin while making the state a clean energy leader. “I think it’s important that Wisconsin be at the front, rather than the rear of the train,” Miller said.

The draft is based on recommendations by the Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming, and changes to the bill still may be made before it’s introduced. A date to introduce the bill has not been set, but a Dec. 15 meeting has been set for members of the Global Warming Task Force to get a briefing on the current version.

Provisions of the draft include:

*Increasing the amount of energy from renewable resources by the following percentages: 10% from renewable energy sources by 2013, 20 percent by the end of 2020, and 25 percent by the end of 2025.

*Goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, calling for the net emissions in 2014 to be no greater than the net emissions in 2005, net emissions in 2022 to be 22 percent less than net emissions in 2005, and a 75 percent reduction by 2050.

*Reducing the state’s energy consumption, including by the following percentages: 1 percent in 2011, 1.5 percent in 2013, and 2 percent in 2015 and each year after that.

Todd Stuart, executive director of the ratepayers organization, the Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group, said his members had “some very deep concerns” about the bill.

Stuart said the large manufacturers within his organization were already struggling to keep assembly line jobs in the state and couldn’t afford large long-term hikes in their utility bills.

“Every new cost is a burden,” he said.

The renewable energy mandate in the bill could lead to $16 billion in additional costs that would have to be borne by homeowners and businesses through their utility bills, Stuart said. Additional likely spending on state energy conservation programs such as Focus on Energy is also a concern, he said.

Ahead of his trip next week to the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, Gov. Jim Doyle pushed back against critics and said the legislation would boost Wisconsin’s future by changing the state’s status as an energy importer.

“It is an enormous economic opportunity for us,” Doyle said in a conference call. “We do not have coal. We do not have gas. We do not have petroleum. Every dollar we spend on fuel that comes from those sources of energy is a dollar that leaves the state of Wisconsin.”

However, in a report by The Beacon Hill Institute of Boston for the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, both conservative think tanks, the authors found that the cost of meeting the proposed renewable energy mandate through 2025 would be $16.2 billion. To put that in perspective, that’s enough to run all of state government for more than half a year.

To get the estimate, the Institute computed the cost of building windfarms, electric plants that burn biofuels and power lines that can carry electricity from out of state power dams and then subtracted the savings gained from not building conventional power plants.

But Dan Kohler, the executive director of Wisconsin Environment, said the bill would help people save energy – and money – by improving energy efficiency. “We waste a lot of energy,” he said.

Kohler added that Wisconsin’s natural resources and manufacturing base makes it well-positioned to thrive economically with the help of green jobs and renewable energy businesses, such as companies focused on wind or biomass fuels. “I am hopeful that this legislation can reduce Wisconsin’s dependence on fossil fuels,” he said.

Beyond environmentalists, Miller said the legislation represents a “broad-based compromise” that will have the support needed to pass. “The more people know about it, I think the more they’ll like it,” he added.

Meanwhile, some environmental groups have criticized at least one provision of the proposed bill, which would make it easier to build nuclear power plants. Pam Kleiss, the executive director of the Wisconsin chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, said she’s concerned about the relaxing of the state’s nuclear rules. Her organization, along with Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice and other groups, said the state should stick with its current law requiring a nuclear waste disposal site be operating before new reactors can be licensed.

Copyright 2015 madison.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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