December 16, 2005

Wisconsin AB 15: Farmers, Conservation Groups Hail Bi-partisan Ethanol Bill Passage

In a display of broad-based agreement, "special interests" from both sides of the aisle came together to push through legislation that will help strengthen Wisconsin's economy while lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Equally impressive is the strong support (73-20) shown for a more farsighted goal of shifting ethanol production from strictly agricultural feedstock to 20% other cellulosic sources by 2020.

Farmers, Conservation Groups Hail Bi-partisan Ethanol Bill Passage

First in nation to support a 20% goal for biomass ethanol from prairie grass, wood waste, and other cellulose sources

Madison—Wisconsin farmers and conservation groups today hailed the passage of AB 15, the Ethanol Mandate Bill by the Wisconsin Assembly sponsored by Representative Steve Freese of Dodgeville by a 54-38 margin. The bill would require 10% ethanol be sold in regular gas by October 2006.

“This is a major Christmas present for Wisconsin’s farm families,” said John Malchine, a farmer and owner of Badger Ethanol of Monroe. “The more fuel we grow and make here, the less we need to import from the Mideast.”

Wisconsin currently imports $13 billion of gas and other fuels, which costs jobs and drains our economy.

"The Assembly deserves praise for supporting a fuel policy that will yield multiple benefits to Wisconsin," said Michael Vickerman, Executive Director of RENEW Wisconsin. "In one fell swoop this vote enhances energy security, reduces greenhouse gases, and strengthens the agricultural industry. We salute Rep. Freese for his energetic leadership on this vital issue, and commend Rep. Berceau for recognizing the need to develop fiber-based sources of ethanol.”

Berceau sponsored an amendment to create a 20% goal for biomass ethanol from prairie grasses, wood waste and other biofuels by 2020, and a process to achieve that goal. This is the first measure in the nation to set a goal for biomass ethanol and passed by an overwhelming 73-20 margin.

“We have a simple choice: get more oil from the risky Mideast or grow more fuel in the Midwest,” Brett Hulsey, President of Better Environmental Solutions, an environmental consulting firm which help draft the amendment. “Homegrown ethanol, especially when made from prairie grass, is a better environmental solution. This bill promotes biomass ethanol with a clear goal and sets up a process to achieve that goal. It also beats drilling for oil on sensitive coastlines or in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”

Farmers, Conservationists Hail WI Ethanol Bill Passage, Page Two
A new study, “The New Harvest: Wind Power and Biofuels for Rural Revitalization and National Energy Security" by the Energy Foundation, shows that a major commitment to biofuels like ethanol, energy efficiency, and smart growth could replace all gasoline for cars, truck, and light duty vehicles by 2050. This could account for eight million barrels of oil a day, three times what we now import from the Persian Gulf. (See the report at

“Developing biomass ethanol can help restore our native prairies, protect our streams with buffer strips, and help farmers to earn income while using more conservation practices,” said Andy Olsen, Policy Advocate for the Environmental Law and Policy Center. It also reduces greenhouse air pollution. Biomass ethanol from prairie grass, corn residue, wood waste, and other natural resources can increase ethanol production and reduce greenhouse air pollution by 57-70%, according to a new study published in Environmental Science and Technology. University of Toronto engineers compared the life-cycle energy costs of low-sulfur reformulated gasoline and 85% ethanol fuel (E-85) over short and medium term in everyday driving scenarios. The research concluded that E-85 fuel cut greenhouse air pollution by 57% from prairie grass and 65% from corn residue over gasoline by 2010 and by 70% by 2020.

The bill now moves to the Wisconsin State Senate and will be taken up in the New Year.

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