Like their fathers, Ivan and Fred love raising cattle. Their young families’ lives are deeply woven into the fabric of their small rural communities. Ivan and Fred both keep an eye on the weather, commodity prices, and on energy costs.
As a Ukrainian, Ivan has been concerned about the fact that neighboring Russia controls most of his energy. Now that there is political strife, Russia is threatening to cut off these fuel supplies. Ivan knows he’s in a pinch, and he scratches his head over how his country allowed itself to end up hostage to imported energy sources.
Fred from Wisconsin is fiercely independent. It riles him to see farmers like Ivan being treated like pawns in some larger economic / political intrigue. He worries a bit about his own situation because he knows that Wisconsin has no fossil fuel resources of its own. Wisconsin spends almost its entire $12 billion annual energy budget importing petroleum products. A few short years ago his state was making significant strides to reverse this trend. Now Fred scratches his head wondering how that progress got derailed.
Wisconsin had jumped to the lead in locally produced renewable energy growth:
· Wisconsin was the first state to enact a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) without a full restructuring of its utility industry.
· In 2010, Wisconsin’s solar industry ranked 5th in the nation in terms of the number of jobs it produced per capita.
· The Focus on Energy program created 24,000 jobs, saved over $2 billion on energy bills, and reduced CO2 emissions by 5 billion lbs. since 2001.
Now in 2014:
· Of the 30 states that have a RPS, Wisconsin now ranks last in renewable energy goals.
· Wisconsin now ranks 50th in terms of solar energy capacity.
· Wind energy policy changes have cost Wisconsin over $1.2 billion in development, at least 12 wind projects, and over 1,000 jobs.
· The 2012 budget cut $20 million from the Focus on Energy Program.
There’s not much Ivan can do to influence his energy costs or security. But recent Independence Day celebrations remind Fred that in the U. S. citizens can help shape policies. So he’ll encourage clean, locally produced Wisconsin energy because his son already says he wants to be a farmer like his dad. And like all of us, Fred and his family aren’t going anywhere. They are forever…Earthbound.