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State lags in climate fight against carbon dioxide

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin has fallen behind other states in efforts to decrease the amount of carbon dioxide billowing from smokestacks at coal-burning power plants.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports the economic recession and cheap natural gas helped the nation cut emissions by 18.1 percent from 2000 to 2014. Wisconsin’s emissions decreased by 12.7 percent, less than half the rate as a dozen other states.

In 2000, Wisconsin was one of the first states in the Midwest to set a standard for the amount of electricity from renewable sources utilities sold. That 2 percent requirement was increased to 10 percent in 2005.
But more than two dozen states have since set higher standards, while Wisconsin hasn’t done anything further, said Greg Nemet, a University of Wisconsin professor specializing in energy policy.

“It’s a pretty unambitious policy compared to what has been done by other states that found it was easy and cheap to do, so they reached for more,” he said.

Data compiled by the U.S. Department of Energy shows that only one of nearly 30 states with a renewable energy standard has a lower requirement than Wisconsin.

Nemet noted that Wisconsin lags behind despite drops in cost for renewable energy.

Many factors affect a state’s emissions, including access to fuels and hydroelectric power, population density and geographic size. Political leaders’ willingness to push power companies to use more solar and wind power also plays a role.

Republican Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, didn’t respond to the newspaper’s requests for comment.

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