Wisconsin Governor Doyle discusses federal, state interaction on climate

As a major manufacturing state, Wisconsin has taken steps to pursue clean energy options and reduce emissions, ahead of a national cap-and-trade plan. During today's OnPoint, Wisconsin Gov. James Doyle (D), discusses his state's progress on clean energy and explains how his state will be affected by a federal cap on emissions. He addresses a recent move by Wisconsin's Legislature to cut $30 million in funding for a signature clean energy fund. Doyle also explains how his state plans to use stimulus funds for clean energy programs and job development.


Monica Trauzzi: Welcome to the show. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today is Wisconsin Governor James Doyle. Governor Doyle, thanks for coming on the show.

Gov. James Doyle: Sure, nice to see you Monica.

Monica Trauzzi: Governor Doyle, as a major manufacturing state Wisconsin has taken many steps to pursue cleaner energy options, cleanup business practices. Just this month however, the state legislators' budget committee cut the $30 million you had proposed for the Wisconsin Energy Independence Fund and that would have helped promote R&D for clean energy. It's a signature program that's being cut in order to balance the budget. What do you think that says about the importance of energy and climate when compared to the economy?

Gov. James Doyle: Well, unfortunately, there are a lot of really important high-priority parts of our budget that are being cut in very difficult times. But the important thing here is we are getting much more than that in stimulus money, in fact, we're getting $55 million in stimulus money that we will be putting into these same kind of projects. So this really is an area where the stimulus money has helped us continue to fund and even actually fund at a higher level, investments in innovative energy projects that we wouldn't otherwise have made. So, in some ways, I would love to have the state money and the federal money, but the stimulus money is what's allowing us to make sure this program continues as we, frankly, for the next couple of years or next year at least, just because of the budget, have to replace some of that state money with federal money.

Monica Trauzzi: Do you believe that this will have an impact on Wisconsin's ability to achieve its clean energy goals?

Gov. James Doyle: Well, again, because of the stimulus package, we are going to be able to move forward and even move forward at a higher level than we otherwise would have. In the long run, it is very important that this fund continue. As I say, I understand that like every other state we're in an economic crisis right now and the stimulus money is helping us through it. But as the stimulus money goes away, it is essential that this money be -- that the state replace this money. It has proven to be very effective. We funded a lot of very, very innovative energy projects from cutting edge research to helping manufacturers get going. It is a signature program. It's one of the better in the United States. It's something that, again, I wish we had both the federal money and the state money, but, you know, we're living in a time when the stimulus money is going to help us through this.

Monica Trauzzi: So, will 30 million of the 55 million you were talking about go right back into that fund or is the makeup going to look a little different and you're going to have a certain percentage going to R&D?

Gov. James Doyle: It will look just about exactly the same, except, as I say, it will actually be bigger, instead of having 30 million, we will have 55 million and it will be in a mix of things from R&D to all so -- I mean one of the things I'm really looking to do with this money is to bring some things to scale. So we have a lot of sort of really neat little research, but one of the real challenges is to really help wind manufacturing or help major industries go green. And so we're going to try, you'll see a mix here of some very big projects and some, you know, really sort of really innovative small projects.

Monica Trauzzi: One of the frustrations that we've heard relating to the stimulus is that no one is seeing the cash yet. When are you expecting to see the money in your state?

Gov. James Doyle: Well, we are seeing it. I'm not one of those making that complaint. We are seeing it and they have told us the schedules that it's coming out on, so we can budget for this. Some of this is just sort of cash flow. I don't want to get all into the deep state finance details of it, but if we know the money is coming in October we can spend it now, because we know it's coming.

Monica Trauzzi: The intersection between state and federal policies is front and center now as Congress is debating the Waxman-Markey bill. There's also an energy bill making its way through the Senate. Where do you see the biggest issues arising on the state level as a federal plan is put into place?

Gov. James Doyle: Well, we've had a lot of activity in a state like Wisconsin and we, frankly, are well ahead of where the federal government has been for the last eight years. As a group of Midwest governors we've been working to implement a cap-and-trade system by 2012. We have regional agreements on green infrastructure, transmission, other sorts of things. We've taken a lot of steps in Wisconsin. Having said all that, I'm very encouraged about what's happening in Washington because from my point of view, and I don't want to speak for all of the other governors in the Midwest, but I think generally we've all recognized it's much better to have a national cap-and-trade system. And if what we've done in the Midwest has helped to push that along, that's fine. But I think the real focus here has to be on what's happening in Washington to get a good workable cap-and-trade system. Now, we have very big concerns about what that looks like. But I will say this, I think the House bill has -- they have listened very carefully to our concerns and made, I think the bill as it came out and now as some changes have been made, surprised a lot of people that it really did take into account some of the very specific needs of a state like Wisconsin.

Monica Trauzzi: So, specifically on the allocation of allowances, what's your take? I mean your state relies heavily on coal. Will your state be unfairly impacted by a bill like the Waxman-Markey bill?

Gov. James Doyle: I think Waxman-Markey really, the authors really listened carefully to us and so the allocation is crucial. You know, we were very concerned and the early talk was that this would be a straight auctioning of these credits. In which case a state like Wisconsin which is a manufacturing state and which we historically are a coal state would have just been devastated by that. So the allocations to the utilities and the allocations to highly sensitive and competitive industries are very, very important to us. We're also a big agricultural state. We're a big forestry stay and the offsets that are provided for agriculture and forestry are very important for us as well. So I talked to Congressman Waxman three months ago. I know others did as well. I think he listened very carefully and I think this bill is -- they have listened to us and taken into account what our concerns are.

Monica Trauzzi: Lawmakers from your state though remain concerned, Congressman Sensenbrenner for example has come out hard against the Waxman Markey bill, calling it a cap-and-tax because of the impact it will have on the residents of your state. Do you think that there will be unfair economic impacts as he is alleging?

Gov. James Doyle: I think there will be effects; obviously we are going to go to a system of capping carbon emissions. And as we did with the Clean Air Act 30 plus years ago, well, at that time you go back and look at the rhetoric, it was identical to what's being talked about as you now cap carbon. The cap-and-trade system has worked for us in clean air and it has helped to actually clean up the air. So I think there's a very fundamental difference between where Congressman Sensenbrenner is and I think where the House bill is, which is do you need to have a system that puts some limits? And if you do, and I think you do, then you have to figure out a fair way to allocate the credits for the carbon emissions. And, again, I think that the House authors of this bill have done a very good job of taking into consideration these concerns. Now, if you are Congressman Sensenbrenner and you just don't think you should have any kind of cost placed on carbon at all, you know, you're not going to agree to any bill. But if you think we should have -- that climate change is real, that we need to limit carbon emissions, then I think you'd have to say that the House bill has done a good job of taking into account the concerns of states like Wisconsin.

Monica Trauzzi: Final question here, do you want to stick around and see Wisconsin through the transition to a federal cap-and-trade plan? Are you going to run for a third term?

Gov. James Doyle: Well, you know, that's still year and a half away and so I'll make that decision in due time, but certainly by the time I leave office, whether it's -- whenever that is, I want to make sure that Wisconsin is well down the road. To me this is vital for our economic future. A green economy is enormously helpful to us. We don't have coal in our state. We don't have oil. We don't have gas. So every dollar that we pay for our fuel goes outside the state of Wisconsin. We have vast agricultural resources, we have forestry and we have enormous research capacity in our universities in Wisconsin to be a real leader. And I want to make sure we're on a course where 10, 15, 20 years from now as much as 10 percent of our economy is based on the production of energy, home-grown energy in Wisconsin. This is a huge opportunity for us, so for those that want us to just stay on the course we're on, where we are just sending billions to the Middle East and the climate is changing, it's not a good course. And the other course actually not only helps clean up the planet, but actually can provide a lot of great jobs in Wisconsin.

Monica Trauzzi: OK, we'll end it right there on that note. Thank you for coming on the show.

Gov. James Doyle: Thank you, thanks Monica.

Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

[End of Audio]



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