Doyle’s pledges for greening Wisconsin spur call for action from WMC

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, a Madison-based business advocacy association, is calling for action among its members after Gov. Jim Doyle held talks in Washington last week that could lead to environmental protections which could adversely affect Wisconsin manufacturers.

Last week, Doyle met with White House officials and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Doyle’s meeting with White House officials included talks on using market mechanisms such as cap and trade programs, incentives to encourage clean energy, and national goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“It’s great to have a partner in the White House that is committed to moving forward on policies that will improve our air, create jobs for hard-working families, and protect our environment for generations to come,” Doyle said in a statement.

Cap and trade programs, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, set limits on emissions. When a company does not meet its limit, it is able to sell its credits to companies that would emit more emissions.

However, a cap and trade program would create more taxes for Wisconsin-based manufacturers and raise electric rates, according to officials with Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.

“Because we are disproportionately heavy in manufacturing, we’re the second highest (state) in the country, and we get half of our electricity from coal, we will be disproportionately affected,” said James Buchen, vice president of government relations with WMC. “We will have to pay more for electricity than we have to now. And we also have companies that combust and will have to pay more. It has the potential to harm our economy more than one (state) that isn’t heavily manufacturing oriented.”

WMC believes the current economic conditions and the challenges faced by Wisconsin manufacturers should require the Doyle administration to take a step back from changes to environmental policy.

“Dealing with climate change is something we need to be serious about,” Buchen said. “But doing something in the short term could seriously affect our manufacturers in this recession and even extend it. It’s time to slow down on this in light of the economy because of the inability to absorb these types of shocks (to the system).”

WMC urges its members to contact their state elected officials to request that Doyle hold off on any talks of cap and trade programs or other pollution controls that would adversely affect manufacturers.

“The business community needs to speak up or we’re likely to face these kinds of policies,” Buchen said. “Everybody has a lot on their plates now. The proposals from Washington are coming in hot and heavy. But we all have to be engaged if we’re going to have any hope of redirecting our elected officials to more productive policies.”

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