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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Issue of the Week: Investing in Clean Energy Jobs

Plus Hero and Jerk of the Week

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It seems like a fairly easy question: Should the state and energy consumers invest in the technologies of the future or those of the past?

But during a recession and amid doubts about following the lead of a lame-duck governor, the question posed by the proposed Clean Energy Jobs Act isn’t so simple anymore.

If enacted, the bill would require the state’s utilities to increase its reliance on renewable sources of energy by 2025. A hefty portion of that would come from Wisconsin-based power sources, such as wind farms, solar panels and biomass. As old, fossil-fuel power plants age and phase out, these new, nimble sources of energy would phase in.

But change always makes people nervous. Those fears are being fueled by a discredited study from Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) that argued that the bill would lead to massive job loss and increased fuel costs. In contrast, more reliable studies show just the opposite—that the costs of fossil fuels will increase dramatically in the future while renewable energy sources will be less expensive. That will help the state’s businesses, not hurt them. Plus, building and operating these new technologies will boost job creation, too, as Randall Swisher explains in this week’s Shepherd Q&A [page 7].

We ask state legislators to invest our resources wisely—on new technologies that promote Wisconsin’s economy while preserving our environment.

Heroes of the Week

“Inspire by Example” Award Winners

The Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee has announced the recipients of its “Inspire by Example” awards, to be presented April 14 at the Italian Community Center.

Among those honored for their community service this year will be Arthur Cameron, a teen mentor group leader at the House of Peace, and Michelle Crockett, a community leader who serves on the board of many organizations, including Northcott Neighborhood House.

Also recognized will be Rebecca Williams for her wide-ranging service to the Badger Association, Joy Alexander, volunteer administrator for the Salvation Army of Greater Milwaukee, and the Southeast Wisconsin Master Gardener volunteers, who worked with adults and children to complete 40 community gardening projects.

The Shepherd joins the Nonprofit Center in saluting these civic-minded individuals, and urges readers who wish to emulate their fine example to visit www.volunteermilwaukee.org to learn about volunteer opportunities.

Jerk of the Week

‘Journal Sentinel’ Columnist Patrick McIlheran

If forward-looking people support an idea, you can count on Patrick McIlheran to oppose it. He, along with the two Republican candidates for governor, continues to oppose the introduction of high-speed rail to Wisconsin despite the fact that funding—more than $800 million—is coming from the federal government. Not only would Wisconsin finally get its fair share of federal funds, but high-speed rail would also create an estimated 13,000 jobs and help to bring southern Wisconsin into the 21st century. Additionally, the rail would link Wisconsin’s two largest cities in a ride taking just about an hour.

Of course, something this exciting and positive is exactly what McIlheran would oppose. If McIlheran was writing his column 30 years ago, he would be arguing that word processing is just a waste of money and that some secretary should simply pay closer attention to the work and not make any mistakes on an IBM typewriter. Twenty years ago, he would be arguing that the World Wide Web was a fancy, expensive toy that we could definitely live without. Ten years ago, his column would be about why “smartphones” are just dumb.

So when you wonder why it is hard for Milwaukee to move forward in any kind of positive, progressive way, read McIlheran.