It’s American Wind Week, a time to highlight the importance of wind energy and reaffirm our commitment to its success here in Iowa and around the nation. I was surprised to see Gov. Kim Reynolds touting Iowa’s success with wind energy by writing an Op-Ed in the Washington, D.C., outlet The Hill. Iowa is — without question — a model of successful investment in alternative energy, but this success has been found despite, and not because of, Reynolds. Now Gov. Reynolds is trying to impress politicians in D.C. by taking credit for something she didn’t do. Perhaps she thought no one back here in Iowa would notice.
In her Op-Ed, Reynolds says, “Iowa didn’t become an energy powerhouse by accident.” Reynolds seems to think Iowans should be thanking her, and other politicians, for these successes. But the reality is Reynolds has stood in the way of Iowa’s investments in wind energy.
Instead of thanking Reynolds, we should be thanking people like Quint Gearhart of Newton. When Maytag moved its Newton factory to Mexico, it took thousands of jobs with them, including Quint’s. After Maytag left, Quint found work in an unexpected place: working on wind turbine blades at a new company in town: TPI Composites.
At the time, I was the chairman of the Iowa Power Fund, a state-funded group tasked with pursuing investments in innovative alternative energy solutions. With a focus on rural Iowa, we led bold investments in projects ranging from a cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmetsburg, to an anaerobic digester in Amana to an algae plant in Shenandoah, to TPI Composites, where Quint Gearhart now works.
The Iowa Power Fund invested in wind energy because we saw its potential, and thanks to the hard work of people like Quint, the investment has paid off. Wind power is our country’s No. 1 source of renewable energy, and Iowa leads the nation in percentage of electricity derived from wind. The wind industry employs more than 9,000 people here in Iowa, and jobs in the wind industry are on the rise: Wind turbine service technician is the fastest growing job in the U.S.
Smart investments in wind energy have the power to create good jobs, support communities and grow Iowa’s economy. Unfortunately, Reynolds has stood in the way. The Iowa Power Fund ceased to exist after Terry Branstad and Reynolds were elected in 2010, and politicians diverted nearly 30 percent of the money that originally was earmarked for the Power Fund to “other purposes.”
While the Power Fund was investing in alternative energy, and Quint Gearhart was working hard to build Iowa’s wind industry, Reynolds and her politician friends diverted funds, dragged their feet and closed the doors of the Power Fund. Reynolds did not see any value in supporting alternative energy in 2010, but now that there’s an opportunity to take credit for Iowa’s success, Reynolds is front and center, writing D.C. Op-Eds, just like a typical politician.
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Reynolds is right, “Iowa didn’t become an energy powerhouse by accident.” But she’s wrong to imply politicians like her had anything to do with it. Iowa became an “energy powerhouse” because of the innovation of companies like TPI, the foresight of committed public servants, and the hard work of people like Quint. Perhaps that’s something Reynolds should share with the politicians in Washington, D.C.
• Fred Hubbell is a retired business executive from Des Moines and a Democratic candidate for governor