Locals hope green-energy legislation will power job growth


Mike Carberry, the executive director of Iowa Renewable Energy Association, used to be an antique dealer and an occasional environmental volunteer.

But five years ago, he read Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, which led to a career change.

“I realized how serious global climate change was, and I realized we really needed to do something about it now,” he said.

He has been a board member of I-Renew, an educational nonprofit organization that promotes the use of renewable energy in Iowa, for the past two and a half years, and he officially became its executive director May 15.

Recently, the organization moved from West Branch to the Wesley Center, 120 N. Dubuque St., because all of I-Renew’s employees live in Iowa City and the closer location would minimize the workers’ drives. I-Renew has three paid employees along with two UI interns.

“We wanted to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Carberry.

He lauded a bill moving through Congress: the Clean Energy and Security Act. The proposed legislation passed the House of Representatives late last month.

The bill would work on a cap and trade system in order to reduce carbon emissions at 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. The goal is to address several problems at once: a falling economy, rising gas prices, and greenhouse gases.

It could also help Iowans in particular. According to the American Wind Energy Association, Iowa ranks 10th in the nation in wind-energy potential.

Carberry said Iowa ranks second in wind production in the country, and it is in the top 10 in solar energy, which could help grow the job market. For example, building more wind turbines could stimulate the domestic steel industry, he said.

“As we move towards a new, clean, green economy, [clean] energy is going to have to be produced here,” he said.

At the UI, research in the field is growing along with renewable energy advocacy.

Charles Stanier, a UI assistant professor of chemical and biochemical engineering, said the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research is looking at the effects of wind power on the environment.

The center is funded by the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, he said.

Although Stanier supports energy efficiency, he is skeptical about how many green jobs will be created, but he does think energy efficiency as a whole will create economic growth.

“I think the real advantage is if we spend less of our economy in energy, then we have more of our economy to spend on new products and new services,” he said.

UI senior Brandon Yoder recently won $3,500 to create a company that will boost wind energy, solar energy, and geothermal heating and cooling, Green Transitions LLC, by installing green technology in homes and businesses.

Yoder said he believes alternative energy will bring the economy out of a “slump” by creating many jobs in manufacturing and servicing — such as local businesses for installing the technology.

“This government is really moving us in the right direction in terms of energy independence,” he said. “Together, we can help save people money and help the environment at the same time.”

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