No matter what state you’re from, we can all agree that keeping our air and water clean is essential. But heavy-handed and misguided Washington, D.C., mandates, like the Green New Deal, that will crush our economy, are the wrong path to achieving that. Instead, we need an all-of-the above approach, one that increases domestic production, expands the use of our renewable sources, and promotes energy independence and efficiency by utilizing innovation and public-private partnerships. And America needs to look no further than the great state of Iowa to see the blueprint for that successful, market-driven approach—from biofuel to solar, and from wind to hydropower.
Iowa is the nation’s leading producer of ethanol and biodiesel. In addition, over 40% of our power comes from wind energy sources, and just two years ago we had the highest wind power share of any state. In recent years, we’ve also grown our solar and hydroelectric power capabilities. And this has largely been done through incentives and community engagement not top-down, D.C.-driven mandates.
Let’s start with solar. In 2018, Central Iowa Power Cooperative (CIPCO) announced Clnera, LLC would develop the largest solar project in the state, and one of the largest in the Midwest, near Wapello, Iowa. CIPCO agreed to purchase all of the Wapello Solar facility’s output over the course of a 25-year contract. Last August, I visited the Wapello facility to see its ongoing efforts to develop the project. And just three weeks ago, I joined the grand opening of this solar facility. Not only will this project help deliver clean and affordable energy to tens of thousands of Iowans, but it will also create good-paying jobs.
As I mentioned, nearly half of our state’s electricity comes from wind. On my 99 County Tour, I recently visited Iowa Lakes Community College and toured its Sustainable Energy Resources Technology program. The reality is, the backbone of our wind industry is the workforce that powers it. That’s why I’m continuing to push solutions at the federal level to support programs, like the one at Iowa Lakes, to train the next generation of our wind energy workforce. To that end, I’ve partnered with Senator Angus King (I-Maine) on the Wind Workforce Modernization and Training Act which would help incentivize and promote the development of wind power and wind jobs in Iowa and across the nation. At the end of last year, I successfully pushed to get the training grant component of the bill signed into law. While the new law will go a long way, there’s still more work to be done, and I’m committed to making sure our wind energy sector has the skilled workforce it needs to keep powering our state.
In Iowa, we’re also utilizing and investing in hydropower. At another 99 County Tour stop a few weeks ago, I visited the Red Rock Hydroelectric Project on the Des Moines River. This facility is yet another great example of Iowa actively working with partners, like the Army Corps of Engineers, to find creative ways to invest in reliable energy sources, all while creating jobs and boosting our local economies.
Finally, when it comes to biofuel, Iowa is unmatched. Over 50% of Iowa-grown corn goes directly to ethanol production, and almost 40% of it is used for the actual ethanol fuel. I’ve been relentless in fighting for our biofuel community—whether that’s securing E15 year-round, pushing back on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) harmful small refinery exemptions, or working to expand the infrastructure for higher blends of biofuel. Both ethanol and biodiesel are not only good for our agriculture economy, they’re better for the environment. A recent report found that greenhouse gas emissions from corn ethanol are 46% lower than gasoline. That’s why I’m working across the aisle to push the Biden Administration’s EPA and Department of Agriculture (USDA) to update their greenhouse gas modeling for ethanol and biodiesel and to recognize biofuel’s environmental benefits when making policy.
Any energy policy, whether at the federal or state level, must keep in mind American families, workers, and businesses and their ability to be successful, compete globally, and create jobs. As a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, I will continue to work tirelessly to promote Iowa’s leadership in renewable energy and find common sense solutions to provide cleaner, more affordable energy sources and create quality jobs for folks all across this country.
We can protect our environment, drive sustainable energy production, and power our economy all without heavy-handed and harmful mandates from Washington. And my home state of Iowa is leading the way.
• Senator Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican, serves on four committees of major importance to Iowans: Armed Services; Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry; Environment and Public Works; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Following 23 years of military service, she was elected in 2014 as the first female combat veteran elected to serve in the U.S. Senate.