Friday, January 11, 2008

Midwest Governors Tout Renewable Energy, Great Lakes Compact

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty was joined by our Gov. Jim Doyle this week, charting out renewable energy plans for the Upper Midwest.

No mention by either in news reports of the probable application for a huge petroleum refinery expansion in Superior by Murphy Oil, based a definitely non-renewable energy source - - dense crude oil extracted at great energy and water expense, and piped in, from the tar sand fields of Alberta, Canada.

But back to the renewables: both the governors recognize that their states have plenty of forest and agricultural lands that can be used to produce cheaper forms of ethanol than what's found in today's preferred source - - corn.

And that's a good development, because producing ethanol from wood-products or grasses uses far less water and energy to make than corn-based ethanol.

The outlines of Wisconsin's approach to renewable energy production are contained in a lengthy briefing book prepared this summer for Matt Frank, the new secretary of the Department of Natural Resources.

I posted excerpts on my blog, here, drawing attention to wind and wave-generating schemes along with the agricultural and forest-based industrial opportunities.

It's anybody's guess if these plans will ever produce a kilowatt of electricity or a gallon of ethanol, but it's good to see government and industry at least talking to eachother about how to save money, energy and reduce carbon emissions, too.

It was interesting to see that Doyle and Pawlenty both calling for the approval of the Great Lakes Compact, an agreement that would implement in the eight Great Lakes states a cooperative plan to limit diversions of water away from the lakes and bring about conservation, too.

Minnesota has already approved the Compact: Wisconsin is the only state without a bill even under review, in large measure due to fierce opposition from Waukesha County business interests.

This is what the Governors had to say about the Compact, noting that Minnesota had already approved it:

“'It’s my hope that Wisconsin and all others will join us in that regard,” Pawlenty said.

"Doyle said a fight over water issues in southeastern Wisconsin’s Waukesha County should not delay his state’s participation in the Great Lakes compact.

“'This is about how we preserve the quantity and quality of Great Lakes water,” he said, adding it’s a way to protect the lakes from invasive species.

“'If there ever has been an issue where we have to look at the big picture, this is it.'”

We'll see just which big picture that is, should the Governor support a Great Lakes Compact bill rolled out by legislators later this month, as rumored.

There's more than one version of the Compact under discussion around the State Capitol, thus more than one rendition of a big picture under consideration.

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