Nothing is quite so heartening on a blustery winter night as sidling up to a fireplace or wood stove. Along with the warmth, there’s a certain satisfaction in having a well-stocked woodshed full of dry, split firewood. Added reassurance comes from knowing that the woodlot will be there to supply fuel next year and on into the future.
As a state, Wisconsin misses out on this reassurance. You see, Wisconsin’s current electrical generation mix consists of about 51% coal, 22% nuclear, 18% natural gas, and miscellaneous other small sources. We have no fossil fuel or uranium deposits. Consequently, we import almost all of our energy needs to the tune of $12 billion annually. But instead exporting those energy dollars, we have the opportunity to keep a significant portion of that money right here in the Badger State.
A good place to start would be to increase efficiency. “Vampire” energy-sucking appliances that draw current even when not in use burn up about 10% of an average home’s energy. A recent survey shows that the U.S. ranks 12th in energy efficiency worldwide. We can do better than that. For example, California uses 45% less electricity per capita than the U.S. average.
Expanding solar would be a critical piece. On a sunny day Germany has been able to generate up to 50% of its electricity from the sun in spite of having solar exposure similar to our Pacific Northwest. Wisconsin’s solar exposure is more like sunny Spain’s. With a few policy adjustments and investment, Wisconsin could increase its security by harvesting this free endless energy source.
We Badgers already have our own perpetual “solar woodlot;” we just need to harvest the bounty. Then we’d keep those energy dollars right here where they can create jobs in efficiency and renewable energy. In Iowa County we’re debating the cost vs. the benefit of the expansion of expensive high capacity power lines carrying imported power. Perhaps we should spend our energy dollars to increase efficiency and expand solar instead. That conversation is being held at the next Iowa Co. Board of Supervisors meeting, Dec. 16, 7:00 pm at the Health and Human Services Center. Join the conversation!
Locally generated free, clean energy and increased efficiency OR imported fossil fuels - the future health and security of this, our only home, depends on wise decisions today because we are forever…Earthbound.