Growing Iowa with renewables

The wind turbine at Kirkwood Community College on Wednesday, March 20, 2013, in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette-KCRG)
The wind turbine at Kirkwood Community College on Wednesday, March 20, 2013, in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette-KCRG)

Promoting economic growth is a concern across the country. Communities have organizations in place whose main function is to pursue that goal. We have slogans like “buy local” to keep money in communities where it is recycled through the community stimulating economic growth. For Iowa “buy local” means use renewable energy. Our state produces no fossil fuels. Every dollar we spend on coal, oil, and natural gas is a dollar sent out of state we have to work hard to get back into our economy.

Iowans know the economic benefits of our renewable energy sector. We produce 35 percent of our electricity from wind and the wind energy industry provides 6,000 jobs in the state. The potential is even greater, as we are utilizing only 2 percent of our wind energy potential. Iowa also has potential for solar energy which is less than 1 percent utilized. Nationally there are 373,000 Americans working in the field of solar energy, more than double the number employed in the coal industry. Nurturing renewable energy would be a tremendous stimulus to the Iowa economy.

Federal policy, however, is going in the opposite direction. In 2017, our federal government pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord. It decreased regulations meant to make fossil fuel companies at least somewhat responsible for the environmental damage they do. It has put forward a tax plan encouraging more fossil fuel development while decreasing support to renewable energy. The president has vowed to bring back the coal industry.

If we cling to the coal industry while the rest of the world innovates into the renewable energy, it is like clinging to the horse and buggy while the rest of the world moves on to the automobile. We are left behind. The U.S. has been a world leader in innovation. Let’s not cede that role to other countries on energy. It is not good for our country and it is not good for Iowa.

In addition to designing taxes and regulations that encourage the development of renewables over fossil fuels, many have suggested a revenue-neutral fee on carbon — a progressive fee on carbon fuels at their source. There would be no such fee on renewable energy fuels, which would make them attractive to users and investors.

All collected fees in the program would be distributed back to American citizens, with the government keeping none of them. Studies, and the results of implementing such a fee in British Columbia in 2008, show that the lowest-earning households would come out ahead — the money returned to them would cover their increased energy costs, the economy would not be negatively affected, and carbon emissions would be reduced more than what we would get with regulations like the Clean Power Plan.

Such a plan has been proposed by the non-partisan Citizens’ Climate Lobby (Carbon Fee and Dividend), and by the conservative Climate Leadership Council (Carbon Dividends).

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We want a healthy Iowa economy. Contact members of Congress and request they support job-creating renewable energy, and that they adopt a revenue-neutral fee on carbon to stimulate the Iowa economy while decreasing the environmental burden we place on children.

• James McCoy of Iowa City is a volunteer with the Citizen’s Climate Lobby

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