By Brian E. Clark
MADISON – Wind and other forms of renewable energy hold great potential
for Wisconsin and the country, but they lack meaningful support from the Bush
administration and the Republican-controlled Congress, Rep. Tammy
But Baldwin, speaking at a Customers First! Coalition conference at
Terrace, said she does not expect major energy policy changes – even if
Democrats take over the House or Senate after the November elections.
“The changes in the next two years will be modest at best,” said
who recently gained a seat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
“There won’t be any 180-degree pivot. It might be 90 degrees at best and
then perhaps further after the next presidential election.”
Baldwin ripped the administration’s energy bill, which she said was
drafted in secret by vice president Dick Cheney with the aid of
lobbyists and does little to cut U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
And she drew a few chuckles when she said “As far as I can tell, this
administration ran out of gas a long time ago.”
Baldwin was introduced by Gary Wolter, president and CEO of Madison Gas
Electric, who praised what he called her new “passion” for energy
issues. (She has long been known as an advocate for health-care reform.)
Wolter lauded her efforts to pass legislation that would remove the
exemption from anti-trust law that has permitted a handful of railroads
to control most of the nation’s tracks. Because of this consolidation,
companies have little competition and have nearly doubled freight rates
for coal deliveries to Wisconsin power plants.
In a decidedly partisan speech, Baldwin said that instead of investing
more in renewable energy sources, current Bush administration policy
increases oil imports.
“Rather than insisting on cleaner air and water, it gives energy
license, even funding, to further pollute the environment,” she said.
Unfortunately, she said, a phased-in requirement that 10 percent of all
electricity be produced from renewable resources was cut from the energy
bill, as was a strengthening of auto fuel efficiency standards.
“The real story of the Energy Policy Act is what was deleted from it,”
She called the legislation “fatally flawed” because it “values revenue
over resources” and “favors consumption over conservation.” Equally
striking, she said, was any lack of planning for a post-petroleum
Soon, she said, “there will be a headline that Saudi Arabian oil
have peaked. Getting this right is essential – to our economy, our
national security and our environment.”
Recalling the space program that put the first man on the moon, Baldwin
said the United States needs an “Apollo-scale energy program to end our
reliance on finite and polluting fuels and set a timeline for doing so.”
Referring to herself as a do-gooder, she described a recent energy
committee trip to Denmark, considered a leader in wind energy
Though she was impressed, she said majority party members of her group
were openly skeptical.
She said she was equally dismayed when recent hearings on global warming
were used – she charged – to attempt to discredit scientists’ research.
But she applauded plans in Wisconsin to make four UW campuses (Green
Oshkosh, River Falls and Stevens Point) energy independent by 2012. She
said the effort, if successful, would save 260,000 tons of coal over the
next decade and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 67,000 tons.
She also praised MG&E, Alliant Energy, SC Johnson and other businesses
“One of the many ways that you all have supported increasing America’s
energy independence is through renewables,” she told the group.
through co-generation, solar power, or wind, you are making solid
in efficient, economical, and environmentally friendly energy sources.”
She said she had pushed the Department of Defense to consider
mitigation measures for wind projects that might interfere with military
“Wind power, like other renewables, can play an important role in
our dependence on foreign energy,” she said. “But, it only can continue
to do so through your diligence, your investments, and your commitment.
look forward to continuing to work with you as we increase our nation’s
In a later speech at the conference, John Dunlop of the American Wind
Energy Association, said he expects $4 billion to be invested in wind
energy this year and perhaps as much as $5 billion next year.
He said he is particularly encouraged because utilities – including some
in Wisconsin – are investing in wind turbines.
“It is becoming mainstream, though there is some tension because of
national security concerns over radar,” he said.
Still, he said, of the 4,225 wind turbines the Federal Aviation
Administration has considered, only four received a hazardous
Even though he said he was disappointed with the DOD wind energy report
because it said the only mitigation for turbine conflicts was to not
them, he predicted developers would push ahead.
And, seemingly at odds with Baldwin, he cited a February speech in which
President Bush said wind could supply up to 20 percent of U.S. energy
needs. Currently, Dunlop said the country gets less than 1 percent of
energy from wind.
“It might take an Apollo project,” he said. “But if we invest $500
in wind over the next 25 years, we might be able to do it.”