As a former state legislator who has heard just about every opinion under the sun, I'm never surprised when some people claim only liberals and Democrats care about renewable energy and conservation. That claim couldn't be further from the truth.
And, that's why I joined several Republicans from across the state who are lending their voices to the recently formed Iowa Conservative Energy Forum. Our goal is to balance today's lopsided public debate about energy policy and advance an agenda espoused by strong GOP leadership dating back to the days of Teddy Roosevelt.
When it comes to supporting alternative energy, my family has backed up our words with the time, money and extra effort that create benefits far beyond our farm's fence lines. Almost six years ago, we commissioned two anaerobic digesters that produce biogas from cattle manure, local organic waste streams and other biomass to generate electricity and heat.
Today, we sell about 85 percent of the 23 megawatts of electricity produced each day. That revenue stream has been a welcome addition to the bottom line over the past few years as slumping commodity prices and tight margins have squeezed just about every farming operation in the Midwest.
At the same time, we are returning rich, natural fertilizers back to our fields to improve our soil's organic matter. That improves its water-holding capacity, reducing runoff and increasing nutrient retention. We're not alone in our commitment to alternative energy.
Republicans have long advocated for clean energy sources and Iowans need look no farther than our state's senior U.S. senator, Charles Grassley, for proof. The wind industry wouldn't exist as it does without his efforts dating back to at least the early 1990s. Senator Grassley sponsored the first-ever, wind-related tax provision, which was enacted in 1992. As Senate Finance Committee chair in 2001 and 2005, his legislation significantly expanded and extended the production tax credit for wind energy, adding to his reputation as the "father of the wind energy credit."
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Today, wind power provided 37 percent of Iowa’s total electricity generation in 2017, a larger share than in any other state. There are nearly 20,000 clean-energy jobs in Iowa, and there’s no reason to think that number shouldn’t be even bigger.
It's no coincidence that Grassley has been re-elected by record margins over the years. He knows that "good policy is good politics" and a 2018 survey of Iowa conservatives showed 78 percent believe Iowa should continue or place even more emphasis on producing renewable energy from alternative sources by pursuing an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy.
This strategy will lower our dependence on fossil fuels and allow an increase in electricity generation from emerging technologies like wind, solar, and combined heat and power generators that run on biogas produced from on-farm, municipal, and industrial anaerobic digesters. These same anaerobic digesters can also produce clean-burning renewable natural gas which can be used as a transportation fuel.
While it's important to work together to depoliticize issues and solve problems, it's equally important to emphasize that personal stewardship, the environment, and conservation issues are fundamentally conservative issues.
Conservative voters support clean energy development because it creates jobs, grows the economy, provides consumer choice and fair competition, and strengthens national security through energy independence while benefiting the environment. By producing our own energy like the renewable natural gas from our anaerobic digesters, we will have more control over our energy choices as we develop more domestically produced sources. By adopting innovative clean energy solutions produced right here in Iowa and the U.S. we will do more to protect our troops abroad and improve the security of our energy grid at home.
I urge all Iowans to voice their support for common-sense, market-based solutions to counter a recent wave of Democratic proposals to put decisions about our energy future in the hands of the federal government.