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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Consensus on Energy Policy?

Under the next president, U.S. could be R&D capital

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I think now, for the first time, we have three remaining presidential candidates who support mandatory reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, support putting a price on the emission of carbon and support large increases in U.S. spending on technology development—that’s a significant step in the right direction,” said Paul Bledsoe, director of communications and strategy for the bipartisan National Commission on Energy Policy.

Bledsoe, speaking on his way to Milwaukee Tuesday morning to talk at UW-Milwaukee, said that Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain would be wise to shift the national energy conversation from being “energy independent” to becoming a leader in clean energy technology.

“We have the ability to be the leader,” Bledsoe said. “One of the things that putting a cap on carbon emissions would do is to spur the private sector to innovate and help make the U.S. a leader. I think there’s a sense among the candidates that clean technology could become the huge growth industry in the United States, like, say, information technology was in the 1990s. There’s this huge opportunity for that. And that would involve exports around the world as well as domestic uses.”

Bledsoe said that clean coal technologies, the new fuel economy standards passed by Congress late last year, and the development of alternative fuel sources provide opportunities for our nation—and individual states—to become the clean energy R&D leader.

Autism Shenanigans: It’s no secret that the two houses of the state Legislature, controlled by opposing parties, aren’t agreeing on much this session. One good bill is getting stuck in the final days of the regular legislative session: insurance coverage of autism. Senate Democrats—plus 15 Senate Republicans—voted to mandate that insurance companies cover treatment for autistic kids (SB 178). But Assembly Republicans want to give private insurers $6 million of state money and $8 million of federal money for coverage.

An editorial in the Wausau Daily Herald ripped the Assembly plan, saying: “Just to be clear, the proposed $14 million in aid to insurance companies…is not being offered in exchange for mandating coverage of autism treatments. It is being offered instead of a mandate. That means the insurance companies would get the giveaway, while Wisconsin parents receive no new guarantee that treatments for their autistic children would be covered.”

Conspiracy Theories: So the Milwaukee Police Department’s Special Investigation Unit dropped a bombshell last week … well, not quite. The 67-page unsigned report detailed what we all knew about the 2004 election—that there were errors at the polls. It didn’t note that those problems— mostly clerical—have been cleared up and that record turnout for February’s primary election was conducted without problems.

But the report did make policy recommendations, including instituting Voter ID and ending Election Day registration. Reports indicate that new Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn was surprised by the document, which he says showed up on his desk shortly before its release to the media.

Bloggers have been speculating about the who and the why of it, so we’ll add our two cents to the growing conspiracy. Think about it: Who benefits from this outdated report? Start with Republicans in Madison, who want to terminate the state’s popular Election Day registration system. These are the same folks who also want to impose Voter ID on the state, which would dampen the typically Democratic vote in Milwaukee, and also make it more difficult for the poor, the elderly and minority voters to cast ballots in elections. And then consider that Republicans—mostly from outside of Milwaukee—also fought to continue paying MPD officers who have been fired after being charged with crimes, even though most Milwaukee leaders wanted to end the practice. A coincidence?

A Very Expensive Stalemate: That $91.5 million of federal money that local leaders had their eye on for mass transit projects? It’s gone, thanks to the lengthy stalemate among the same leaders. The feds froze the funds because nothing was happening. Some of the money was used to study various options—including streetcars, light rail, a guided bus system and express buses— but nothing was ever finalized. Now it looks like Congress will have to appropriate more money for Milwaukee’s mass transit needs. Hopefully.

Joining the Party: Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge John Siefert wants to join the party—the Democratic Party, that is. He filed a suit in federal court saying that Wisconsin regulations prohibiting judges from joining political parties violates his First Amendment rights. His lawyer, James Bopp Jr., said in a statement that judges are allowed to engage in political speech, and “stating a party preference is just shorthand for announcing your political views.” And in case you think that Bopp is a Democrat who wants to use Siefert to bump up his party’s membership, think again. Bopp is a conservative Republican who represented Wisconsin Right to Life in its fight against McCain-Feingold campaign finance rules.

Remember Him?: Remember that kid in Wauwatosa who posted fake dirty bomb warnings on the Internet, saying that stadiums around the United States would become “America’s Hiroshima”? Last week Jake J. Brahm pleaded guilty to one charge of conveying false information and is free on bail. He’ll be sentenced in June in federal court, and faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Coping With Loss: Sure, everyone’s upset that Packers great Brett Favre decided to retire. But does he really need a shout-out from local pols who have little to do with the Pack? Scott Walker, the Milwaukee county executive—who just happens to be running for re-election—seemed to be the first to show his love for the longtime QB.

Walker announced on official Milwaukee County stationery, “Thanks for making us proud to be Packer fans!” We’re sure that made Favre feel really special.

Green Jobs: Milwaukee Area Technical College will host the 2008 Wisconsin Renewable Energy Summit on March 12- 14 at the Midwest Airlines Center. The theme is “Green Jobs: Growing Wisconsin’s Economy.” The fee is $200 for three days, $125 for one day, although students can register for free until noon on March 11. Go to renewableenergysummit.org for more information.

What’s your take? Write: editor@shepex.com.