It's time to stop gambling on yesterday's fuels

A blend of wood chips and coal (Adam Wesley/Gazette)
A blend of wood chips and coal (Adam Wesley/Gazette)

I am a mother, grandmother and lifelong Iowa resident who cares about the air, water and communities of Iowa.

I’m also a shareholder of Alliant Energy.

On May 23, Alliant held its annual shareholder meeting in Cedar Rapids amid growing concerns about the risks that Alliant’s coal-heavy energy mix could pose to shareholders like myself. It is no longer acceptable for publicly traded corporations to ignore coal’s risks. In December, Norges Bank, the world’s biggest wealth fund, divested all holdings in Alliant Energy and excluded the company from its funds because of Alliant’s heavy coal use. In March, BlackRock, the world’s largest fund manager and largest institutional owner of Alliant Energy threatened to vote out board directors who ignored the risks of climate change. Recently, billionaire investor Warren Buffett addressed shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway saying, “if you are tied to coal, you’ve got problems.”

When the world’s largest wealth fund no longer wants Alliant stock, it makes me wonder about my investment, and whether Alliant’s leadership is listening. Alliant relies on coal for nearly half of its electricity generation, with less than 10 percent coming from renewables like solar and wind. And its plan to reduce some coal over the next several years would replace it with mostly natural gas. Alliant will miss a huge opportunity to demonstrate leadership on clean energy. Meanwhile, our neighboring utility MidAmerican is aiming for 100 percent clean energy and is within striking distance of that goal.

Alliant’s plans aren’t enough to protect the long-term investment of shareholders like me, and I’m worried that coal-heavy portfolio is putting my future at risk. It is a privilege to have the opportunity to invest in something that could grow and support me and my family in the future. While some invest to create a safety net, to save for a house or send a child to college, my investment is for my retirement. I don’t want my retirement to come at the expense of a safe and thriving environment for my children and grandchildren, and with the warnings big investment firms are giving, I’m worried about whether my retirement is even safe financially.

I care about my future, and the future of Iowa’s communities. I care about our air, our water, and the quality of life for the next generation of Iowans, including my own children and grandchildren. Iowa’s corporations ought to divest from coal, and invest in clean energy that safeguards our health, our planet, and yes, our financial security. Clean energy — wind and solar — could create more jobs and more a sustainable economy for Iowa. It’s time for us to stop gambling on yesterday’s dirty fuels.

• Pam Mackey-Taylor, of Marion, is an Alliant Energy shareholder and the conservation chair for Sierra Club’s Iowa Chapter



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