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Clinton: Invest in rural clean energy

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Hillary Clinton, guest columnist

On my first trip to Iowa this year, I pledged to be a champion for all Iowans — from cities like Davenport, Cedar Rapids, and Des Moines to small towns and rural communities like Norwalk, Monticello, and LeClaire. It’s not enough for Iowans to just get by, you deserve to be able to get ahead and stay ahead. To make that possible across Iowa and across America, we’re going to have to work together to build an economy for tomorrow, not yesterday.

I believe the United States can and must be the clean energy super power for the 21st century. China and other competitors are already racing ahead with big bets on renewables. Yet there are still some here in America — even candidates for President — who want to keep the deck stacked for the fuels of the past. They support wasteful subsidies for oil and gas, block investments in new clean technologies, and even deny the science of climate change. We can’t afford to cede our leadership in developing and deploying the advanced, clean fuels of the future that will grow our economy, lower our energy bills, reduce pollution, and protect the health of our families and communities. And America’s farmers and rural communities have to be at the heart of this effort.

Eighty years ago this month, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration, which connected nearly all Americans to the grid in a little more than a decade. Today, rural America is an energy leader, providing clean electricity and transportation fuels to the rest of the country, reducing energy waste, and strengthening our economic competitiveness. In the past seven years, the United States has added enough wind capacity to power more than 13 million homes. Ninety nine percent of that energy comes from rural communities, creating jobs, providing a second source of income for family farms, and attracting $100 billion in new investment.

Rural energy innovation is also reducing our dependence on foreign oil and making our economy more resilient to supply disruptions in other parts of the world. Domestic renewable fuel production has expanded by more than 350 percent over the past decade with enough supply in the market today to fuel more than 30 million cars. And today U.S. biofuels companies not only offer an alternative to imported oil, they’re increasingly selling their product abroad as well.

Renewable fuels can also play an important role in reducing carbon emissions and other sources of pollution, not just from cars and trucks on our interstates, but also from ships and airplanes. Rural innovators are finding new ways to produce low-carbon biofuels, using feedstocks ranging from algae to agricultural waste, with a range of applications.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a successful history of partnering with farmers, rural small businesses, and rural co-ops in deploying renewable energy and energy efficiency solutions. These programs should be expanded. The United States should also continue supporting — and improving — the Renewable Fuel Standard and other federal incentives that have been a success for Iowa and much of rural America.

The Renewable Fuel Standard can continue to be a powerful tool to spur the development of advanced biofuels and expand the overall contribution that renewable fuels make to our national fuel supply. But we also can’t ignore significant changes to the energy landscape since the RFS was expanded in 2007. We have to get the RFS back on track in a way that provides investors with the certainty they need, protects consumers, improves access to E15, E85, and biodiesel blends, and effectively drives the development of cellulosic and other advanced biofuels.

Smart investments in rural America aren’t rocket science — it’s just good sense that delivers for all Americans. Providing investment certainty, removing barriers, and investing in the infrastructure to deliver reliable and affordable energy to rural households and deliver rural clean energy to the rest of the country is a good start.

As president, I’ll champion what works, ensure that Americans have the tools they need to lead the world in clean energy, and stand up to those who block our way and want to keep us trapped in an energy economy of the past.

• Hillary Clinton is a Democratic candidate for president and a former secretary of state and senator. Comments: Iowa@hillaryclinton.com

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