Saturday, November 17, 2007

Wisconsin's Energy Policy Insanity

Wisconsin hosted a Great Lakes governors' energy summit this week that produced lofty promises to coordinate the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

A few hours later, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation released the schedule to spend a record-setting $1.9 billion to add another north-south traffic lane on I-94 between the Mitchell interchange near the airport for 35 miles south to the Illinois state line.

So we're inducing more driving at a time of record oil prices, knowing that driving releases greenhouse gases?

And we're spending this money on highway expansion based on gasoline costing $2.30 a gallon, when today's price is more than 25% higher and only going higher?

And the funding sources for this giant sop to road-builders aren't even nailed down, as Gretchen Schuldt points out on her blog?

These contradictions make a mockery of the Governors' energy summit and the state's commitment to sound fiscal and environmental stewardship.

Wisconsin's energy policy is still firmly in the grip of the highway lobby, and its control of historic sums of public funds that are intentionally directed away from transit and other conservation tools is flat-out crazy, embarrassing and, frankly, deflating.

There is a natural coalition statewide that needs to rein in this completely unacceptable dynamic:

Smaller communities outstate whose road needs are left behind; transit systems starved for operating and equipment resources; conservation groups promoting clean air and land preservation; businesses investing in energy-saving technologies, individuals fed up with government waste and tone-deaf indifference to today's issues - - these interests have to be harnessed to stop Wisconsin's capture and control by the highway lobby.


Anonymous said...

Jim, you are absolutely right. Additional likely members of the coalition are those who work to fight economic and social injustices such as the ACLU, NAACP, and many, many more I'm sure. These roads, if built, will further divide communities, and bring more air pollution to the people whose children already experience the state's highest asthma rates. Meanwhile, as money is invested in car dependency rather than transit options, those who can't own cars are even further disadvantaged. .... Lynn Broaddus

Dave said...

Yea this is just terrible we can find another $1.9 Billion for highways but nothing for KRM or light-rail...

Anonymous said...

Who was that crazy politician you lefty's got rid know, the one guy that stood up to the road builders and warned you about them....yeah, that's right. TOM REYNOLDS.

James Rowen said...

Tom Reynolds was opposed to automatic gas tax increases; he was defeated for a broad variety of reasons, with many conservatives joining liberals in finding a more credible candidate.

James Rowen said...

For Dave:

The KRM and light rail could be started for far less than $1.9 billion: doesn't it strile you as strange that $1.9 billion is planned for that stretch of interstate without a penny for the KRM, or for AMTRAK expansion, which serves the same corridor, and which will have greater demand as gas prices rise?

Why not give travelers more choices? Why stay locked into a transportation monopoly - - roads only?

Anonymous said...

I am a conservative, but I would love to see light rail in Wisconsin. I live in the Lake Geneva area and would love to have the option to hop on a train to take me to Milwaukee, Madison, or whereever. I think people are wrong who say that ridership will be limited. I think many people would take advantage of this. Now, I will not give up my truck, but I would love to option to use a different mode of transportation. I take the train out of Fox Lake Illinois to get to downtown Chicago all of the time. It is great, the train is always full. I would rather see my tax money pay for this, than to build new roads. Fixing existing roads yes, but not new ones.

I disagree with James and almost all issues, but this one I agree with him. I do not see this as a liberal/conservative issue, but giving the consumer another alternative.

James Rowen said...

John P. gets it: it's all about choices.

Consumers exercise their choices all the time - - whether in schools, shopping, political parties, etc.

That's the basis of political and consumer capitalism, It's a function of democracy as it has evolved in the US, and we brag about ti ourselves and tout it to our political foes - - but when it comes to transportation in Wisconsin (and other states are not as extreme: Oregon, Illinois, Texas - - you name it), our choices are deliberately curtailed by the unholy, bipartisan alliance between politicians and the highway lobby.