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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Outagamie Co. farmer: Clean energy bill's opponents lack perspective

From a guest column in The Country Today by Rick Adamski, an organic dairy farmer near Seymour:

As a dairy farmer, I understand that wise investments reduce operating costs. On our farm we have seen the need to save energy as a means to flourish in a changing economy.

The state needs to learn this lesson. We can create opportunities in rural Wisconsin to become net energy producers through some common-sense policies such as the advanced renewable portfolio standard, the low-carbon fuel standard and the Energy Crop Reserve Program, three policies being considered in the Clean Energy Jobs Act (Assembly Bill 649 and Senate Bill 450). All of these policies encourage adoption of more renewable energy sources and open up a market for Wisconsin farmers.

But I especially want to emphasize the importance of another common-sense policy being considered: advanced renewable tariffs.

Advanced renewable tariffs are essentially a statewide, uniform buyback rate for renewable energy that is fed into the grid. Locally owned, small-scale energy systems won't happen without these tariffs. Individuals need to know how much they will be paid for their energy before they invest.

I was fortunate to have had a We Energies experimental small wind buyback rate, which allowed me to build a wind turbine on our farm. It is unfortunate that there are people across the state with better wind resources than ours but worse buyback rates that keep them from producing renewable energy and earning a return. We need this bill to allow entrepreneurs to have fair access, no matter what utility they have.

While it seems an advanced renewable tariff is just common sense, some interests are actively trying to defeat this policy. Perspective is a quality that seems to be absent in so many political debates today, and the debate around the Clean Energy Jobs Act is no exception. It sure seems to me like the critics of this bill have a different understanding of the past or a lack of memory of the past.

At the basis of their argument is their belief that fossil fuels are cheap and will always be cheap. Both of those beliefs are wrong. We forget we are subsidizing fossil fuels. In the case of coal, currently 10 percent of the gross production is exempt from taxation. That is hardly a market-driven force.

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