State’s Clean Energy Jobs Act needs modification

    As our nation begins to transition towards increased clean energy generation, Wisconsin has a great opportunity to play a leadership role in this emerging industry. But time is running short for the Wisconsin State Legislature to pass meaningful legislation that would ensure our state is positioned to take advantage of these opportunities.
     
    In the summer of 2008, the Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming issued a final report on its recommendations for reducing Wisconsin’s impact on global warming while growing our state’s economy and creating new jobs. That report was the catalyst for the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which was discussed through much of 2009 before being formally introduced in the Legislature in January of this year.

    The job creation vision for the bill is a good one. But the implementation leaves much to be desired.

    Many members of the Wisconsin Business Council are perfect examples of the economic opportunity that exists in the clean energy and conservation sectors. Our members are among the nation’s leaders in providing global industrial solutions that conserve energy, utilize alternative fuels, and create jobs. 

    But there are provisions in the bill that will make doing business in Wisconsin harder for these and other companies should the legislation pass in its current form.  It’s crucial that legislators start working to refocus the bill in a way that ensures our state sees the economic development that the bill promises.

    However, as the debate over the Clean Energy Jobs Act continues in Madison, the window for action is shrinking by the day. There are just a few opportunities left for action, and given the complexity and scale of the bill, and the number of industries that have a stake in the outcome, the chances of passing legislation before the end of this legislative session are becoming increasingly bleak.

    Make no mistake: if the bill is able to promote clean energy and conservation efforts in a way that recognizes the needs of Wisconsin’s different industries, it will be a boon for our state’s economy and create new jobs.

    One only needs look at the announcements in the last few weeks in places like Milwaukee and Wisconsin Rapids – where over 800 jobs in the wind industry have been announced – to see what bolstering this sector of Wisconsin’s economy will do. 

    But significant modification of the Clean Energy Jobs Act is necessary if we are to see the creation of more good-paying, sustainable jobs for Wisconsin. We need to strip away those parts of the bill that will hinder that job growth and generate legislation that is capable of passing through both houses of the legislature.

    Now is the time for leadership on the Clean Energy Jobs Act. The opportunity to capitalize on clean energy growth is there, but legislators need to focus on finding a bi-partisan compromise, getting to the root of what needs to be done to secure Wisconsin’s economic future, and implementing legislation in a way that makes sense for Wisconsin businesses.

    Let’s not let this opportunity pass us by.

    Phillip Prange is the president and chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Business Council, an organization that seeks to support Wisconsin’s economic climate and quality of life through collaboration, improved public policy, and private sector initiatives. For more information, please visit www.wibusiness.org.

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