Janesville15.2°

Ease warming while growing state’s economy

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Howard A. Learner
April 22, 2008

Wisconsin is well-positioned to be a center of the rapidly growing green economy if we seize the strategic opportunities.


That requires taking savvy policy actions and using business development strategies now before other states leap far ahead. Whatís at stake: jobs of the future as the global economy transitions to cleaner and greener technologies.


Solving global warming problems is the challenge of our generation. The leading presidential candidates and Congress are moving toward realigning our nation to achieve rapid, enormous reductions in greenhouse gas pollution. Cleaning up the energy sector is a necessary solution in a ďcarbon cappedĒ economy.


--Energy efficiency: Making our homes, businesses and public buildings more energy efficient is a no-brainer. Itís a win-win-win for jobs, economic vitality and environmental protection. Retrofitting buildings with more efficient lighting, heating and cooling, windows and other equipment will create new electrical, plumbing, carpentry and other construction jobs that pay good wages.


Energy efficiency holds down utility bills and thus helps businessesí bottom lines and household budgets. It plugs the billion-dollar drain away from Wisconsinís economy to states and foreign countries that produce natural gas and coal. Reducing energy demand through efficiency is the best, fastest and cheapest way to avoid global warming pollution.


Wisconsin has been a leader in energy efficiency through its Focus on Energy program, but huge potential efficiency savings remain on the table. Letís cut this energy waste through efficiency improvements.


Green business winners include Johnson Controls, Andersen Windows and the skilled union trade workers performing energy-efficiency upgrades in commercial and public buildings. This green business sector can grow Wisconsinís economy as it reduces pollution and helps reduce energy bills, which increases competitiveness.


--Wind power: This is our nationís fastest-growing energy resource. Two new wind projects are near completion in the Lake Winnebago area, and 800 megawatts more are under development statewide. Wind power benefits people throughout Wisconsin: from new jobs in rural counties to cleaner air in Janesville, Madison and Milwaukee.


Wisconsin is well-positioned to be a manufacturing center for the wind industry. Tower Tech, based in Manitowoc, is producing the 300-foot towers for todayís modern wind turbines. But much of the wind power component manufacturing is going to Iowa and North Dakota, where new plants provide good-paying jobs for skilled workers. Wisconsin has longstanding manufacturing strengths in steel fabrication, castings and gears, and should engage in the wind industry supply chain.


When asked why he robbed banks, Willie Sutton is famously said to have replied: ďBecause thatís where the money is.Ē Lots of jobs and money are at stake in the emerging green economy. As wind power booms across the Upper Midwest, wind component manufacturers are increasingly locating nearby instates that adopt supportive policies and to reduce transportation costs and ease logistics between their heavy-equipment factories and the wind-power generation sites.


As we mark Earth Day, letís seize these strategic opportunities and Wisconsinís competitive advantages to be a center of the growing green economy of the future.


Howard A. Learner is executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, the Midwestís leading environmental and economic development advocacy organization. He can be reached by e-mail at Hlearner@elpc.org, by phone at (312) 673-6500 or by regular mail at 35 E. Wacker Drive, Suite 1300, Chicago, IL 60601.

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