According to a report that aired last Thursday of Wisconsin Public Radio, the Walker administration is spelling out its case against a federal proposal to cut air pollution from coal-burning power plants, and reduce the impact of climate change.
The Obama administration’s nationwide crackdown on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants could force Wisconsin to reduce its pollutants by about one-third by the year 2030.
Susan Hedman, EPA Midwest region administrator, told a WisPolitics.com forum that the climate change plan is being debated as the planet is warming.
Hedman said the proposal, known as the “Clean Power Plan”, would have many other benefits too, such as sparking efforts to boost energy efficiency, help create jobs in renewable energy, and cut other pollutants that can lead to lung ailments.
Walker is already talking about having state Attorney General Brad Schimel file a lawsuit against the EPA, even though a final regulation won’t be issued until mid-summer.
Ellen Nowak, Public Service Commission member and incoming chair, is a Walker appointee and has zeroed in on Wisconsin’s carbon-cutting goal of 34 percent. Walker has now appointed all 3 commissioners Wisconsin Public Service Commission. “Why are we being forced to reach that goal, she asked (rhetorically)? Is the methodology the EPA came up with to reach that goal flawed?” “I think that answer is yes.”
The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) is supposedly an independent state agency charged with regulating over 1,100 Wisconsin public utilities that provide electric, natural gas, combined water and sewer service to Wisconsin households. Its mission is to ensure that safe, sufficient, and reasonably priced utility services are provided to all of Wisconsin’s customers.
Wisconsin utilities must obtain PSC approval before instituting new rates, issuing stocks or bonds, or undertaking major construction projects such as power plants, water wells and transmission lines. Recent PSC decisions approving 3 major fossil fuel burning utility companies’ rate restructure proposals, which effectively disincentivize household energy conservation and discourage installation of green energy investments (solar panels, others), despite the verbal and written objections of thousands of Green Bay, Milwaukee and Madison customers who had attended PSC public hearings last fall.
Keith Reopelle, of the environmental group Clean Wisconsin, said the Clean Power Plan isn’t perfect, but delaying action on climate change would be expensive.
“There’s a huge cost to some of our most important and iconic industries in the state, to the agricultural industry, to the tourism industry,” Reopelle said. “There will be very large, quantifiable costs from climate change and an enormous cost to public health.”
Reopelle also said changes to power plants would only grow more costly, the longer Wisconsin would wait to reduce carbon emissions.
Hedman said some Wisconsin firms could do very well under the proposal.
“Companies that do energy efficiency work, performance contracting like Johnson Controls. If you look at companies like Quad Graphics that are leaders in combined heat and power projects,” Hedman said.
Organizing committees of both the Wisconsin Senate and Wisconsin Assembly called both houses of the Wisconsin legislature into extraordinary sessions this week to pass a “right-to-work” bill, making it illegal for employers and labor unions to charge their employees and any new employees union dues as a condition of accepting employment. The Wisconsin State Journal reported in today’s newspaper edition that the full Senate could vote on this highly charged legislation (Senate Bill 44) as early as Wednesday and the Wisconsin Assembly could vote on this legislation (AB 61) as soon as Monday.
Governor Scott Walker has said he would sign the bill into law.
The Senate and Assembly organizing committees ought have called their “extraordinary” sessions to address what the State of Wisconsin ought do to protect its citizens from global warming and climate change instead. Greenhouse gas emissions, global warming and climate change are far more significant to the future of Wisconsin than are unions charging union dues in the state.
Please refer to “About this Blog” before proceeding.
The planet Venus is on the left; Earth is on the right. Nobody wants to see Earth go the route its that its commonly called twin planet Venus took, eons ago. You see Venus once had oceans of water, too, just like Earth does. But something went very wrong on the surface of Venus (possibly it is because the Sun got hotter), which started a “runaway greenhouse effect”. The oceans of water Venus once had boiled away. As temperatures began rising ocean water converted to water vapor, also a strong greenhouse gas. The water vapor increased the effectiveness of heat trapping and accelerated the greenhouse effect, which caused the temperature at the surface to rise further, thus causing the oceans to evaporate faster, etc., etc. This type of runaway is also called a “positive feedback loop”. When the oceans were gone the atmosphere finally stabilized at a much higher temperature and at much higher density, making the planet uninhabitable.
The sobering warning for us is obvious: we have to be extremely concerned about processes such as burning of fossil fuels in large volumes that might have the potential to trigger a runaway greenhouse effect and produce on the Earth atmospheric conditions that are incapable of supporting life.
That is why it is so essential that we initiate actions now, worldwide, to curb all forms of unnecessary activity that causes the greenhouse effect in our atmosphere to strengthen (meaning an increase concentrations of greenhouse gases). Carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas, has increased in concentration in the atmosphere from 280 parts per million (ppm) in the 1880’s to 400 ppm today – mainly the result of humans burning coal, oil. and natural gas, the combustion producing significant amounts of (invisible) CO2.
As a result, the global average annual temperature of the Earth at the surface has risen, the temperature of Earth’s oceans have been increasing and, as a result of the ice melting off of the island of Greenland, the continent of Antarctica, and water runs down the mountainous glaciers on practically all the continents, and the property of the thermal expansion of water, Earth’s oceans levels are rising.
Meanwhile, the Earth’s once solid permafrost region, which is approximately 1/5 of the Earth’s surface, is now thawing in many places, decomposing,and releasing methane to the atmosphere, a greenhouse gas 37 times as strong as CO2 in trapping heat.
Furthermore, replacement of large areas of ice and white snow surface (ice cap) on the Arctic Ocean means the open Arctic ocean water absorbs more of the radiant heat from the Sun, causing the ice and snow to melt even faster still, an so on. If it were not for the vast amounts of ice in the Arctic Ocean, the water would warm even faster.
It is essential that people and businesses, the world over, especially those in countries burning vast quantities of fossil fuels, in power generation, motorized transportation and jet travel, for human travel and shipping, find alternatives that don’t burn fossil fuels for their pursuits. Presently, citizens from the United States fly 40% more than citizens from other countries, and more U.S. citizens are buying gas guzzling SUVs and pickup trucks than more fuel efficient vehicles – because gas is “cheap” again, They remain apathetic about global warming, or are members of the “Earth is flat” society. As John Lennon once said, “apathy is it”. The Earth is also round. Above all, we need to Conserve, NOW!
Wisconsin Must Join the All Out World Effort to Fight Global Climate Change Without Delay, BEFORE Time Runs Out
Wisconsin has traditionally prided itself as being a state that “cares”. Wisconsin residents care about its wild and domestic animals, its fish, birds and butterflies; its plants, trees, and its forests; its tens of thousands of lakes, streams and rivers, and the quality of its wetlands, groundwater and air; its mighty bluffs and gorges, its remaining prairies, and the state’s overall majestic scenic beauty.
Wisconsin has traditionally had a strong manufacturing economy, a top notch agricultural industry, a public education system second to none, a world class university system, and an equally top notch private schools, colleges, and other educational institutions. Wisconsin also boasts an excellent highway, airport, and bicycle transportation system, and communities that are walking and wheelchair friendly. It has always held all visitors to the state in high regards and treated them with respect the production and sustainability of its farms, the well being of its human population, without regard for race, heritage or creed. Wisconsinites treat visitors to their state with respect and dignity,satisfaction of its visitors and transients alike, and, perhaps above all, in leaving its land, water and its economy better condition than they received it. In a nutshell, that’s a statement of Wisconsin’s traditions and value, as I have come to know them.
Wisconsin residents often boast, and rightly so, that Wisconsin was the home of such renown conservationists and humanists as John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Senator Gaylord Nelson, Midge Miller and Vel Phillips. In the 1970s, Wisconsin was emulated by other states as the state to look at for developing effective environmental protection regulations to safeguard its treasures. With Wisconsin Departmental Resource Secretary Anthony “Tony” Earl at the helm, who would later become Wisconsin’s governor, and George “Knute” Knudson as its chief naturalist, Wisconsin natural resources were in good hands.
It is no exaggeration to say that all this is at risk the longer our Wisconsin Legislature, our governor, other state legislatures and governors, and the people’s representatives in the United States Congress continue to kick the issue of excess fossil fuel burning and greenhouse gas production by Americans down the road. What we don’t need is more highway development and expansion and more airport capacity expansion that encourage even more fossil fuel burning by the public. What we don’t need is more trade with distant countries that requires more fuel for shipping and flying. What we don’t need are more coal and natural gas burning power plants and the thousands of miles of high voltage transmission lines that go with them, and not Wisconsin power companies who restructure their rates in favor of more fossil fuel burning, thus discouraging their customers from investing in solar energy panels for their homes and businesses, and having the governor’s appointed Wisconsin Public Service Commission (the PSC) “rubber stamps” the fossil-fuel-dependent utilities’ proposals.
We are wasting valuable time and money by not relying less and less on fossil fuel dependent energy, and more on either energy conservation or on conversion to solar and wind generated power, in our homes, businesses and institutions; and that we desperately need to reduce aggregate driving and flying, which rely almost exclusively on burning fossil fuels that, when subject to combustion, release large quantities of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide (CO2), to the atmosphere. Most of the greenhouse gases, such as CO2, remain in the atmosphere for centuries, accumulating to increasingly more ominous concentration levels, or they get absorbed in the oceans, making the earth’s ocean water more acidic, harming the biological species in the oceans.
But scientists the world over are in agreement that the rising concentrations of greenhouse gases from significantly increased fossil fuel burning by humans since the time of the Industrial Revolution (early 1800’s) have remained in earth’s atmosphere, trapping more and more of the Sun’s radiant energy and changing it into heat energy, causing the earth’s surface to warm, melting more of the polar ice caps and mountain glaciers, causing the vast permafrost region to thaw, releasing more and more methane gas, another greenhouse gas that’s known to have 37 times the heat-trapping power of CO2.
Scientists don’t know when global warming could begin accelerating, but it could be any day now. What they do know is that there are higher concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere now to push global surface temperatures much higher than what we have experienced thus far. Time is of the essence for the world’s populations who are relying on fossil fuel burning for energy to stop adding even higher concentration levels of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, risking setting off positive feedback mechanisms in the system that could worsen the situation and amplify the weather extremes global warming has already caused in earth’s climate.
This past Labor Day, WORT-FM (89.9 FM), Madison (www.wortfm.org), broadcasted my proposed solution for reducing global warming & climate change. The program would offer government-provided positive financial incentives ($) to encourages people and families in Wisconsin who chose to minimize their global footprint by driving less than the average Wisconsin individual or family (or not driving at all), by not flying at all, and by using less fossil fuel derived energy during the year. The “Conserve, NOW program is further described in about this blog.
The Labor Day Access Hour show “Planet Earth: It Needs Our Help Now More Than Ever” starts with a brief introduction announcing the program followed by several songs containing lyrics applicable to the subject and further information on the program and sources of funding for carrying out. The thought is that much of the funding would eventually be paid back by reducing governmental spending on major environmentally disrupting infrastructure capacity expansions (highway developments, power plants and transmission line construction, airport runway construction and new airports), state and federally funded personnel such as highway and airport and transmission line planners and air traffic controllers. There would also be less cost and harm due to fewer motor vehicle crashes and airplane crashes due to heavier traffic.
Because it provides more income for individuals and families, it would also reduce the need for reliance on poverty assistance programs that provide food and subsidized housing, it would reduce homelessness, and by reducing these impediments, this would eliminate factors detrimental to education of young children.
Click here to listen to the show. It lasts a total of one hour.
Of course there are many other ways individuals, communities, nongovernmental organizations, business interests and others can reduce their annual global footprint in addition to driving and flying less
and using less energy derived from fossil fuels. Some of these include buying fewer consumer products most of which require fuel burning and mining or drilling in their development or use; buying locally produced products whenever possible (less energy used in transport); buying already used products and supporting organizations which only use recycled products; eating less or no meat products; supporting planned parenthood and humane societies that provide rescue animals for pets rather than buying from breeders; supporting organizations that promote reforestation not deforestation, and removal of paved surfaces and replacing them with green space, where ever feasible. Cities and businesses that attract large numbers of daily commuters should provide daily mass transit services to those locations, and the state should subsidize those municipalities who provide those services to outside-the-city locations – rather than put more even money into cement (greenhouse gas emitted in its production and application)for providing highway capacity expansion (which promotes even more driving).
The state, universities, public radio stations and other organization should stop coordinating long distance air travel trips to tourist spots around the world and events such as professional sports, actor/actress movie and music awards shows should be terminated. Major amounts of money, worldwide but especially by the U.S., should stop being funneled into fossil fuel using vehicles including most military airplanes. The U.S. should limit and eventually eliminate sending troops to foreign soils and establishing military bases and headquarters overseas.
– The Lorax
The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin is holding technical hearings this week in Madison as they assess the need and impact of the American Transmission Company (ATC) LLC and Northern States Power Company ‘s joint application to construct and operate a high voltage 345 kV electricity transmission line called Badger-Coulee line from the La Crosse area in Lacrosse County to the greater Madison area in Dane County, Wisconsin.
The Wisconsin Public Service Commission (PSC) will determine whether and where American Transmission Company (ATC) and Xcel Energy may build the line, which could encroach on as many as 556 residences, as well as forest and public lands. The transmission line is expected to cost up to $580 million.
Opponents of the project say the project is not needed and and that it would allow utilities to profit by trading energy while discouraging more cost-effective alternatives such as energy efficiency and solar power.
The PSC held five public hearings in December with the majority of those speaking voicing opposition to the project.
At the technical hearings this week, commissioners are hearing from the applicants, the PSC’s professional staff, and 25 registered intervenors.
The 3-member commission, with 2 of the 3 of the commissioners having been appointed by Governor Walker, is expected to issue a final decision in April, 2015.