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Politicians must act on alternative energy consensus

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | SEPTEMBER 20, 2011 7:20 AM

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On both a statewide and national scale, there seem to be only a few issues that both Republicans and Democrats can agree on wholeheartedly. Given the perpetual opposition on many issues, alternative energy should be pushed through both the state Legislature and Congress.

The expansion of alternative energy is the most widely favored government proposal. If implemented correctly, the initiatives can create jobs, decrease dependency on foreign oil, and preserve our natural environment for the many generations succeeding our own.

Gov. Terry Branstad, serving as the Midwestern Governors Association's vice chairman co-hosted Transmission Collaboration: Midwestern Current and Future Successes on Sept. 15 and 16. The meeting focused on collaboration and the success of using wind as an alternative form of energy. Branstad seems to have been pushing the agenda of wind energy particularly hard this year.

Given the current political and economic conditions, job creation is of the utmost priority nationwide. Recently, Branstad and legislative Republicans pushed through a move to close several workforce-deveoplment offices with the goals of replacing them with 24-hour accessible computers and kiosks. Though he did it in good faith, reasoning that cutting costs would benefit the economy, many disagreed with the layoffs and closures.

This makes Branstad's stance on wind energy that much more attractive. A large majority of Democrats, Republicans, and the rest of the U.S. population generally approve both the end and the means of wind energy.

According to a recent Gallup poll an alternative-energy bill, with 83 percent support, was the most highly favored out of eight hypothetical proposals, including overhauling the federal tax code (76 percent), speeding up U.S. troop withdrawal (72 percent), and passing stronger gun-control laws (49 percent).

Ninety-three percent of Democrats, 82 percent of independents, and 75 percent of Republicans supported an alternative-energy bill providing incentives for using alternative-energy sources.

Branstad is clearly part of the 75 percent of Republicans who back alternative energy.

Branstad's support of wind energy can be traced to 1983, in his first term as governor. At the start of that year, Branstad signed the first renewable-energy standard in the nation. Since then, 24 states have adopted similar standards. That Iowa started this initiative is one of the state's biggest prides. Over the past few years, several events and processions have been held to honor Branstad's role in this process. According to the American Wind Energy Association, it was in part because of his advocacy and support that generated the industry that enables 20 percent of Iowa's electricity to be generated from wind — a national goal former President George W. Bush predicted would not to be reached until 2030. Iowa's neighboring state, Nebraska, similar in both geographical and political contexts, obtained less than 1 percent of its energy consumption to wind generation in 2007 (the most recent data).

This year, Branstad's efforts to use renewable energy have continued. In June, he signed a bill to expand Iowa's wind-energy tax credits.

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said that Iowa Democrats and Republicans agree on a lot more than just wind energy, but they often disagree on ways in which to achieve what they both desire.

"There has been a record of improvement and a lot of results [in wind energy production]," he said. "Another thing that we want to work toward is solar energy. James White, in fact, a former Hawkeye star, is a huge advocate on behalf solar energy. While we have some disagreements about figures within the realm of wind energy, I think Republicans and Democrats both have goals of becoming greener, building more geothermal homes, and making sure that lower- and moderate-income families have the ability to make the transition to greener lifestyles."

Currently, 59 of Iowa's 99 counties have wind-energy harvesting plants and businesses, which employ more than 5,000 Iowans. With the expansion of the wind-energy industry will come the creation of thousands of more jobs and a higher percentage of electricity provided from wind, helping to solve the issue of unemployment and making Iowa a more environmentally safe and aware state. Branstad said wind energy is a key component in achieving his job-creation goals for the next five years. For every wind turbine installed, the average landowner can earn up to $120,000 a year for up to 20 years. These turbines can also revitalize rural areas and use land that is otherwise unused.

Perhaps, in the future, wind energy can serve as a platform for even more new, innovative, greener ways to live in Iowa and even more cohesion between these two parties.


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