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Local Editorials

Kermit was wrong — it’s actually quite easy being green

As we near the end of the 2013 Iowa Legislative Session, there are many critical issues being discussed. We’re also working to establish a balanced budget which provides adequate funding to meet the needs of Iowans while cutting costs whenever possible. 

On Friday, I’ll fill you in on what will likely happen in the final days of the session.

But today is Earth Day, and I’d like to change focus. I place a high-priority on helping to create good paying, high-tech ‘Green Collar’ jobs and work hard to ensure Iowa continues moving forward with clean, renewable energy and fuels.

I’m thankful Jasper County is leading the way. We must keep moving forward.

Our local wind and bio-fuel industries are perfect examples for our entire country. As you recall, President Obama visited the Newton Trinity Structural Towers plant, formerly Maytag Plant 2, on his first Earth Day as President four-years-ago.

More recently, the President returned to Newton for a visit to the TPI wind-blade manufacturing facility. During his Earth Day visit to Newton, President Obama stated, “Now, the choice we face is not between saving our environment and saving our economy. The choice we face is between prosperity and decline.”

The stakes are high, the rewards invaluable for Jasper County, our state, our nation, and the future of our planet. While the job is far from done, we are seeing results in Iowa.

With Iowa ranking first in ethanol, first in wind energy per capita, and first in bio-diesel production, we’ve firmly established our state as a world leader in these efforts. Our country is less dependent on middle-eastern oil and greenhouse gas emissions are being reduced.

Most importantly, the high-tech jobs of the 21st century are becoming reality.

Wind energy, in particular is yielding high returns on our investment. After a decade fostering our state’s renewable energy industry, Iowa now generates 24.5 percent of its power from wind.

But we can do more. A bill that failed to pass through the legislative ‘funnel’ a few weeks ago, needs to move forward next session. Right now, Iowa’s major power companies get to decide how much they pay for wind energy produced on the farm - and they’ve chosen to pay farmers just twenty percent what they sell the same energy for on the market.

That’s not right. It should be up to the Iowa Utilities Board to set a fair price. There is a bi-partisan supported bill that would make sure farmers get a fair deal, SF 372. Beyond protecting our farmers — this bill would help grow the wind energy industry in Iowa, support local rural economies, and help keep future energy costs low by making smart energy choices now.

A series of bills I’ve introduced, and several bills sponsored by other pro-green-energy legislators, could further strengthen the impact of solar and geo-thermal energy as well as renewable, locally grown fuels and cutting-edge technologies such as cellulosic fuels made from algae. Iowa’s energy portfolio must further diversify.

With this in mind, I joined a bi-partisan effort to capitalize on the opportunities hydro-electric power offers Iowa. I served as ranking member on the subcommittee for HF 630 which lessens the tax burden on hydroelectric projects.

Last week, we were successful in moving this bill through the house on a 95-3 final floor vote. I’m proud that we brought most Democrats and Republicans together on this one.

A project close to home will move forward if this bill is signed into law. The Red Rock Hydroelectric Project will provide 36.4 megawatts of electricity or enough to power 18,000 Iowa homes.

It will be capable of generating 55 megawatts when water is high. Most importantly, it will provide local construction and operational jobs nearby at Lake Red Rock.

This project could be just the beginning of a great hydroelectric future in Iowa. 

According to the US Department of Energy, 10 dams along the Iowa portion of the Mississippi River and two on the Des Moines River could be retrofitted with hydroelectric turbines having a capacity of 680 megawatts, or enough electricity to power 20 percent of the homes in Iowa with low-cost, renewable energy, with no emissions and minimal impact on the environment.

I’m hopeful the governor will sign HF 630, and help make the Red Rock project successful and profitable. Just like we saw with wind energy, a handful of successful projects will lead to many more.

It’s critical for Iowa’s clean, renewable energy future. When water flows and we don’t convert it, we are wasting energy.

Kermit the Frog was wrong, it’s easy being green! Enjoy Earth Day.

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