Report: State Could Improve Policy, Offset Oil CostsNRDC Report Says Transportation Planning Can Buffer Automotive Fuel CostsVermont could be doing more to protect its citizens from the high costsof fuel oil for our cars and trucks, according to a new report releasedby the Natural Resources Defense Council, a national environmentalgroup.States that adopt laws to promote clean and efficient vehicles, preventsprawl, and invest in public transit, are helping protect their citizensfrom high oil prices, according to the report, “Fighting Oil Addiction:Ranking States’ Oil Vulnerability and Solutions for Change.””Based on this report, the results for Vermont are mixed,” said BrianShupe, the sustainable communities director and energy co-director forthe Vermont Natural Resources Council. “Despite our green image andreputation for forward-thinking policy, this report shows that Vermontis not among the most innovative states when it comes to taking steps toreduce our reliance on oil for transportation.”The report highlights two critical areas related to our nation’saddiction to oil: vulnerability to high oil prices and implementation bystates of policy alternatives and solutions.Vermont ranks 16th among the 50 states with regard to the specificpolicy steps the state is taking to cut down on oil use, but ithighlights some gaps. The report also shows that the state is relativelyvulnerable to high oil prices based on Vermonters’ incomes. According tothe report, Vermont motorists spent an average of $1,856 on gasoline in2007. This amounts to 5.1 percent of the average income, making thestate the 31st most vulnerable to high oil prices. The report does notconsider oil use for heating.One area in which the NRDC report finds Vermont lagging relates togrowth management and planning.”Several states have an agency that coordinates development policieswith state spending decisions to promote smart growth and avoid sprawl,”Shupe explained, “but Vermont lacks such an entity. We did get pointsfor Act 200 (Vermont’s planning and growth management law), although thestate agency planning requirements of that law have been ignored forover a decade.”The report also noted that Vermont lacks a target for reducing vehiclemiles traveled by Vermonters. Between 2000 and 2005, the average numberof vehicle miles traveled increased by 11 percent.”This is largely because we’re developing communities that are notwalkable and are difficult to serve by transit,” Shupe said. “Greaterefforts to promote smart growth, avoid scattered, low densitydevelopment and invest in alternative transportation are critical toreducing our vulnerability to sticker shock at the gas pump.”According to the report, the five states implementing the mostcomprehensive policies to reduce oil use are California, followed by NewYork, Connecticut, Washington and Pennsylvania. In New England, RhodeIsland, Maine and Massachusetts also rank ahead of Vermont.For a copy of the full report go to www.nrdc.org/media/2008/080722.asp(link is external)
Ten touchdowns against Austin Peay last Saturday and Badger fans were once again reminded of the immutable truth that 330-pound athletes can bully 250-pound athletes up and down the field all day long.Lucky us.But this isn’t another diatribe about the cupcake-scheduling culture. I’ll leave that to the mainstream columnists in the Dairy State. The blatant money-grab that is all Austin Peay-type games might leave some feeling robbed of a full-priced ticket, but the athletic department has to maintain a self-sustaining budget somehow, and anyways, UW should probably charge double for Ohio State coming to Camp Randall, so it all works out in the end.No, this is a question of sound marketing principals. See, it appears that head coach Bret Bielema has been ignoring the good hippies of the Capitol Square farmers’ market. Bielema went all the way to Tennessee to buy a team willing to be run over (John Clay) and around (James White) for fair compensation – reportedly in the neighborhood of $300,000 – when a perfectly suitable product could be bought locally.It’s true the Badgers are the only Division-I football team in Wisconsin and there isn’t even an FCS school in the fine Dairy Land.But there is a national championship-winning program just an hour southwest of Madison. And though Wisconsin-Whitewater is probably busy preparing for its sixth straight trip to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl (or D-III National Championship), I am sure they would be willing to take some time to make a trip up to Camp Randall.Because if all you require for a tune up game for the Big Ten season is an athletic mismatch on which to pour 70 points on the scoreboard, then why not host Wisconsin-Whitewater for one Saturday?This may sound tongue-in-cheek, but I am as serious as the perennially miserable Bob Bostad.Why not Wisconsin-Whitewater?On Saturday, Austin Peay allowed 10 touchdowns on the first 11 drives of the day before the Badgers graciously agreed to run out the clock on the game’s final drive. Is anyone claiming UW-Whitewater, a program at the very top of its division, couldn’t do better than 70 points allowed?So, if the competition wouldn’t be appreciably worse – and it would be hard to be worse, short of the Austin Peay Governors subbing in a few elected officials into the game – then the romantic benefits alone should tip the scales in Whitewater’s favor. Of the Warhawks’ 99 players, 77 come from high schools in Wisconsin. That makes 77 different guys who likely grew up wanting to play for the Badgers, but ended up being a tad too small or slow to make the team. Is there any reason to deny them one chance to play in front of 80,321 fans for once in their life?Speaking of the fans, the reported attendance for Saturday’s exhibition matchup with Austin Peay was 77,224 and that number was reduced to an eighth of that size by the time the fourth quarter rolled around. Bringing an in-state team to Camp Randall would ensure not only that the stadium fills completely up, but some fans might actually stick around for the entire game, not just until Jump Around has played. Plus, the tailgating experience of Wisconsin citizens coming from all over the state would be fantastic. So we would have that going for us, which is nice.Look at the sheer economics of the issue as well. Instead of forking over hundreds of thousands of dollars to a school few had heard of and fewer care about, either give that money to a fellow state school that is always searching for athletic funds (everyone wins!) or pocket the money (UW wins!). The financial details of scheduling Whitewater matter little, because the simple fact UW won’t have to pay Austin Peay to barely show up can only be a good thing.Bielema is convinced a tasty cupcake before sitting down for the real meal only helps his team. Key starters can be rested, minor injuries are given another week to heal, confidence is built, scheduling is a complicated process, yada yada yada. No one can convince him to stop scheduling FCS opponents each year. As Nick Toon likes to say during Ask the Badgers, “It is what it is.”Bring in Whitewater for just one year, however, and all the griping of inferior competition and inferior games will go away. Then he becomes a scheduling savant who cares about the fans and state citizens.Living in the most liberal city in the state, Bielema should see the bumper sticker everywhere: “I Buy Local.”OK, Maybe it was a little tongue-in-cheek. Think Whitewater is unfeasible? Let Michael know at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @michaelbleach.