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Iowa’s approach to climate change is daffy
During the halcyon days of my childhood, I watched a lot of Looney Tunes. I practically had the cartoons memorized. Some still occupy my cerebral archives.
One I recall involved Daffy Duck joining Bugs Bunny on one of his famous underground travel excursions. Bugs, of course, didn’t take that left turn at Albuquerque and they ended up somewhere in the Middle East, near a cave loaded with gems, gold and other treasures.
Daffy went to work stealing the treasure, even as the cave’s guard, Hassan, warned him of the dire consequences of his thievery.
“Consequences, shmonsequences, as long as I’m rich,” Daffy said.
Little did I know, as I ate my third bowl of Luck Charms, I was hearing what I would later realize is a perfect, concise description of the state of Iowa’s climate change response in 2023. Daffy nailed it.
Gov. Kim Reynolds is quietly backing three carbon capture pipelines in the state. Two of them, proposed by Summit Carbon Solutions and Navigator CO2 Ventures, will ask state regulators to permit them to use eminent domain powers to seize easements from reluctant landowners. The pipelines will carry sequestered carbon from ethanol plants to underground storage sites.
Summit Is led by Bruce Rastetter, a large donor to Reynolds. Also on the Summit team is Reynolds’ mentor, former Gov. Terry Branstad, former Reynolds chief of staff Jake Ketzner and Jess Vilsack, son of former governor and current U.S. Sec. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
Former Branstad chief of staff Jeff Boeyink is lobbying for Summit. State Sen. Michael Bousselot, who killed legislation in his Senate committee this session that would have set a far higher bar for using eminent domain for pipelines, is a former Branstad chief of staff who also worked for Rastetter.
My, oh my, it sure feels real cozy in here. Must be the global warming.
The pipeline developers want to get their hands on billions of dollars’ worth of federal tax credits. The credits were created as part of federal efforts to curtail carbon emissions that are fueling climate change. But you’re not going to hear any of that tree-hugging talk from this crew.
They want the tax credits to both make a load of bucks off pipeline projects and prop up the ethanol industry. If they can make ethanol seem greener by capturing carbon, they hope to keep the industry humming as carbon reduction efforts trade in fossil fuels for renewable energy technology. But the real green driving this is the color of money.
Is sustaining an industry reliant on the burning of fossil fuels the best strategy to address climate change? Unlikely. Also, there’s the small matter of the overproduction of corn needed to fuel the industry, with consequences including dirty water, soil loss and other environmental damage.
Consequences, shmonsequences, as long as the governor’s friends get rich.
At the same time, we recently learned that the Reynolds administration turned down $3 million from the federal government to help the state create a climate plan. Iowa was one of just four states to refuse the bucks, along with Kentucky, South Dakota and, or course, Florida. Debi Durham, head of the Iowa Finance Authority and the Iowa Economic Development Authority advised Reynolds to skip the grant, arguing it had “strings attached.”
What those strings are we don’t know for sure. Maybe one of them was acknowledging climate change is real and is already causing damage in Iowa.
Iowa doesn’t have a climate plan. But a spokesperson for Durham, Staci Hupp, pointed to the Iowa Energy Plan adopted in 2016.
That’s particularly rich. The energy plan calls for major investments in energy conservation. But in 2018, Reynolds signed a bill that slashed funding for conservation efforts funded through utility bills. Reynolds, as lieutenant governor, spearheaded creation of the energy plan, but was more than willing to dump it at the behest of utility companies.
“Why would we want to do this when know that it contradicts every pillar of the Iowa energy plan,” said Amanda Zwanziger, a member of the energy plan working group, before Reynolds signed the bill, according to Iowa Public Radio.
The $3 million could have helped Iowa explore ways of curbing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the effects of climate change. State Rep. Chuck Isenhart, D-Dubuque, contends turning down the planning funds takes the state out of the running for $4.6 billion in federal implementation grants.
Planning for climate change and its effects is a lot cheaper than covering the cost of extreme and catastrophic weather events. It’s what we used to call “fiscal responsibility.” It has fallen out of fashion.
A governor can do more than declare disasters, ask for federal help and tour the devastation. It used to be called “leadership.” Also, no longer fashionable.
Iowa is already experiencing increased precipitation and more frequent heavy rain events. Droughts also will become more frequent in the decades ahead. The hottest days will get hotter, nighttime low temps are getting warmer and we’re feeling the effects of higher humidity. It’s bad news for every Iowan, but agriculture will be hit particularly hard. Flooding, droughts, disease and insect infestation, transportation disruptions and stressed crops and livestock are among the threats.
The Farm Bureau says Reynolds is a “friend of agriculture.” I demand a recount.
You’d think these are the sort of things a governor of Iowa would want to address with a sense of urgency. But those darn strings are always attached. And no “Red State Trailblazer” with a rising national political profile to uphold can take climate change seriously. But inaction will bring consequences.
Consequences, shmonsequences., so long as she keeps getting reelected. It’s downright daffy.
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