Weekend open thread: Walking the talk edition

What's on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.

State Representative Chuck Isenhart, the ranking Democrat on the Iowa House Environmental Protection Committee, has installed solar panels on his Dubuque home as a personal step to address climate change. Details are after the jump. Solar power has a reputation for being expensive to install, but technological advances and policy changes have reduced the payback time for many home and business owners. Isenhart expects to save money in the long-term. A bill approved during this year's legislative session improved Iowa's tax incentives for solar in several ways.

The Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, begins its northern route in Rock Valley today. Good luck to everyone in the Bleeding Heartland community planning to do all or part of RAGBRAI. Last week's weather would have been absolutely perfect; I hope the high temperatures will mostly stay below 90 this week. In its recent feature on "33 useful tips for newbies" to the experience, I found it strange that the Register focused so much on the drinking culture. Carl Voss, a Des Moines bicycling advocate and veteran of 36 RAGBRAIs, unloaded on what he called "sophomoric drivel" in an angry letter to the editor. Excerpt:

Granted, alcohol attracts some riders and non-riders among the more than 10,000 RAGBRAI participants. It happens. But trust me, that isn't the way most participants enjoy RAGBRAI, Iowa and our communities.

Now, flip to the RAGBRAI website, where RAGBRAI (and therefore the Register) includes among the "Top 10 Recommendations for Rider Safety": Do NOT drink alcohol and ride. [...]

Publishing crap like this in your news columns will turn me off to RAGBRAI and the Register.

Another letter to the editor, which I've posted after the jump, focused on the large number of puppy mills near this year's RAGBRAI route. The Iowa legislature passed a bill in 2010 that was designed to reduce abuses at puppy mills, but unfortunately Iowa still has some bad actors in the industry. Adopting a pet from a shelter such as the Animal Rescue League has so many advantages. If your heart is set on a purebred animal, at least visit the breeder's facility before buying a pet.

KCRG reported on Representative Isenhart's solar installation on July 18. Click through to watch the video. Excerpt from the report:

Isenhart said, "It's is a small house. By the time all the rebates and credits are over, I think I paid about $1200, only. With the energy I use, I should be able to pay it back in 3 to 4 years. "

Isenhart says earlier this year, the Iowa legislature tripled the amount of money Iowans are able to receive in tax credits for installing solar energy systems.

"For a homeowner the maximum award was increased to $5000. For a business it was increased to $20,000 per project, "said Isenhart.

Critics say even with those incentives, the cost to install panels is more than the average homeowner can afford.

But Solar Company owners disagree.

"There's very rarely an average homeowner. It's always site specific," said Sky Blue Solar owner Raki Giannakouros.

Giannakouros says most customers see a return on their investment in less than five years.

"It generally produces energy when the customer needs it during the peak days when the sun is shining real hot. For example when your air conditioner is running," said Giannakouros.

Letter to the editor, published in the July 19 Des Moines Register:

As RAGBRAI cyclists venture through the northern half of Iowa next week ("33 Pro Tips-RAGBRAI," July 11), it's doubtful they will be advised to watch for the large numbers of "puppy mills" occupying this area of our state. The counties of Sioux, Osceola, Kossuth, Hancock, Winnebago, Cerro Gordo, Butler, Buchanan and Clayton collectively harbor 48 of Iowa's approximate 220 USDA-licensed commercial dog breeding facilities. Sioux County holds the state's unfavorable distinction of having the highest concentration of puppy mills, with 27.

The cyclists won't notice Iowa's puppy mills because they blend in seamlessly with our rural landscape, often co-located with concentrated animal feeding operations, corn cribs, cattle barns, machine sheds, old hog houses and poultry sheds, mobile homes and campers. All of these structures are commonly used to house breeding dogs in wire cages that are often unsanitary and cramped, resulting in physical and psychological damage.

According to recent USDA statistics, Iowa's puppy mills house at least 15,000 adult breeding dogs and at least 40 % of Iowa's breeders have been cited for violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. The best way to avoid supporting puppy mills is to adopt a dog or puppy from a reputable animal shelter or rescue organization.

- Lisa Kuehl, Madrid

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