From a guest column my Keith Reopelle in the Wausau Daily Herald:

As our elected leaders in Madison draft the details of a clean energy jobs bill and legislators in Washington debate climate change legislation, it is important to note that strong legislation pushing the transition toward clean energy will not only protect north central Wisconsin’s environment but also help bolster its economy.

With its abundance of natural resources, strong workforce and entrepreneurial spirit, the Wausau area could help lead the transition to a clean energy economy, creating new businesses and much-needed jobs for area residents.

One need look no further than We Energies’ proposed biomass-fueled power plant at the Domtar Corporation’s paper mill in Rothschild to see how climate legislation can have a positive economic impact in north-central Wisconsin. We Energies predicts that this proposed plant will create approximately 400 construction jobs and 150 permanent jobs. This single project would be a long-lasting boon for the local community, and represents merely one of hundreds of projects in north-central Wisconsin that could help strengthen our economy.

Without a current state law that requires utilities to produce 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2015, it is unlikely that this job-creating project ever would have been proposed.

Passing a state clean energy jobs bill and passing a strong federal climate change bill would help spark more economic growth in the Wausau area by producing even greater demand for clean, renewable energy. Residents of north central Wisconsin could go to work installing solar panels on homes, erecting residential wind turbines, making homes and businesses more energy efficient and manufacturing the parts needed to construct renewable energy systems.