In the past few weeks, I have been reminded about the potential for new energy sources as our federal government has focused on subsidizing infrastructure proposals that could create jobs, improve the economy and possibly have a positive impact on the environment. Certainly, there is a national push to promote less dependence on foreign oil, reduce carbon emissions and provide funding for projects that could have a tremendous effect on our agricultural-based economy throughout the Upper Midwest.
As my valuable sleep time was constantly interrupted this past Tuesday night and Wednesday morning by 50-mile-per-hour winds, I thought about the potential for wind as an alternate energy source. After all, T. Boone Pickens, the Oklahoma oil baron who decided to spend a few million of his own dollars to promote the wind generation concept and invest heavily in its production, must know something about the next potential dynasty within the energy industry. Unfortunately, I do not know much about biofuel or geothermal applications, so I can only relate with something like wind, which I can see and feel every day.
The Chippewa Valley Technical College announced late last week that it has applied for state and federal funds to develop a $29 milloin Energy Education Center at its Gateway Campus on the west side of Eau Claire. While wind generation may not play a big part in the utilization of alternative energy sources in this immediate part of the state, geothermal, solar and biofuel programs could help rebuild and expand the power grid throughout the Chippewa Valley.
If the federal government is serious about allocating its stimulus package funds to worthwhile, "shovel-ready" projects, then a plan that will create 240 jobs in all types of construction trades, can conceivably be developed within the next 18 months and offer at least six more disciplines in the classroom, then I believe this innovative proposal from CVTC is something that should come to fruition. In my opinion, this is not one of those "earmarks" or "pork barrel" projects that politicians are prone to include in federally-sponsored programs.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the need for federal funding to extend rail transport through the Chippewa Valley. Although I still believe an Amtrak expansion from Tomah through both LaCrosse and Eau Claire on its way to the Twin Cities is best for the regional economy over the next 10 years, I would lose more sleep if our tax dollars neglected the opportunity to get a piece of the action for a CVTC project that is a prototype for what our government has already told us is most important in the short term.