MADISON – Will
That question was raised by state Sen. Bob Jauch, the veteran Democrat from Poplar, during Tuesday’s Capitol debate over the state’s 2007-2009 budget bill. So far, the answer isn’t pretty.
The Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, which is working on the $57.7 billion budget bill sent to them by Gov. Jim Doyle, has declined to back a proposal to make $30.1 million available for a renewable energy grant and loan program. Eight Democrats voted for it; eight Republicans against it, mainly because it represented new spending in a tight budget. It now falls to the Senate or Assembly to revive the idea.
“The bio economy is going to be the new industrial revolution,” Jauch said Tuesday, as the committee debated other economic development programs.
Doyle wants the state to award grants or loans to businesses and researchers to fund the development and commercialization of new energy technologies, from biofuels to conservation technologies. He specifically called for a grant of up to $5 million (from the $30.1 million total) to build a cellulosic ethanol plant in
Corn-based ethanol is already here, and many states have a competitive edge over
Cellulosic ethanol has the potential to be very different. It is ethanol produced from other biomass sources, ranging from wood to paper waste to switchgrass. Many researchers believe cellulosic ethanol can offer much greater energy payback, fewer environmental consequences and be produced at a much lower cost.
All renewable technologies have their detractors and their fans, of course, but some other technologies may have more potential than others.
n Wind energy has strong appeal in some parts of the country or the world, but there may be limits on where wind turbines can be placed in
n Nuclear energy can and should be considered a “renewable” source because of technologies that allow for next-generation plants to reuse fuel. Nuclear energy is also a greenhouse-friendly source. However, political objections to nuclear energy persist in some corners, primarily over waste disposal. The R&D effort in this arena is national and international in scope, and includes cutting-edge research by the UW-Madison College of Engineering. By and large, it is not an area in which a state grant and loan program will make a significant difference. Conversely, removing
n Solar energy is a here-and-now technology in its “passive” form, meaning rooftop solar panels, solar thermal heaters and the like. But mass production of solar energy remains elusive and prohibitively expensive. Again,
Doyle’s $30.1 million proposal could be a pace-setter if it focuses on technologies and resources where
Still is president of the