Wisconsin Global Warming Bill Sparks Controversy

Published February 1, 2010

The Wisconsin state legislature has begun drawing battle lines on global warming legislation advocated by Gov. Jim Doyle (D). The proposed legislation, dubbed the Clean Energy Jobs Act, would give the force of law to recommendations by a global warming task force appointed by Doyle.

Costly New Mandates
Although the bill is called a “jobs act,” consumer advocates warn the governor’s task force recommendations would severely punish the state’s economy.

Some of the more controversial provisions include higher gasoline taxes, more taxpayer subsidies to the alternative energy industry, requiring consumers to purchase electricity from significantly more expensive sources, lowering highway speed limits, adopting California’s automotive emissions standards (which supporters and opponents agree will raise new car prices), require homeowners to pay for costly energy efficiency improvements before selling their home, and building industrial wind farms in pristine areas of lakes Michigan and Superior.

The global warming legislation could result in 43,000 job losses, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) warns. Since the year 2000, Wisconsin has already lost 160,000 high-wage manufacturing jobs, according to a WMC press statement.

“Manufacturing jobs depend on affordable energy and affordable electricity,” says Scott Manley, WMC director of environmental policy.

A Beacon Hill Institute analysis of the task force recommendations concluded every state resident would lose $1,012 a year in personal income by 2020 if the legislation passes.

However, the governor’s task force “very deliberately excluded any analysis of cost or benefit, which I think was a fundamental flaw,” said Manley.

Solution Without a Problem
Glenn Grothman (R), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Clean Energy, believes the governor’s task force should disband at least temporarily, until global temperatures reverse their recent decline.

“Given that we are talking about billions of dollars in new windmills, a possible 60 cent a gallon increase in gas prices, and a possible increase in electric bills of 30 percent, we ought to take a two-year break to see whether we recently have global warming or cooling or what we have. In addition to yet another burden on the average consumer, higher electricity prices would be devastating in comparing Wisconsin’s business climate to other states,” said Grothman.

Manley noted even if global warming begins to occur, there is little Wisconsin can accomplish by itself.

“We cannot and should not try to tackle global warming unilaterally—we can’t do it,” Manley said.

State Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) reports people across the state increasingly oppose costly global warming legislation.

“They are worried about increased taxes in a state that is already overtaxed and overstepping regulations that could hamper the ability to create and retain jobs and [could] even kill jobs and businesses in Wisconsin,” Lazich said.

“If the legislation ultimately fails to reflect the desires of the people, then it should be rejected outright,” said Lazich.

Alyssa Carducci ([email protected]) writes from Tampa, Florida.