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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tapping into Wisconsin’s energy potential should be bipartisan goal

From an article by Tom Stills in Wisconsin Technology News:

MADISON - Unless someone strikes oil in Oshkosh, discovers natural gas in Necedah or mines coal in Colfax, the state of Wisconsin is destined to remain largely dependent - perhaps for decades - on outside sources of energy that power its homes, businesses and vehicles.

That economic dependency can be slowly but steadily reduced, however, if Wisconsin builds on its emerging expertise around development of new sources of energy.

Two recent news events sounded alarm bells for those who believe Wisconsin has the right combination of natural resources, research capacity and private sector know-how to begin charting a new energy future. In rapid order, Gov. Scott Walker introduced regulations that would make it harder to build wind-power projects in some parts of Wisconsin and he cancelled plans to convert a UW-Madison power plant from coal to biomass.

There may be logical reasons for the new administration's specific actions. Some people have complained that current state rules allow wind generators to be built too close to private property, and the conversion of the UW-Madison's Charter Street plant to burn switchgrass pellets was estimated to be $75 million more expensive than burning natural gas.

The larger danger is that Wisconsin could lose momentum around the development of much-needed energy technologies - advanced wind, next-generation biofuels, energy storage systems and much more - if the message is sent that energy and conservation innovation isn't welcome or valued.

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