MADISON — After more than a year of meetings and studies, the Midwestern Governors Association’s (MGA) Low Carbon Fuel Advisory Group has released a report detailing a regionally coordinated cleaner fuels policy. These recommendations are designed to lower pollution in transportation fuels.
“The MGA report shows that cleaner fuel policies can be developed in ways that take advantage of our region’s economic and natural resource strengths and move Wisconsin away from the fossil fuels we import to our state at a cost of $13 billion a year,” says Keith Reopelle, senior policy director, Clean Wisconsin.
While California and other states have already adopted similar policies, these recommendations differ in key respects. For example, they propose to measure greenhouse gas emissions for transportation fuels in a way that does not penalize the use of food-based crops for fuel, such as corn ethanol. A decision on evaluating potential market effects of food-based crops would be delayed until there is greater scientific consensus.
The Midwest is the leading producer of corn ethanol and soybean biodiesel, both of which can contribute to cuts in carbon pollution. The region is also a leader in the development of next-generation, clean-burning biofuels, from sources like wood waste and biogas, which benefits local economies. Wisconsin leads the country in farm-based biogas energy that turns cow manure, cheese wastewater and other byproducts into a valuable fuel for natural gas vehicles. And, of course, the region is the nation’s leading automotive and automotive components manufacturer. For instance, Wisconsin-based Johnson Controls is building car batteries and electric drivetrains for vehicles such as the Ford Transit electric van. Electricity qualifies as a low-carbon fuel due to the greater efficiency of electric drivetrains.
“Moving to lower carbon fuels not only reduces dependence on imported oil but helps develop new economic opportunities in the advanced biofuel and electric vehicle industries,” says Reopelle. “The recent announcement that United Ethanol of Milton will be installing a biogas system to reduce fossil fuel consumption will lower the carbon footprint of ethanol fuel produced in Wisconsin.”
Some proposals were recommended for state or region-wide action, but the Advisory Group made recommendations for federal policymakers as well. The Advisory Group included state policymakers, business leaders, including the oil and gas industries, academic researchers and environmental groups.
MGA asked the Advisory Group to develop mutually acceptable recommendations for action to cut the carbon pollution from transportation fuels by 10 percent in 10 years. A technical evaluation found that nearly a 15-percent cut in pollution could be achieved in the same timeframe.