WisBusiness: Doyle’s energy, gobal warming plans draw mixed response

By Brian E. Clark

Business and utility groups gave a mixed response today to Gov. Jim Doyle’s announcement of new steps that he hopes will turn Wisconsin into the nation’s leader in energy independence and the fight against global warming.

Those measures include creating a state Office of Energy Independence and a separate task force of business, government, environmental, scientific and other experts to find the best ways to deal with climate change.

The group will be headed by Roy Thilly, CEO of Wisconsin Public Power; and Tia Nelson, executive secretary of the Public Land Commissioners Board. She is the daughter of environmental pioneer Gaylord Nelson, a former Wisconsin governor and U.S. senator.

Doyle also asked the state Department of Natural Resources and the Public Service Commission to come up with a current estimate of the greenhouse gas emissions in Wisconsin.

R.J. Pirlot, director of legislative relations for Wisconsin Manufactures & Commerce, generally lauded the governor’s plans.

“We all know Wisconsin’s energy appetite is growing,” he said. “We need to make sure that the energy we generate here and import from out of state is used in the smartest and most efficient way possible. We hope the task force can help us do that.”

But Bill Skewes, executive director of the Wisconsin Utilities Association, was more reserved.

“We anticipate a vigorous debate on the climate change issue,” he said. “We are glad utilities will be represented on the task force.”

Barry McNulty, a spokesman for Wisconsin Energy Corp. – the state’s largest utility – said his boss, CEO and President Gale Klappa, was pleased to be named to the task force on global warming by the governor.

“Gale is anxious to get to work,” he said. “He looks forward to participating in the debate that is at the forefront these days.”

On the consumer side, Charlie Higley, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), gave his endorsement to Doyle’s proposals.

“He as a lot of good ideas,” said Higley, who was also named to the task force. “It is good to see him put his energy behind this. There is a lot that can be done in power generation and transportation that can save energy and help protect the environment.”