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Campus Republicans and Democrats debate Iowa's role in renewable energy

BY GUEST EDITORIAL | NOVEMBER 18, 2011 7:20 AM

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UI Republicans: End ethanol subsidies

"Fields of Opportunities" is plastered across every sign and burned into every retina of those that enter our great state. To Iowa's credit, this tacky tagline holds one universal truth about our unique state: with every harvest brings productivity. What Iowa farmers produce on an annual basis is the lifeblood to many different industries across the globe. Iowa has a unique opportunity to thrive in a cyclical industry. It is our responsibility as Iowans to manage the productivity as efficiently as possible for the betterment of Iowa and America as a whole.

Iowa plays a distinct role in America's efforts to become energy independent. Corn grown for ethanol is a key ingredient to America's energy solvency, and that industry will live or die by Iowa's contribution.

At one point in recent history, that contribution was a losing bet. An investment from our government was necessary to truly launch the ethanol industry into what we know it as today.

That gamble has paid off. Not only has Iowa crafted an industry for thousands of Iowa jobs, but has also helped America as a whole take a step toward energy independence. While the final goal of energy independence may still be a ways off, the federal government now has Iowa as a viable investment alternative as opposed to Saudi Arabia.

Now, amid unprecedented budget gaps, government investment in this industry has faced a burning question: Do we trust Iowans to stand on their own, or do we subsidize this program until the end of time? Rational individuals choose the former. Democrats will choose the latter.

It is time for the handouts to ethanol producers to end. Our current 45-cent-per-gallon tax credit was intended to jump-start jobs within the ethanol industry, and it has. At more than $12 billion a year, the Iowa ethanol market has demonstrably matured and is rapidly becoming the poster child of wasteful government spending.

Iowa Republicans were champions of the ethanol tax credits at the program's inception but now unanimously agree that enough is enough and the industry can "stand on its own." It is now time to begin decreasing the per-gallon tax credit until the subsidy's scheduled expiration in 2016.

Yet, the party of bottomless checkbooks feels that the ethanol industry shouldn't be expected to stand on its own any sooner than college-graduated adults should be expected be purchase their own health insurance. The Democrat's culture of a cradle to grave nanny state is alive and well, telling Iowans that government knows best and the most capable among us simply aren't capable. More government intervention in such a booming industry will only serve to liquidate resources for the poorest among us. It is time to take a look in the mirror, admit our treasury's account is not infinite and responsibly prioritize.

Unfortunately for us, responsibility is not our president's strong suit. And he hopes it's not yours, either. Responsible citizens research. Responsible citizens vote. Responsible citizens tackle their problems head-on. Responsible citizens don't take their freedoms for granted and hold their leaders accountable. As Alexis de Tocqueville said about America in its earliest days, "The America republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money."

A responsible public would not let that happen.

Prioritize "responsibility" over "hope" in 2012.

— University of Iowa College Republicans

UDems: Renewable energy means economic growth for Iowa

Renewable energy such as biofuel, ethanol, and solar and wind power have "no value to Iowans," according to Iowa House Republican leaders. However, since 2007, 20 percent of Iowa's energy has come from these renewable sources. This is because in 2007, former Democratic Gov. Chet Culver started the Iowa Power Fund, a public-private initiative to invest in renewable-energy sources in Iowa. Consequently, it turned Iowa into a net exporter of energy.

So, if this didn't have "value for Iowans," then the University of Iowa Democrats would like to know what, exactly, do the Republicans think has value? (Remember, these are the same Republican leaders who cut funding to early childhood education and public schools, the same Republicans that told UI students to "Go home" when they appeared to testify before the Senate at an open budget hearing, and the same Republicans who compared preschool to Nazi indoctrination.)

So, what do the Republicans value? Do they value private investments in Iowa's economy? Well, then — roughly 79 companies, including seven international companies, directly invested in Iowa's economy because of the Iowa Power Fund. Do they value jobs? These same companies created roughly 2,300 jobs and brought more than $300 million in private funds to Iowa's economy. According to the Environmental Law and Policy Center, because of the Iowa Power Fund, Iowa ranked No. 2 nationally in renewable energy during the Culver administration. Do they value education and investments in our states future? The Iowa Power Fund's grants weren't only used to kick-start the renewable-energy sector and create jobs in Iowa, they were also offered to institutions of higher education for research and training the next generation of Iowa's workers in renewable technology. This included research done at the University of Iowa.

The Iowa Power Fund brought investments into Iowa's economy, created jobs, invested in education and our states future. So, why do House Republicans in Des Moines think this program has "no value for Iowans"? During his campaign, Iowa's current Republican Gov. Terry Branstad called the Iowa Power Fund a "colossal failure." However, now that Branstad is no longer campaigning and is forced to answer to Iowa taxpayers, he has decided to support the tax breaks and investments in renewable energy that were started by Culver.

Our Daily Iowan editorial question for this week asked us to focus mainly on ethanol. However, we believe that this is too narrow a topic, because ethanol is not the answer to decreasing America's dependency on foreign oil. The answer to decreasing our dependency is tapping into the much broader renewable-energy sector. This includes doing what Culver did so successfully. He invested in solar, wind, and other biofuels — not just ethanol. The UI Democrats' stance on renewable energy is that we support investments in job creation, Iowa's renewable-energy sector, and education. We see these three as linked.

— University of Iowa Democrats


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