- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) proposed budget cuts $8.1 million in funding over two years for University of Wisconsin faculty at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. The center develops technologies to convert Wisconsin’s plentiful wood chips, corn stalks, and native grasses to biogas and biofuels.
- The research facility was built in 2009 with a five year, $125 million U.S. Department of Energy grant, which was renewed in 2013. State funds of $104 million and gifts and grants of $50 million contributed. The Walker cut represents matching funds necessary to keep the federal funding.
- The Governor’s office said the cut, separate from Walker’s proposal to cut $300 million from the University of Wisconsin system over the next two years, is part of his plan to provide UW with block grants and push funding decisions onto university administrators.
The stated mission of the BioEnergy Research Center is “to perform the basic research that generates technology to convert cellulosic biomass to ethanol and other advanced biofuels.” Research is focused on two “gaps” in the field, the sustainable production of crops with the right characteristics for bioenergy and the efficient conversion of biomass to fuels.
Bioenergy is considered a big opportunity in renewables for Wisconsin, which is not as rich in wind, solar, or hydroelectric resources as other states.
The Governor’s office said his block grant funding provides administrators with new authority, freeing them from regulations and rules in decisions such as whether to maintain the center’s 35 faculty members.
The failure to provide matching funds to keep the center’s federal funding is expected to compromise the $25 million in federal funding for broader UW energy-development research such as the Wisconsin Energy Institute, which gets 90% of its funding from the bioenergy program.