We’re five months away from the first in the nation Iowa caucuses. As the Caucus approaches, candidates and pundits will undoubtedly discuss America’s need to become energy independent. The good news is that America has a blueprint for becoming energy independent through renewable energy sources, and that blueprint is right here in Iowa.
I support an all-of-the-above energy approach, including traditional resources, but most traditional energy booms eventually wane. In contrast, renewable energy production promotes continual wealth generation throughout rural America.
Embracing renewable energy and harnessing Iowa’s renewable-rich resources has been a passion of mine since I began my career in public service. I’ve been a relentless supporter of biofuels dating back to the 1970s, when we called it “gas-a-hol”. It’s truly incredible to see how the industry has grown and continues to provide diverse benefits to farmers, rural communities, and workers.
With a state that has over 92,000 farmers, dozens of thriving international agribusiness companies, and numerous bioscience leaders, it’s easy to see that the growth is a result of the hard work and innovation of our farmers, technological advancement in the use of corn, soybeans and other biomass products, and a steady bipartisan commitment from elected officials to embrace renewables.
Biofuels have enabled value-added opportunities for a variety of biostocks including corn, cornstalks, soybeans, and woody biomass. And, renewable fuels have created high-paying jobs and rewarding careers in rural America. The use of co-products, such as Dried Distillers Grain (DDGs), is also important to growth in agriculture. As a by-product of ethanol production, DDGs have provided producers with a safe, reliable and inexpensive feed especially for cattle, as well as for pigs and poultry.
Today in Iowa, we produce significantly more ethanol than we consume in gasoline. We’re investing in renewable fuel infrastructure to give consumers more choices at the fuel pump.
The Iowa Department of Revenue tracks biofuels sales and the data is clear: when given the choice, Iowans choose biofuels. Consumer purchases of E85 in Iowa continue to increase — growing from 9.12 million gallons in 2012 to 11.15 million gallons in 2013, to 12.08 million gallons in 2014 — a growth of nearly 33 percent. Total B100 (100 percent biodiesel) sales in Iowa have expanded from 7.4 million gallons in 2010 to 33.3 million gallons in 2014. In 2010, the average blend level of biodiesel-blended gallons sold in Iowa was 3.1 percent and by 2014, the average blend level had more than tripled to 9.4 percent.
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The two fertilizer plants being built in Iowa — CF Industries and the Iowa Fertilizer Company — aren’t just creating jobs and lowering fertilizer costs for farmers, they’re also producing an important by-product — diesel exhaust fluid (DEF). DEF is required in today’s diesel engines and is a win-win: it reduces emissions of nitrogen oxides and increases fuel mileage.
Iowa’s renewable leadership goes beyond biofuels. Iowa became the first state to implement a renewable electricity standard when I signed it into law in 1983. That paved the way for Iowa’s leadership position in wind generation, which today generates nearly 30 percent of Iowa’s electricity and is expected to grow to 41 percent by 2020. In fact, wind energy observers believe Iowa could produce enough wind energy by 2030 to achieve complete energy independence and export excess energy to other U.S. states. And it doesn’t stop at wind, as solar energy shows great potential in Iowa as well.
Because of our vision, dedication and steady resolve for clean, renewable energy, Iowa has moved from complete dependence on fossil fuels, much of which was imported, to a leader in renewables. This commitment has created jobs, increased family incomes, provided more consumer choice and established Iowa as a model for how our nation can become energy independent.
As presidential candidates come to your community, encourage them to look at the well-established Iowa blueprint for energy independence and support a robust Renewable Fuel Standard which has helped Iowa and the nation.
• Terry Branstad is governor of Iowa. Comments: (515) 281-5211