# Climate Change



Little of USDA’s conservation spending went to "climate-smart" agriculture

Anne Schechinger is Senior Analyst of Economics for the Environmental Working Group. This report first appeared on the Environmental Working Group’s website.

Farmers received almost $7.4 billion in payments from two of the largest federal agricultural conservation programs between 2017 and 2020, but only a small proportion of these payments went to practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions from farming. 

This finding comes from the Environmental Working Group’s newest update to its Conservation Database, which provides 2017–2020 payment data for five of the largest Agriculture Department farm conservation programs.

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Iowa environmentalists react to Inflation Reduction Act

Meaningful Congressional action on climate change seemed doomed in the 50-50 U.S. Senate after Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia tanked President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better proposal earlier this year. But on August 7, Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking 51st vote to approve the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. All Republicans, including Iowa’s Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, voted against final passage.

Assuming the U.S. House approves the bill (a vote is scheduled for August 12), Biden is poised to sign into law “the single biggest climate investment in U.S. history, by far.” In addition to significant changes to the tax system and health care policy, the massive package includes $369 billion in spending aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting clean energy.

According to summaries of the bill’s energy and climate provisions, enclosed in full below, the bill could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. However, the bill’s incentives for the fossil fuels industry—which were necessary to get Manchin on board—are troubling for many environmental advocates.

Bleeding Heartland sought comment from some Iowans who have been engaged in policy battles related to climate change and the environment.

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A science-based case against carbon dioxide pipelines across Iowa

Seventeen academics, farmland owners, and environmental advocates have urged the Iowa Utilities Board to reject permit applications for a carbon dioxide pipeline that would run across Iowa. A July 29 letter to the board laid out four science-based objections to the projects proposed by Summit Carbon Solutions, Navigator CO2 Ventures, and Archer Daniels Midland partnered with Wolf Carbon Solutions.

Matt Liebman, Iowa State University professor emeritus of agronomy, took the lead in writing the document. Citing “relevant scientific and engineering studies,” the letter explained how the pipelines would damage soil and crop yields without significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Allowing the use of eminent domain for this project would be “a betrayal of public trust and a corruption of the ideal of private sacrifice for public good,” the letter argued.

Those who wrote to the Iowa Utilities Board include six retired professors from Iowa colleges or universities and several Iowans with professional conservation experience at the federal or county level. I also signed, having been an environmental advocate for the past 20 years. I did not draft the letter or make editorial changes to it.

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A cleaner grid is a more reliable, resilient grid

Andy Johnson is executive director of Clean Energy Districts of Iowa, which was first to publish this commentary.

The June 2 print edition of the Des Moines Register led with the headline, “Iowans warned of rolling blackouts.” Utility sources quoted in the article repeatedly tried to connect the growth of renewable energy with a less reliable grid.

As Mark Twain said: “Few things are more irritating than when someone who is wrong is also very effective in making his point.” Sure, it sounds sensible that closing “baseload” coal plants and replacing them with “variable” renewables is a recipe for disaster. But that logic actually mixes apples and oranges—or corn and beans, or uff-da: 4-H and Future Farmers of America!

Here’s why we can’t blame renewables for the current grid challenges. In fact, the opposite is true: a clean energy future is the best recipe for a healthy, wealthy Iowa and a reliable, affordable grid.

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Calling on MidAmerican to partner with DSM on climate, clean energy

Dr. Brian Campbell is Executive Director of the Iowa Environmental Council and a member of the Des Moines Citizen Task Force on Sustainability.

I joined the Des Moines Citizens Task Force on Sustainability in 2017. Formed in the wake of the Paris Climate Agreement, this small, dedicated group of volunteers have worked with the city on important sustainability initiatives over the years, including the city’s 2021 resolution committing to 24/7 clean energy by 2035.

It’s hard to overstate how important MidAmerican Energy is to achieving this goal, with 50 percent of Des Moines’ greenhouse gas emissions from electricity and another 25 percent from natural gas—all supplied by MidAmerican. Although the utility has made significant investments in wind energy in Iowa, it remains the state’s largest climate polluter by operating five coal plants.

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Environmental scorecard for the Iowans in Congress

Sheri Albrecht is a member of Indivisible Cedar Rapids Metro and on the executive committees of the Sierra Club’s Iowa Chapter and Cedar-Wapsie Group.

EcoFest 2022 was held on April 23 at the NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids in celebration of Earth Day.

Our local Indivisible CR Metro group hosted a table. We had three goals: 1) Find out what issues were most important to the people who visited our table; 2) In keeping with the ecological theme of the event, provide data showing attendees how their legislative representatives voted on environmental issues; and 3) Encourage ordinary citizens to engage with their elected representatives.

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