From a commentary in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Roy Thilly, president and CEO of WPPI Energy and co-chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming:

This year, Wisconsin will consider important legislation that tracks the nearly unanimous recommendations of Gov. Jim Doyle’s Global Warming Task Force to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The scientific consensus is very strong that climate change is occurring as a result of carbon emissions and the long-term costs of inaction will be very significant. It would be imprudent not to take action.

Our country’s leading corporations are aggressively reducing emissions. They recognize that getting ahead of the curve is essential to be competitive. The same is true for Wisconsin. The legislation will help Wisconsin become much more efficient and energy independent. It embraces economic growth through the green manufacturing opportunities and skilled jobs required to address climate change. We can either pursue these opportunities or cede them to other states.

The legislation will be hotly debated. Interest groups will commission studies designed to support their agendas. Opponents will exaggerate cost and ignore the price of inaction. The Global Warming Task Force worked very hard to mitigate costs for consumers in its recommendations.

Forty years ago, our country confronted a similar crossroads when it debated legislation for clean water and air. Studies were presented to show this legislation would destroy our economy. It did not. Rivers in our industrial centers no longer catch on fire. While the environmental regulations adopted are not perfect, we are all much better off.

Key elements of the bill include:

• Dramatically increased energy conservation and efficiency programs. We waste a tremendous amount of energy at great cost. We cannot continue to do so and be competitive. The task force unanimously recommended that conservation be our highest priority. Major Wisconsin corporations recently announced they will reduce their energy consumption by 25%. We can all do the same, keeping our dollars in Wisconsin. Conservation lowers utility bills in the face of rising costs, enables utilities to avoid building expensive new power plants, reduces emissions now and will significantly cut the cost for Wisconsin of any future federal cap and trade program. It is a no-brainer.

• Significantly increased use of renewable energy resources by 2025. This means developing new solar, wind and biomass generation in Wisconsin. Greater reliance on local renewables will create manufacturing opportunities and skilled jobs, improve reliability, increase energy independence and reduce the need for expensive new transmission lines.

• Modification of the state’s nuclear plant moratorium to allow new nuclear plants to compete against other resources to meet Wisconsin’s long-term electricity needs. To be built, these plants will have to be shown to be safe and the best available alternative. Wisconsin’s three nuclear units have been the low-cost workhorses of the system since the 1970s. Many believe that nuclear power will be a key component to a low carbon future, but as the task force recognized, conservation, efficiency and more renewable resources should come first.