Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. March 1, 2022.
Editorial: Subsidies reviews always warranted
Rep. Tom Tiffany’s proposal to end most subsidies for solar and wind projects that create energy on farm land is worth a deeper look, but there’s one big factor that keeps us from endorsing such a move right now. Frankly, the timing stinks.
Energy costs for consumers are on the rise. Neither solar nor wind power directly affects the price of gas at the pump, where the increases are the most obvious. But electricity is going up, too, and that’s where solar and wind farms can indeed have an effect.
There’s no question more farms are taking advantage of the options for renewable energy production. The 2017 Census of Agriculture showed slightly more than 20,000 farms leased wind rights, not quite twice the number from five years earlier. And, since that figure is itself now five years old, the current number is undoubtedly higher. The census takes place every five years, so new data to confirm that should be available before too long.
The growth in electrical demand in recent years is, likewise, beyond doubt. While many home appliances, devices and even light bulbs have become more efficient, there are more of them seeking power. Added to that is the growth in electric vehicle use, which creates a category of demand that was virtually nonexistent a generation ago.
Critics point, accurately in most cases, to the fact solar and wind generation are less efficient means of electrical production than traditional power plants. But that position also often ignores gains in efficiency made in recent years, and there is reason to believe further research will extend those gains.
It’s important to realize that agriculture and renewable energy generation are not mutually exclusive. Placement of a wind turbine in a field does not eliminate that field from use for crops. If it did such restrictions would indeed be a major concern for us given the size most wind farms need to be in order to generate electricity at scale. And even solar power can be installed in conjunction with certain crops.
In fact, absolute exclusion is not what Tiffany is arguing, either. In his recent remarks, he focused on the effect of subsidies on land prices and the effect those prices have on renting. His concern seemed more focused on preservation of the ability of farmers, especially those who aren’t in position to purchase all the land they would like to farm, to pursue agriculture and food production.
And Tiffany isn’t wrong in saying that the American farmers’ collective ability to satisfy the nation’s food requirements is a national security issue. Cutting off a nation’s food supplies is one of the fastest and most effective ways to undermine it. The fact that can’t be done in the United States gives our nation a significant advantage over many others.
Where we differ with Tiffany is the claim that use of land for wind and solar represents an immediate, alarming threat to agriculture and national security. We don’t believe it is at a scale to pose such risk. But we’re sympathetic to the basic desire for periodic reviews of subsidies offered by the federal government.
It’s easy to see how a subsidy designed to protect an industry at one point in time might become redundant or unnecessary at another. It’s difficult to argue mature industries should be recipients of subsidies designed to nurture their growth during infancy. It is likewise difficult to argue changing needs should have no effect on the federal government’s approach to bolstering support for business.
Responsible application of such an approach demands something else, too. It must be used for more than just an industry members of congress seek to target or protect. Pet projects should be no less subject to scrutiny and fair assessment than those that find less favor.
About a year ago we editorialized that renewable energy should be an issue on which elected officials can find common ground. We still think that’s the case. The environmental benefits and the jobs it can create make support for the industry something that can be supported from both liberal and conservative perspectives.
Tiffany’s proposal may have a timing issue right now, but that doesn’t mean the same will be true later. And the basic point — that subsidies should face review occasionally — is clearly on point.
Kenosha News. February 28, 2022.
Editorial: State’s public lands must be preserved
Wisconsin lawmakers are considering legislation to make it easier to sell off public lands purchased with Knowles-Nelson Stewardship funds, a story in the Wisconsin State Journal outlined earlier in February.
The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship is a program through the Department of Natural Resources that helps local governments and nonprofit organizations preserve land for public nature-based use.
Current law prohibits the sale of Knowles-Nelson lands without DNR approval, something the agency rarely grants.
But two bills sponsored by a pair of northern Wisconsin Republicans would allow lands acquired through grants to nonprofit conservation groups and local governments to be sold for private use so long as the state grant is repaid.
The bill was drafted in response to a request from Langlade County, which is seeking to sell part of a former Boy Scout camp it bought about five years ago with Knowles-Nelson funds.
Langlade County Administrator Jason Hilger said the board wants the option to sell some of the 652 acres to fund improvements on the rest.
It makes sense what the county wants to do. But selling off protected land obtained using the Knowles-Nelson funds is not the answer.
People donate their family’s property through the Knowles-Nelson program, trusting that the land will be preserved. To sell it for who knows what undermines the integrity of the program.
While Langlade County may have the best intentions, others in the future may not.
Charles Carlin, director of strategic initiatives for Gathering Waters, an alliance of more than 40 private land trusts, is concerned the stewardship fund could be used as low-interest financing for land speculation.
“If you’ve got a park and you conserved it 25 years ago and now the real estate value is 25 times what it was … you can sell it to a developer,” Carlin said.
Changing the law to make it easier to sell land that was supposed to be conserved is not the right answer. If an individual group has a compelling reason why land should be sold, they should go to the DNR and convince them. But this bill is not in the best interest of the state.
Racine Journal Times. February 27, 2022.
Editorial: Jarchow’s ‘invade’ rhetoric is stunning, disappointing
“Invade” is not a word to be tossed around lightly these days given the tinderbox situation going on between Russia and the Ukraine.
So we were a little stunned, and highly disappointed, last weekend when a leading Republican candidate for state attorney general tossed out the suggestion that Wisconsin deer hunters might be needed to invade Canada to “restore liberty” in our neighbor to the north.
Former state Rep. Adam Jarchow is among those supporting the “Freedom Convoy” truckers that have closed several U.S.-Canada border crossings with semi blockades and brought the capital city of Ottawa to a grinding halt for days on end in protest of Canadian COVID-19 vaccine requirements for truckers exit and re-enter the country.
But he went far beyond any reasonable or reasoned statement of his position last weekend when he tweeted: “If Canadian politicians keep this crap up, the deer hunters of WI will be forced to invade to restore liberty. Don’t test us!”
Perhaps we should just ignore this as a sop Jarchow was tossing out to anti-vaxxers in an effort to bolster his support on the far right wing of his party.
But, here’s the deal. Jarchow is not running for just any political office, he’s running for the top law enforcement job in the state.
To suggest Wisconsin hunters be enlisted to undermine Canada’s government and “invade” a neighboring country to support protesters and undercut Canada’s laws demonstrates a serious lack of understanding of the duties of Wisconsin’s attorney general’s office and a lack of knowledge that the A.G. is supposed to enforce and uphold the law.
Those are hardly the qualifications needed for a candidate for the state’s top law enforcement job.