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Letter to the editor: Plasma process needs public input

Editor’s Note: This letter is in response to a blog posted June 6 on Read the blog post.

To the editor:

RENEW Wisconsin, the organization I work for, has been an organized voice for renewable energy producers and users since 1991. Among our 65 business members are firms specializing in biomass energy, biogas energy and hydroelectric generation. We make it a policy not to favor one renewable energy resource over another. RENEW’s commitment to that policy has enabled us to appeal to all segments of the renewable energy universe, not just solar and wind.

Among RENEW’s many contributions to Wisconsin’s energy policy is the state’s renewable energy standard, of which the list of eligible resources is a key component. More than any other environmental or business organization, RENEW was responsible for defining the original list of qualifying renewable energy resources back in 1999. Though it was discussed, solid waste did not make the cut then, nor in 2006 when the Legislature expanded the renewable energy standard to 10 percent by 2015.

Public awareness of the plasma gasification process is almost nonexistent. One searches in vain to find any reference of plasma gasification in the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change, which met in 2007 and 2008 and produced numerous recommendations affecting renewable energy policy. This technology seemed to emerge from nowhere.

It’s absolutely astonishing to me that the Legislature did not hold a public hearing on plasma gasification prior to its vote to designate plasma gasification as a qualifying renewable energy resource. Yes, there was a hearing on SB 273, but that happened months before the plasma gasification language was tacked on the bill.

Until this year, major changes to renewable energy policy have traditionally been made in an open, transparent and deliberative manner. Not so the treatment of plasma gasification, in which the Legislature, under cloak of darkness and in great haste, conferred special status to a particular energy conversion technology without bothering to learn anything about it.

Michael Vickerman
executive director,
RENEW Wisconsin

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