# Energy Policy

POTUS Speak Up

Five Things to Say about Clean Energy in Your Address

It is that time of year again.  This Wednesday, January 27, 2010, the President will glide down the aisle in the House of Representatives, greeted by thunderous applause, and encounter the usually more dignified elected officials in a slightly teen-bopper, Beatles-esque-frenzy, practically climbing over each other to shake his hand.  

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Obama's "five worst nominees"

Over at the Mother Jones blog, Kate Sheppard, David Corn and Daniel Schulman compiled a list of “Obama’s Five Worst Nominees.” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner doesn’t make the cut, which surprised me until I read the short bios of appointees who are likely to put corporate interests ahead of the public interest. In alphabetical order:

William Lynn, for whom the president made an exception to his policy on lobbyists in government. Lynn was the chief lobbyist for defense contractor Raytheon before becoming deputy secretary of defense in the Obama administration.

William Magwood, a “cheerleader for nuclear power” who has “worked for reactor maker Westinghouse and has run two firms that advise companies on nuclear projects.” Obama nominated him for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Scott O’Malia, who was apparently suggested by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell. O’Malia “was a lobbyist for Mirant, an Enron-like energy-trading firm” and lobbied for weakening the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, to which Obama appointed him.

Joseph Pizarchik, who helped form policies in Pennsylvania to allow disposal of toxic coal ash in unlined pits. Obama named him director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

Islam Siddiqui, whom Obama appointed to be the chief agricultural negotiator for the U.S. trade representative. Jill Richardson has been on this case at La Vida Locavore; see here and here on why Siddiqui is the wrong person for this job.

I wouldn’t suggest that this rogue’s gallery is representative of Obama appointees, but it’s depressing to see any of them in this administration.

In the good news column, Obama has decided to renominate Dawn Johnsen to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, along with five other nominees who didn’t receive a confirmation vote in the Senate last year.

Year in review: Iowa politics in 2009 (part 2)

Following up on my review of news from the first half of last year, I’ve posted links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of Iowa politics from July through December 2009 after the jump.

Hot topics on this blog during the second half of the year included the governor’s race, the special election in Iowa House district 90, candidates announcing plans to run for the state legislature next year, the growing number of Republicans ready to challenge Representative Leonard Boswell, state budget constraints, and a scandal involving the tax credit for film-making.

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Year in review: national politics in 2009 (part 1)

It took me a week longer than I anticipated, but I finally finished compiling links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage from last year. This post and part 2, coming later today, include stories on national politics, mostly relating to Congress and Barack Obama’s administration. Diaries reviewing Iowa politics in 2009 will come soon.

One thing struck me while compiling this post: on all of the House bills I covered here during 2009, Democrats Leonard Boswell, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack voted the same way. That was a big change from 2007 and 2008, when Blue Dog Boswell voted with Republicans and against the majority of the Democratic caucus on many key bills.

No federal policy issue inspired more posts last year than health care reform. Rereading my earlier, guardedly hopeful pieces was depressing in light of the mess the health care reform bill has become. I was never optimistic about getting a strong public health insurance option through Congress, but I thought we had a chance to pass a very good bill. If I had anticipated the magnitude of the Democratic sellout on so many aspects of reform in addition to the public option, I wouldn’t have spent so many hours writing about this issue. I can’t say I wasn’t warned (and warned), though.

Links to stories from January through June 2009 are after the jump. Any thoughts about last year’s political events are welcome in this thread.

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Background on new Iowa Utilities Board Chairman Rob Berntsen

Governor Chet Culver made two appointments to the Iowa Utilities Board this week. He named Rob Berntsen as the IUB’s new chairman, replacing John Norris. Norris stepped down from the IUB in order to serve as chief of staff for Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Culver also reappointed Krista Tanner as one of the IUB’s three members. Culver appointed her in 2007 to serve out the remainder of someone else’s IUB term, which expires at the end of April. Now she will serve out the remainder of Norris’s term, which ends in April 2011.

The governor named Berntsen for the full six-year term that begins on May 1 and expires in 2015. (The third IUB member, Darrell Hanson was appointed by Culver in 2007 for a term that expires in 2013.)

Join me after the jump for more background on the new IUB chairman, along with some speculation about what can we expect from the board.  

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Events coming up this weekend and next week

As always, post a comment or send me an e-mail (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) if you know of an event I should add to this post.

Friday, February 13:

As part of the “POWERLINES to the Future” conference of the Midwest Regional Physicians for Social Responsibility, there will be a free film and discussion of “Scarred Lands and Wounded Lives” at 7:30 pm in the International Center, Old Capitol Town Center Mall, downtown Iowa City.

Get full information at:


One Iowa urges supporters to “write a note on Facebook or Myspace with the 25 Reasons you support marriage equality. Then tag 25 of your closest friends on the note and add your 25 reasons as a comment to the One Iowa Facebook or Myspace page.” Also, One Iowa is hosting a Happy Hour from 5-7 PM at Azalea Restaurant, 400 Walnut St., Des Moines.

Friends of Iowa Midwives is having a “Red Envelope Party” (where people can write letters to policy-makers advocating for expanding birth options in Iowa) in Davenport from 3 pm to 5 pm at the Harrison Hilltop Theatre. Click here for more information:


Saturday, February 14:

Physicians for Social Responsibility is holding a “POWERLINES to the Future” conference at the International Center, Old Capitol Town Center Mall, Iowa City. PSR hopes to encourage Iowans, especially those involved in the health professions, to become more informed and actively engaged in confronting the gravest health challenges of our time:

Conference 9:00 AM — 4:00 PM

Check-in and breakfast at 8:00 AM

The Saturday program addresses health, environmental, and economic consequences of:

Nuclear weapons

Nuclear power

Coal fired power generation

View full program at:  www.iowa-psr.org/pl/pl_home.html/#program

Intended audience: physicians, allied health professionals, public health officials, general public, and students.

Registration includes breakfast and lunch on Saturday.

Pre-registration by Wednesday February 11, 2009 is required to be ensured food!

Sliding-scale conference registration fee.

Register online or download a printable registration form at:


Friends of Iowa Midwives is having a “Red Envelope Party” at the Urbandale Public Library from 10 am to 12 pm, and at the Iowa City Public Library from 1 pm to 3 pm. For more information:


Monday, February 16:

Big event on climate change co-sponsored by lots of good organizations:

The University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research and a variety of co-sponsoring organizations invite you to a climate change briefing and discussion to highlight the recent report of the Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council.

The briefing and discussion will take place on Monday, February 16, 6:00-7:30 pm at the Iowa State Historical Building Auditorium, 600 East Locust in Des Moines.

The meeting will be an opportunity to learn more about climate change science its potential impacts on Iowa, as well as learn about the recent options detailed in the work of the Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council report and participate in an informal discussion about climate change and next steps.

Iowa Climate Change Briefing and Discussion

Monday, February 16, 6:00-7:30 pm

Iowa State Historical Building, Auditorium


Welcome – Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie

Richard Leopold, Director, Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Climate Science and Assessment of Climate Change for Iowa- Eugene S. Takle, Director, Climate Change Initiative, Professor of Atmospheric Science, Professor of Agricultural Meteorology, Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University

Brief overview of the Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council’s Report –  Jerry Schnoor – Co-director, University of Iowa Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research and Chairman, Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council

What are our next steps? Interactive discussion with key legislators, ICCAC members and the audience

Adjourn for light refreshments

Climate Change Briefing and Discussion Co-Sponsors

Iowa State University Climate Science Initiative

UNI Center for Energy and Environmental Education

Iowa State University Extension

Iowa Department of Economic Development

Iowa Office of Energy Independence

Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Iowa Department of Public Health

Iowa Office of Consumer Advocate

Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities

Iowa State Association of Counties

Iowa League of Cities

Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation

Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Iowa Environmental Council

Iowa Interfaith Power & Light

Iowa Policy Project

Trees Forever

For more information or questions contact Joe Bolkcom, Outreach and Community Education Director, UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research at joe-bolkcom@uiowa.edu or 319-353-2681.

One Iowa is organizing this event:

February 16, 5:30 PM

“Transgender Medicine 101”

featuring Dr. Christine McGinn

FREE and open to the public

Dinner at 5:30, lecture at 6:00

Des Moines University Student Education Center Auditorium

3200 Grand Avenue, Des Moines

Go to www.oneiow.org for more information

Tuesday, February 17:

It’s the registration deadline for the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa’s Crossroads lunch on February 20 (see below for more information). Call 515-279-8715 to make a reservation.

The Women Food and Agriculture Network is holding “Women Caring for the Land” meetings on February 17, 18 and 19, for women landowners in Johnson, Jones and Linn Counties. These are free educational programs on conservation programming for women who are farm partners, owner-operators, or inheritors who own farmland. Laura Krouse will hold meetings in each county, followed by spring field days and a follow-up meeting. Please call her at 319-895-6924 to find out where and when the meeting will be held in each county.

Wednesday, February 18:

One Iowa and Lambda Legal are holding a “Let My Parents Marry” forum at 6:30 pm in the Coralville Public Library, Meeting Room A, 1401 5th St., Coralville.

Friends of Iowa Midwives is holding its third Annual Conscious Birth Summit from 3 pm to 8 pm in the Iowa City Public Library, Meeting Room A, Featuring screenings of The Business of Being Born and Orgasmic Birth.

Thursday, February 19:

From the Iowa Environmental Council newsletter:

Growing Sustainable Communities Conference

Join us Thursday, February 19, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., at the Grand River Center, 500 Bell Street in Dubuque. Cost is $20 per person, which includes a lunch. Limited number of student scholarships available. Our conference theme is “Promoting Historic Preservation as Part of the Climate Solution.” Insights will be offered on creating local and regional policies to promote sustainability through historic preservation. Keynote speakers for the event are Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Roya Stanley, director of the Iowa Office for Energy Independence. Deadline for registration is Feb 11 [from desmoinesdem: I know it’s late, but if you’re interested try calling anyway]. A limited number of student scholarships are available. Online registration and payment, as well as additional information, are available at www.sustainabledubuque.org or by calling 563.589.4110 during business hours. The mission of the conference is to educate the public on the issues that impact the long-term health and sustainability of our region and to create an opportunity for policy decision-makers from the tri-state area to come together to discuss ways in which they can enact the most effective change at the local level.

Also from the IEC bulletin:

Iowa Whitewater Coalition Annual Dinner Meeting

February 19, Des Moines

The IWC ‘Reconnecting the Rivers’ Annual Dinner Meeting will take place on Thursday, February 19th, with a social hour beginning at 6 pm and dinner at 7 pm. Following the meal special guest Adam Brooks, who has paddled the entire Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, will be sharing stories from his adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail and his plans for paddling 2300 miles of the Yukon River in Alaska starting in June. The meeting will be held at the House of Thai, located at 3017 100th Street in Des Moines. There will be a wonderful selection of dishes served banquet style, beverages and a cash bar for those interested. Tickets may be purchased for $25 per individual or $45 per couple. Proceeds from the event directly benefit the non-profit activities of the IWC and its Reconnecting the Rivers Campaign. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to: http://www.iowawhitewater.org/…

One Iowa and Lambda Legal are holding a “Let My Parents Marry” forum at 6:30 pm in the Des Moines Public Library, Meeting Room 1, 1000 Grand Ave. in Des Moines.

Friday, February 20:

The Interfaith Alliance of Iowa is holding a Crossroads luncheon:

Guest Speaker:    Nate Monson

Project Coordinator, Iowa Safe Schools

Subject:                Safe Schools for All

Sexual orientation and gender identity are two controversial topics in our communities and in our schools. Are our schools safe for LGBT youth? Learn about, discuss, and experience the effects of bias and harassment on students who identify and students who are perceived to be gay, lesbian, bisexual and/or transgender and learn about laws dealing with the GLBT community.

Date:                    Friday, February 20

o       Time:        11:45 – 1 p.m.

o       Location: Plymouth Congregational Church, Des Moines (42nd Street & Ingersoll Avenue )

o       Cost:         $9.00

Reservations are required for Crossroads.  Please call or email TIA Iowa by Tuesday, February 17.

Office: 515-279-8715

Friends of Iowa Midwives is having a Red Envelope Party from noon to 1 pm at the Marion Public Library.

Saturday, February 21:

From the IEC bulletin:

Hunter Angler Summit

Please join other outdoor enthusiasts on Feb 21, at Johnson County Conservation Education Center at F.W. Kent Park, just west of Tiffin, for a one-day summit to learn about threats to Iowa wetlands, rivers and streams, and help the National and Iowa Wildlife Federation to launch a state campaign to fight back after the rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and administrative fiats that have left over half of Iowa streams and over 70 percent of Iowa’s prairie pothole wetlands vulnerable to losing Clean Water Act protections. Whether you are an angler who enjoys casting in your favorite stream or a hunter who counts on mallards and northern pintails, these decisions threaten the places you love. Policy experts and scientists will share the current efforts to eliminate protections in Iowa and the serious impacts they have for Iowa fish and wildlife. We will work together to design a statewide plan for hunters and anglers to stop the rollback of clean water protections for Iowa waters.  Hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts who care about clean water and wildlife should attend. Please RSVP: Email Pam Goddard, goddardp@nwf.org or call at 301-741-6606.

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Alliant may walk away from the Marshalltown coal plant

On Wednesday the Iowa Utilities Board delivered a long-awaited ruling on “ratemaking principles” for the coal-fired power plant that Interstate Power and Light (a subsidiary of Alliant Energy) wants to build near Marshalltown. The ratemaking principles determine how much of a return the investor-owned utility can make on its investment. A higher return for the utility means the company can pass more of the cost of building a new plant onto customers.

The Iowa Utilities Board’s decision was well below what Alliant requested and not far above what the Iowa Consumer Advocate’s Office was seeking. The Cedar Rapids Gazette quoted an energy industry analyst:

“We expect LNT (Alliant Energy) will not accept the ratemaking principles as approved by the Iowa Utilities Board, instead allowing the proposal to die,” said David Parker of Robert W. Baird in Milwaukee. He said Alliant will probably look instead to building more wind and natural-gas electric turbines.

At Century of the Common Iowan, noneed4thneed links to an article from the Marshalltown Times-Republican that similarly suggested the future of the project is in doubt.

Alliant’s official statement left options open but made clear that the company was not happy with the ratemaking ruling. Excerpt:

In its decision, the IUB established a return on equity of 10.1 percent and a cost cap of $2816.00 per kilowatt, excluding AFUDC. IPL had requested a return on equity of 12.55 percent and a cost cap of $3483.00 per kilowatt, excluding AFUDC. IPL has proposed to own 350 megawatts of the facility’s output, with the remaining output owned by other partners or included in purchased power agreements.

“We will need to review the IUB’s written order to determine our next steps,” states Tom Aller, president-IPL. “However, the conditions placed by the IUB on the proposed hybrid power plant present a number of challenges in today’s financial climate, and we are disappointed that this decision seemingly does not take that reality into account. We will continue to work with our partners to determine how today’s decision will impact our respective companies’ long-term generation plans. IPL remains committed to pursuing safe, reliable, environmentally responsible and cost effective energy supply options to meet Iowa’s future energy needs.”

I would not be surprised if Alliant follows the lead of LS Power, which opted last month not to pursue a proposed coal-fired power plant near Waterloo. Alliant’s subsidiary in Wisconsin may ask state regulators to allow an emergency rate hike because the economic slump has reduced demand for electricity:

Utility executives said the increase would be needed to offset a dramatic decline in power sales because of the recession.

With the closing of the Janesville General Motors plant and other factory cutbacks, the utility is forecasting power sales to drop 6% this year.

“It is understandable that our customers find it frustrating that the economic hardships many of them are experiencing could in turn compel us to increase their electric bills,” said Patricia Kampling, the utility’s chief financial officer, during a conference call Thursday.

Think about that for a minute. All along Alliant and their boosters in Marshalltown have been telling us that a new coal-fired power plant is needed to meet increased electricity needs. But future demand is almost surely going to be below what they have projected.

We could reduce our baseload needs further with an aggressive energy efficiency policy.

While several analysts interpreted Wednesday’s ratemaking ruling as bad news for Alliant, it’s worth noting that Plains Justice had a different take:

“The Iowa Utilities Board has missed an important opportunity to protect our state’s economy and shield  Iowa consumers from a significant electricity rate increase,” said Carrie La Seur, President of Plains Justice.

“New coal power plant proposals are being canceled across the country because they cost too much and pose too many financial risks. The IUB has really let Iowans down by opting for an expensive, polluting coal plant instead of the available cheaper alternative of aggressive energy efficiency programs,” she added.

I put the full text of the Plains Justice release after the jump.

On a related note, Plains Justice passed along this news via e-mail a few days ago:

Last week, the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) denied a petition to re-open the generating certificate proceedings for the proposed Marshalltown coal plant. The generating certificate grants permission for the power plant to be built.

A petition for re-hearing had been filed by the Iowa Office of Consumer Advocate and joined by Plains Justice on behalf of Community Energy Solutions, Iowa Environmental Council, Iowa Farmers Union, Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Iowa Renewable Energy Association (the Coalition). Now that the petition has been denied, the IUB’s decision to grant the generating certificate can be appealed in state court although it is not yet known whether anyone will appeal.

A lawsuit would only add to the delay and expense of building this power plant.

Meanwhile, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is expected to issue a draft air permit for the Marshalltown plant very soon. Opponents of this 50-year investment in the wrong direction on energy will want to make their voices heard during the public comment period on that permit. Coal-fired power plants are a major source of fine-particulate matter pollution, which is linked to various respiratory illnesses.

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Tom Harkin is right

Senator Tom Harkin was right to warn in a conference call with reporters today that the economic stimulus bill may be too small.

He is also right to be concerned about the tax-cut provisions. Tax cuts that put more money into the hands of people in high income brackets (such as fixing the alternative minimum tax) will not necessarily boost consumer spending.

He is right about this too:

Harkin said the bill must be seen as more than an immediate jump-start for the ailing economy, and therefore lawmakers should not be timid about its potential.

“This is not just a stimulus bill to put someone to work right now,” Harkin said. “That’s important and we will do that. But we are also going to do things that lay the groundwork for a solid recovery in the future.”

Harkin wants the bill to put more money into renewable fuels and less money into so-called “clean coal”:

“We’re putting money into clean coal technology,” he said. “There’s no such thing.”

You said it, senator.

Speaking of how there’s no such thing as clean coal, if you click here you’ll find another clever ad from the Reality Coalition.

Speaking of senators who are right about things, Here’s John Kerry on the stimulus:

Reacting to Wednesday night’s vote in the House – where not a single GOP member supported the stimulus package – Kerry told Politico that “if Republicans aren’t prepared to vote for it, I don’t think we should be giving up things, where I think the money can be spent more effectively.”

“If they’re not going to vote for it, let’s go with a plan that we think is going to work.”

The Massachusetts Democrat and 2004 presidential candidate suggested tossing some of the tax provisions in the stimulus that the GOP requested. “Those aren’t job creators immediately, and even in the longer term they’re not necessarily. We’ve seen that policy for the last eight years,” he said.

What was that thing Americans voted for in November? Oh yeah, change.

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Iowa moves up to second in installed wind capacity

Iowa moved into second place in 2008 in terms of wind power generating capacity, according to this press release from the American Wind Energy Association. (Hat tip to the person who put this link on the Iowa Renewable Energy Association’s e-mail loop.)

Last year Iowa dropped to fourth in wind energy capacity, behind Texas, California and Minnesota. Now Iowa trails only Texas.

2008 was a banner year for the wind energy industry as a whole. More facts and figures can be found in the American Wind Energy Association release, which I’ve posted after the jump.

The renewable energy tax credit has helped promote installations of wind turbines around the country. It was scheduled to expire on January 1, 2010. However, a three-year extension to that tax credit was added to the economic stimulus package the House of Representatives is voting on today.

Congressman Bruce Braley (IA-01) has introduced a bill to extend the renewable energy tax credit for seven years. That bill is currently under consideration by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Extending this tax credit is a no-brainer. It helps the environment by increasing the production of clean, renewable energy, and it creates jobs by increasing demand for products like wind turbines and solar panels.

In addition to offering tax credits, the federal government could help expand wind power capacity by investing in more transmission lines and adopting an ambitious renewable electricity standard (for instance, requiring that 20 percent of our electricity come from clean, renewable sources by 2020).

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Braley was a strong supporter of Waxman

One of the most encouraging post-election developments was the House Democratic caucus’s vote yesterday to put Representative Henry Waxman in charge of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

It turns out that Iowa’s own Bruce Braley was a strong advocate for Waxman:

Waxman was generally respectful of [John] Dingell in his speech before the caucus, according to people who were in the room, but he took a few sharp jabs at the chairman. Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley, who gave one of Waxman’s nominating speeches, went a step further, lashing out at Dingell for standing in the way of environmental reforms. He even complained that the speaker had to go around him to enact a renewable energy bill during the Democrats’ first year in power.

It’s important to note that just a week ago, Dingell was widely expected to hold on to the powerful committee chairmanship. Reid Wilson of Politics Nation blog observed,

Politics Nation is told Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley, just elected to his second term, made an impassioned speech on Waxman’s behalf, blaming Dingell for blocking progress on a number of bills. Braley has been involved in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, co-chairing the Frontline program, but it’s still unusual to see such a junior member of congress question a more senior member, especially one who was serving his second term in Congress when Braley was born.

Braley took a big risk for a good cause, and progressives should thank him for that.

Some of Dingell’s supporters seemed to value Congressional protocol more than getting the job done under a new president. Here’s Representative Charles Rangel, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee:

“I have enjoyed the seniority system,” Rangel said. “It wasn’t broken.”

Actually, the system was broken if the narrow interests of Michigan manufacturers were repeatedly allowed to block legislation that’s in the national interest. Waxman’s primary goal was not to destroy the seniority system. If Dingell hadn’t been standing in the way of good environmental and energy policies for so many years, this challenge never would have happened.

This report from The Hill is worth reading in full, but here’s an excerpt:

And supporters of a more aggressive approach to climate change and more aggressive regulation were encouraged. Dingell was a chief advocate of automakers and was slow to warm up to Pelosi’s call for restrictions to limit climate change.

“I think it will be easier,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) said of global warming restrictions. “I think anyone who’s watched the last couple of years would conclude it will happen more quickly and more smoothly. [Waxman] is better positioned to guide that.”

Supporters also said they wanted swifter implementation of the agenda of the Democratic Party and Obama.

Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), a Waxman ally for years, said Waxman supporters were mindful of 1993 and 1994 when Democrats controlled Congress and the White House for two years, then lost Congress in a dramatic fashion.

“The memory of ’93 and ’94 was seared into our minds,” Berman said. “We have to pass the program. The question was how that could best be done.”

I couldn’t agree more on both the substance and the politics of this decision.

The Hill also reported that the conservative Blue Dogs are very upset by yesterday’s vote, which they view as a “California takeover.” It does not mention Congressman Leonard Boswell, who is a member of the Blue Dog group.

I contacted the offices of Boswell and Representatives Dave Loebsack to inquire about their position on Waxman v. Dingell. I have not yet heard back from Loebsack’s press secretary. Boswell’s press secretary cut me off without letting me finish my question and refused to call me back, as usual.

I do find it amusing that Boswell’s press secretary in Washington still freezes me out. Even at the height of the third district primary battle, the press secretary from Boswell’s Congressional campaign headquarters in Des Moines had no problem sending me press releases and responding to my queries.  

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Energy-efficiency programs are good for the economy

On my weekly calendar of events I mentioned a meeting this Thursday at the state legislature regarding energy efficiency. I received this press release from the Iowa Environmental Council today and have put two especially important passages in bold:

For Immediate Release:

November 10, 2008

Editors Contact:

Lynn Laws, Communications Director, 515-244-1194, ext 210

Iowa Environmental Council

521 East Locust, Suite 220

Des Moines, Iowa

Winter is inevitable. But big energy bills don’t have to be.

Winter is inevitable, but big energy bills don’t have to be. On November 13, that’s what some Iowa clean energy advocates will be telling members of the Iowa Legislature who sit on an interim committee to study utility-run energy efficiency plans and programs funded with consumer dollars. Clean energy advocates will present ideas for ways utility companies can help more Iowans reduce their winter energy bills.

According the Iowa Utilities Board, investor owned utilities in Iowa have issued press releases advising consumers that natural gas prices are expected to be high during the upcoming winter heating season (November-March). The utilities are estimating that consumers will see a 20 to 30 percent increase in their natural gas bills during the 2008/2009 heating season.

David Osterberg, Iowa Policy Project Director, says this added expense will hit low income Iowans’ pocketbooks the hardest. The good news is that this segment of the population could benefit most from utility company energy efficiency programs.

“People may not realize that low-income families, those earning under $20,000, spend 10 percent of their annual income on energy bills. Residents earning over $50,000 only spend 2.4 percent. It is vital to improve and target our energy efficiency programs for low-income Iowans,” said Osterberg.

“Cutting back energy usage through energy efficiency not only results in smaller energy bills for consumers, it’s cheaper than other strategies when it comes to solving global warming,” said Nathaniel Baer, energy program director for the Iowa Environmental Council.

Carrie LaSeur, President of Plains Justice, has also been invited to present to the legislative committee and says utilities should be required to maximize their consumer energy efficiency programs before they are granted approval to build or expand power plants.

“The expense of adding new sources of power – like the proposed coal plant in Marshalltown – is always passed onto the consumer. Utility companies convince community members that building new energy capacity means providing new jobs.  But the truth is that energy efficiency programs create more jobs and save consumers money on their energy bills at the same time,” said LaSeur.

Osterberg, Baer and LaSeur are just a few of the experts invited to provide advice for legislators on …

Thursday, November 13

9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Room 19, State Capitol

*Utility company representatives will be presenting in the morning

*Presentations from the clean energy advocates and others will begin at 1 p.m.

Learn more about what clean energy advocates will be saying to legislators on Thursday…

Call the following individuals for interviews:

Nathaniel Baer, Energy Program Director

Iowa Environmental Council

521 East Locust, Ste 520

Des Moines, IA 50309

515-244-1194, ext 206


Carrie La Seur, President, Plains Justice

100 First Street SW

Cedar Rapids, IA 52404

(319) 362-2120


David Osterberg, Executive Director

Iowa Policy Project

20 E Market St

Iowa City, IA 52245



–          End     –

Aside from the obvious ethical case for targeting energy-efficiency programs to low-income Iowans, think about the potential impact for the economy as a whole. About two-thirds of our GDP depends on consumer spending. If energy-efficiency programs are able to save people money on utility bills, consumers are likely to spend more money on other things. That is especially true for low-income consumers who may otherwise be forced to cut back on essentials to pay for heat and power.

LaSeur’s point is also extremely important. Energy-effiency programs not only create more jobs than building a new power plant, they also save consumers money, which can be spent on other things.

Even if we disregard global warming and all other environmentalist arguments for conserving energy (as opposed to increasing production), there is a strong economic case for moving our public policy in this direction.

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Yes, we can meet our baseload needs with clean, renewable energy

I am getting tired of hearing that the U.S. needs to expand our so-called “clean coal” and nuclear power electricity generation in order to meet our baseload needs in the future. Not only does this false choice understate the potential to reduce our electricity consumption through conservation and efficiency measures, it also underestimates how much electricity we could generate through wind and solar power.

Look at what happened in the past year, even as George Bush’s administration did little to promote wind and solar energy:

According to the latest “Monthly Electricity Review” issued by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (October 3, 2008), net U.S. generation of electricity from renewable energy sources surged by 32 percent in June 2008 compared to June 2007.

Renewable energy (biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind) totaled 41,160,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) in June 2008 up from 31,242,000 MWh in June 2007. Renewables accounted for 11.0 percent of net U.S. electricity generation in June 2008 compared to 8.6 percent in June 2007. Compared to June 2007, wind power grew by 81.6 percent in June 2008 while solar and conventional hydropower experienced increases of 42.6 percent and 34.7 percentrespectively. Geothermal energy also enjoyed a slight increase (0.8percent) while biomass (wood + waste) remained relatively unchanged.

Years ago, some people thought it was a pipe dream to ask Congress to require that 10 percent of U.S. electricity be generated from renewable sources by 2010. Yet even in the absence of a congressional mandate, we exceeded that number two years ahead of schedule.

Just think of what could be done if we had a president and Congress committed to expanding wind and solar power in this country.

To learn more about and support the growth of renewable electricity generation in Iowa, get involved in the Iowa Renewable Energy Association.

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Learn how the business sector can solve the climate change problem

I missed these when I compiled my calendar of events for this week, but I learned from the Center on Sustainable Communities that Edward Mazria, an “internationally recognized architect, author, educator and visionary,” is in central Iowa today and tomorrow.

Mazria will present “Now, it’s Personal….A three-pronged solution for achieving energy independence and solving climate change via the business sector, the largest energy consumer in the U.S.. ”

He is giving a free lecture in Ames tonight:

Ames Lecture

Wednesday, September 24th

7:00 pm

Iowa State University

College of Design

Kocimski Auditorium

He will speak on the same topic tomorrow at lunchtime:

Des Moines Luncheon

Thursday, September 25th

11:30a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Arthur Davis Conference Room

Greater Des Moines Partnership

700 Locust St., Suite 100, Des Moines

Cost to attend is $20 for COSC members, $30 for non-members. (Price includes lunch.)

Questions? Contact Meg Fitz at 515-286-4934 or mfitz@desmoinesmetro.com.

You can learn more about Edward Mazria and his 2030 challenge at http://www.mazria.com.

Sounds like an interesting program. If anyone goes to hear Mazria, please post a comment or a diary afterwards.

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Bad news for opponents of new American nuclear power plants

If you’re worried about the direction of energy policy under a President Barack Obama, as I am, you will not be comforted by the news I just learned from Bleeding Heartland user Renewable Rich. MidAmerican Energy, which is part of Warren Buffett’s empire, is buying Constellation Energy, which among other things operates nuclear power plants. One of the articles Renewable Rich linked to notes:

This deal also brings nuclear energy to Berkshire’s utility empire for the first time, an area where Buffett has professed great interest. Constellation operates a highly efficient fleet of plants and has plans to build several more. The merger effectively allies Berkshire with French nuclear giant Electricite de France-which owns 10 percent of Constellation-and its nuclear construction partner, French government-backed Areva. The pair has plans to build four advanced reactors in the US, and joining their interests to Buffett’s deep pockets could accelerate their development.

Obama has already said he is open to expanding nuclear power in the U.S., and I’m sure Warren Buffett will have his ear.

This is not good news for those of us who share the position of the Union of Concerned Scientists regarding nuclear power.

Before people start posting angry comments, let me assure you that I understand Obama’s energy policy as a whole would be much better than McCain’s. I still worry about Obama’s support for nuclear power and so-called “clean coal.” Those stands were the main reason that Friends of the Earth Action endorsed John Edwards last fall and not Obama.

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Plenty of hypocrisy to go around on energy bill

On September 16, the House of Representatives approved the Comprehensive American Energy Security and Consumer Protection Act. The vote split 236 to 189, mostly along partisan lines. Iowa Representatives Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack and Leonard Boswell all voted with the Democratic majority in favor of the bill. Tom Latham and Steve King voted with most Republicans against the bill.

You can read the bill summary here.

In essence, this legislation was designed to give Democrats cover on the offshore oil drilling issue. The Democratic majority caved by allowing for more drilling between 50 and 100 miles of the shore. This will do nothing to reduce our reliance on foreign oil or lower the cost of gas, but it will give Democratic incumbents a response as Republican candidates hammer them on how we need to “drill here, drill now.”

To give Democrats cover for caving on offshore drilling, the bill also contains lots of good things, like renewed tax credits for wind and solar power, more investment in public transportation, better energy-efficiency standards, a federal renewable electricity standard (which would require 15 percent of electricity generated in the U.S. to come from renewable sources by 2020). In addition, it would end tax subsidies for large oil and gas companies and ban the export of Alaskan oil.

The Oil Drum blog noted,

It is not too surprising that the oil and gas industry is not in favor of the legislation. The legislation provides for a whole host of benefits, and a big piece of the cost would be paid for by new taxes on oil and gas companies. The off-shore drilling provision could best be described as window dressing.

Unfortunately, these benefits will not happen, because Republicans don’t need to pass a compromise energy bill in order to clear the way for more offshore drilling.

They can just wait for the current ban on offshore drilling to expire on September 30. In past years, Democrats in Congress have fought to extend the ban on offshore drilling, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi knew she did not have the votes to accomplish that this year. So, the bill will die in the Senate:

The bill faces a very uncertain future. The Senate is set to take up three separate energy bills, which differ sharply from the House measure. The White House issued a veto threat Tuesday, saying the House bill “purports to open access to American energy sources while in reality taking actions to stifle development.”

Senate Republicans may choose to block action on any energy bill and allow the moratorium to expire on Sept. 30. If the drilling ban lapses, the Bush administration could begin the process of preparing oil and gas lease sales in new areas as close as 3 miles offshore.

Pelosi and others talked about their big victory in getting this bill through the House, but that so-called victory won’t amount to much besides allowing Democratic incumbents to tell constituents they voted for offshore drilling.

The hypocrisy of Republicans on this issue is even worse.

Remember when a bunch of House Republicans demanded a special Congressional session this summer to deal with energy policy? Remember when Republican delegates to the GOP national convention chanted, “Drill, baby, drill!”

The Republican majority proved that they are not in favor of a comprehensive energy policy that would reduce oil consumption, promote renewable energy, and take tax breaks away from companies posting record profits this year.

Not only that, some Republicans tried to pass a motion to adjourn to block passage of this bill.

I totally agree with this statement from Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope:

Today, Republicans in the House were given a chance to pull America out of its energy crisis, and they refused. Majority leadership reached across the aisle to offer a package that includes both clean energy provisions and expanded offshore drilling. But supporters of Big Oil dug their heels in, refusing to support a truly comprehensive energy package because it did not do enough to help the oil industry and instead attempted a stunt to force a drill-only approach.

If House Republicans were honestly interested in clean energy, consumer protection, or a crackdown on ethics at federal agencies, they would have supported this package wholeheartedly. Instead, they fought it, proving beyond a doubt that their single, narrow aim is to increase profits for the oil industry.

For months, they have held up clean energy legislation, instead calling for a drill-only policy which will do nothing to lower gas prices, protect consumers, or solve our energy crisis. They have continued to demand that we open more of our nation’s coasts and public lands to drilling, which will lock us into a future of dependence on oil. They have maneuvered to undermine any bill that doesn’t put the oil industry first and hardworking Americans last.

With their latest failed trick, many Republicans in the House confirmed without a doubt that they will not be satisfied until the oil industry has an even tighter grip on our economy.

The full text of Pope’s statement is after the jump.

Though I find this whole episode depressing, it should motivate us to elect Barack Obama and more and better Democrats to Congress. Doing so won’t necessarily bring us a perfect energy policy, but we will certainly see some improvement on the charade we have now.

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Events coming up this week

There is so much happening this week that I hereby forbid you from complaining that there’s nothing to do in Iowa.

If you can make it to the I-RENEW Energy and Sustainability Expo in Cedar Falls this weekend, I encourage you to go. I have attended the I-Renew expo several times in the past and never been disappointed. There are also great books and progressive advocacy materials (shirts, posters, bumper stickers) available in the exhibitor tent.

I won’t be at the Harkin Steak Fry featuring Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, so I hope someone out there will post a diary with a first-person account of the event.

Please post a comment or send me an e-mail if I’ve left out anything important.

Tuesday, September 9:

School board elections are being held across the state. Get out and vote, even if you don’t have kids in school. We don’t want the religious right taking control of these boards.

From the Iowa Citizen Action Network:

Iowa Citizen Action Network (ICAN) is proud to take a lead role in the “Health Care for America Now” campaign and we hope you will join us and all the coalition partners in Iowa to make our voices heard!

Health Care for America Now is all about raising this very important question in the minds of the public and in decision makers: Do we want a health care system where everyone has responsibility to ensure access for all Americans – individuals, employers, our communities, and our government?  Or do we want to continue with a system that says – “You’re all on your own to deal with insurance companies.”

We’ve been doing just that this summer, and we’re excited to bring this campaign to cities all around Iowa.  




Have you been struggling with your health insurance coverage?  Do you find yourself paying more for less coverage every year?  Have you been denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions?  Have you been dropped from your coverage and aren’t sure how to fight back?  Do you have a family member or neighbor who is struggling?

Here’s your chance to let your elected representatives know what you’re going through, and what you think they should do about it.

September 9,

6:30-7:30 PM


515 Douglas Avenue

Ames, IA 50010

One Iowa Campaign Training RSVP

Today – Tuesday, September 9 – 6:30 PM-8:30 PM

AFSCME Council 61, 4230 NW 2nd Avenue, Des Moines

We’re weeks away from what may prove to be the most critical election of our time. Success this November depends on individuals like you making a commitment to get involved. Join us to learn more about what’s at stake and how you fit into the big picture!

One Iowa Coffee House

Today – Tuesday, September 9 – 5:00-6:45pm

Ritual Cafe, 1301 Locust Street, Des Moines

Sandy Vopalka will talk about PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) the importance of this organization and the work being done across the state. PFLAG is a national non-profit organization with over 200,000 members and supporters and over 500 affiliates in the United States. Sandy’s presentation will start at 5:30pm.

Wednesday, September 10:

Democracy for America is holding another session of its famous “Night School,” with a focus on recruiting volunteers. The session begins at 7:30 pm, and you can register by clicking here:


The Iowa Citizen Action Network has scheduled an event to give Iowans a chance to talk about what real economic recovery looks like. September 10, 6:30 pm at the Local 6 UFCW, 15 N 12th Street in Fort Dodge. “We are inviting our Congressional representatives and State and Local Officials to hear from US what we need during this week of Economic Recovery talks.”

Iowa’s Office of Energy Independence invites you to attend the public forum on energy issues in Mount Vernon at Cornell College on Wednesday, September 10, at 6:30 p.m., following a Power Fund Board meeting. The forum will take place in the Hedges Conference Room, 600 First Street SW in Mount Vernon.

Thursday, September 11:

The Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa Book Sale opens at 4 pm at the 4-H building of the State Fairgrounds. The sale runs through Monday, September 15. More details here:


The Organization for Competitive Markets will hold an event the Clay County Fair in Spencer, Iowa to learn how to “Take Back” a fair and open seed marketplace. We’ll gather at the 4H building on the fairgrounds from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. to hear speakers talk about the problem of concentration in the seed industry and what we can do about it. Enjoy engaging discussions with farmers and local politicians, as well as a complimentary dinner from Oak Tree Bar-B-Que. The event is co-chaired by State Representatives Marcie Frevert and Mark Kuhn, and speakers include Iowa State University’s Fred Kirschenmann and past president of the National Family Farm Coalition, George Naylor. Tell your friends! For more information, click here:


One Iowa is organizing a PFLAG Des Moines Re-Launch at 7:00 PM, First Unitarian Church, 1800 Bell Avenue in Des Moines. The Des Moines Metro Area PFLAG will meet to discuss relaunching the chapter. Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays provides opportunity for dialogue about sexual orientation and gender identity, and acts to create a society that is healthy and respectful of human diversity. Coffee and refreshments served before the meeting, beginning at 6:30 PM. All are welcome, but confidentiality is required.

Friday, September 12:

From the Iowa City-based Local Foods Connection (http://www.localfoodsconnection.org):

Fundraising event for ZJ Farm



French Dinner at Simone’s Plain & Simple

ZJ Farms Education Programs Fundraiser

Friday, Sept 12, 6:30 p.m.

Susan Jutz of ZJ Farm helped create the idea of Local Foods Connection along with Simone Delaty and Laura Dowd. Local Foods Connection buys vegetables CSA shares from Susan and bread & egg CSA shares from Simone for our clients.

Come enjoy an authentic French dinner in lovely country setting and support the Education Programs at ZJ Farms.  The ZJ Farms Education Programs offer hands-on experience and events that teach young people of all ages that value of land stewardship, nontraditional leadership and nutrition.  Education explorations include milking and petting the farm animals, hunts for vegetable in gardens, work projects to participate in farming experience, lessons on growing food from planting to harvest, leadership and community building training.

Tickets on sale now!

$45 for Slow Food Members/ $50 for non-Slow Food.

Call 621-2484 to reserve a seat.

Saturday, September 13:

From the Polk County Democrats:



On September 13, 2008 at 12:00 PM TO 3:00 PM , there will a community celebration picnic at MLK Park, E. 17th and Garfield (1 block north of University), Des Moines , Iowa.

This will be a time for diverse groups of Asian/Pacific Islanders, African Americans, Persons with Disabilities, GaysLesbians, Latinos, Native Americans, Armed Forces Veterans and Young Democrats  to come together with the whole community, celebrating the diversity in our neighborhoods.  Over good food, communication and networking will be done.

The picnic is hosted by the Polk County Democratic Affirmative Action / Diversity Committee.

For more information, call 515-285-1800.


17th Annual I-Renew Energy & Sustainability EXPO

September 13 & 14, 2008

9 to 5 Saturday

10:30 to 4:30 Sunday

At the UNI Center for Energy & Environmental Education, Cedar Falls, IA

Admission: $10 per day, I-Renew members pay no admission. Memberships available at the door.

Featuring renewable energy, energy efficiency, green building, renewable fuels and sustainable living workshops, exhibits and demonstrations

Cedar Falls, IA – The Iowa Power Fund Board approved a grant to support this year’s I-Renew Energy & Sustainability Expo. The grant will go towards promoting the event statewide as well as to produce DVDs of 12 of the 70 workshops offered at the event. “The Iowa Renewable Energy Association has proven its annual Expo is the place to be to learn about renewable energy and energy efficiency”, said Michelle Kenyon Brown, I-Renew Executive Director. “The support from the Iowa Power Fund and the Office of Energy Independence will enable us to bring in a larger audience, an audience that is growing everyday as energy costs are hitting everyone’s pocketbook.”

The 17th I-Renew Energy & Sustainability EXPO will be held Sept. 13-14, 2008, at the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Energy & Environmental Education (CEEE) in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  The EXPO feature 70 workshops, 80 exhibitors, and demonstrations providing information on renewable energy, energy efficiency, green building, renewable fuels, and sustainable living.

“The I-Renew Expo is the largest event of this type in Iowa,” says Kara Beauchamp, I-Renew Board President. “This years’ expo will be the biggest and the best we have ever had. Increasing energy prices have generated more interest in energy efficiency and renewable energy. The I-Renew Expo is the perfect place for people to get their questions answered while having a great time.”

The EXPO gives the general public, building contractors, installers and others the opportunity to talk directly with Iowa’s energy experts to learn new ways to build greener and live greener using renewable energy.

Demonstrations of solar power, wind power, a hydrogen fuel cell, electric cars, cars that run on alternative fuels, and much more will be at the site in and around the CEEE building. The EXPO runs 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 13; and 10:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 14. Admission is $10 per day; however, I-Renew members pay no admission. Memberships are available at the door.

For more information or to register, visit www.irenew.org and click on I-Renew EXPO.

The I-Renew Energy & Sustainability Expo is provided with support from our partners: Iowa Office of Energy Independence, Iowa Energy Center, Alliant Energy’s Second Nature Program, Cedar Falls Utilities, Waverly Light & Power, Frontier Natural Products Coop, Center for Energy & Environmental Education and many more.

Contact: Michelle Kenyon Brown, Director Iowa Renewable Energy Association

(319) 325-2701          michellekbrown@irenew.org

Citizens are organizing a rally against a huge proposed hog lot in Poweshiek County:

Does Poweshiek County want more Factory Hog Farms ? NO!!

Prestage Farms of North Carolina, the nations 5th largest factory hog corporation, has plans to put nearly 5,000 hogs in two buildings near Deep River.

If built, this facility will negatively impact our community by creating odor and air quality problems, harming our areas already poor water quality, creating health risks for neighbors, and reducing property values in our county.

Prestage Farms will take the profits out of our state and leave us with the manure.

Please take the time to join with other concerned citizens from our area at a rally on Saturday, September 13th at 9:45 AM on Highway 21, 5 miles South of Interstate 80, between 470th and 480th Streets.

We want as many people to come out as possible to let the owners of the property know that they need to put the health and well-being of their neighbors before greed, and that residents of this county are against selling our future to out-of-state corporations.

Please call 641-990-2470 for more information.

From 1000 Friends of Iowa:

Dear Friends,

In case you didn’t get a chance to attend the public input meetings on the proposed Northwest 26th Street project/MLK extension and Northeast Polk County Beltway studies, you still have a chance to make your voices heard.

If you did attend the meetings, but didn’t submit written comments, your views still need to be documented for public record. The public meetings and collection of written comments are building the case for approval or disapproval of this project. All are part of the Environmental Impact Statement, a federally required evaluation for projects that have extensive environmental impacts.

The deadline for comments on the proposed alternatives for both projects is on Saturday, September 13. After that date, comments will be compiled and sent to Polk County, the Federal Highway Administration, and other decision-makers. Your comments are like a vote which needs to be counted on the stack of documented opinions that is carried forward in the near future.

To be effective in opposition to projects like these, citizens need to be there each major step of the way. This is one of those steps, and your presence is critical to keeping this current of opposition strong.

Gas prices are soaring along with the costs of road building. Public funds for roads are limited, meaning that not every road project gets funded. If constructed, these two costly projects would take money from much-needed transportation improvements.

You can find more information on these projects, maps, and how to send comments at



Stephanie Weisenbach

1000 Friends of Iowa

From Whiterock Conservancy:

Central Iowa Trail Association invites public to celebrate decade of trail stewardship

Sept. 13 ‘Ales and Trails’ event honors dirt trails at Whiterock Conservancy

Des Moines — Central Iowa Trail Association is celebrating its 10th anniversary as a non-profit trail stewardship and advocacy organization by hosting ‘Ales and Trails’ — a public event at the Whiterock Conservancy near Coon Rapids, Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 13.

‘Ales and Trails’ begins at 9 a.m. at Whiterock’s River House with activities including guided trail rides, a hike with Whiterock’s ecologist Elizabeth Hill, canoeing on the Middle Raccoon River and much more. The evening features a party in the storied Heeter Barn with music by Brother Trucker and a beer contest judged by event participants.

“This had been a very rough year for trail-loving Iowans,” said CITA president Ryan Hanser. “CITA has worked hard to repair damage to trails from this summer’s rains. It’s a perfect time to recognize and celebrate our decade of volunteer work that has brought so much enjoyment for cyclists, hikers, birdwatchers and others who appreciate natural trail experiences.”

Registration is required. There is a $20 fee to cover cost of meals and entertainment. Lodging is not included, but options ranging from B&B pampering to primitive campsites can be reserved through the Whiterock Resort. Visit http://www.centraliowatrails.org for details including a schedule of events and online registration.

As an affiliate of the International Mountain Bicycling Association, Central Iowa Trail Association (CITA) works with public and private land owners to design, build and maintain sustainable dirt trail for shared recreational use. The all-volunteer organization was incorporated as an Iowa non-profit organization in 1998 and does more than 500 hours of trailwork on public land in central Iowa each year.

“CITA was proud to bring the International Mountain Bicycling Association’s trailbuilding school to Whiterock in 2006,” said Hanser, who is also Iowa’s state representative for the International Mountain Bicycling Association. “Returning to celebrate their progress as an organization is important, too. Whiterock’s commitment to sustainable, natural recreation makes it a perfect venue to celebrate our shared values.”

Whiterock Conservancy is a new land trust created to manage a 5,000 acre conservation land donation from the Garst Family of Coon Rapids. Its nonprofit mission is to research and promote sustainable land management practices; provide low impact public recreation and environmental education; and protect and restore the area’s natural resources, including a 30-mile network of dirt trails. In October 2005, the Coon Rapids-Whiterock area was designated by Governor Vilsack as one of the first three “Iowa Great Places.” The Iowa Legislature recently appropriated $1 million to the Department of Cultural Affairs for supporting Coon Rapids Great Place projects.

Directions to Whiterock: Coon Rapids is located 75 miles NW of Des Moines and 100 miles east of Omaha on Highway 141. The Conservancy land is east of Coon Rapids and south of Highway 141. Visit http://www.whiterockconservanc…  for more information about Whiterock Conservancy.


Ryan Hanser, President

Central Iowa Trail Association


Jeana Feazel, Resort Manager

Whiterock Conservancy

712-684-2697 x112

Sunday, September 14:

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer will headline the 31st Annual Harkin Steak Fry, to be held at the Indianola balloon field. For more details, click here:


Monday, September 15:

Conference Coordinator – Contract Job: Deadline for Application September 15

Iowa Network for Community Agriculture (INCA) is seeking a coordinator for its annual Local Foods Conference to be held in Mason City on February 6 – 7, 2009.  If you are interested, or know of someone who is, then please review the request for proposal on INCA’s website (http://www.growinca.org) and respond by early next week.

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Sign this petition against new coal-fired plants in Iowa

The Sierra Club has created an online petition for Iowans, urging energy providers to invest in clean sources for electricity generation, not coal:

Coal is keeping us from moving to a new clean energy economy. To keep our utility prices low, our local energy providers need to move beyond coal and start meeting our electricity needs via clean, renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and biomass.

Sign on to the online petition today to voice your support for an end to coal and the start of green jobs and better health. We will be delivering the petition directly to energy providers across the state.  

Petition to Energy Providers:

I urge my local power provider to reallocate any proposed investment in coal into clean, safe, renewable energy sources and efficiency measures that will provide real consumer relief and a clean environment for generations to come.

We need to break our addiction to fossil fuels and shift to clean energy and efficiency programs that can meet energy demand and stimulate our local economy.

An investment in coal is a large step backwards. I do not support investing in a dirty fuel source that will drive up costs and increase my utility bill.

We need sensible energy solutions now, and real investment in energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy to take our state smartly into the future.

Energy experts agree with Al Gore: we don’t need to build any new coal-fired power plants to meet demand for electricity. Not in Marshalltown or Waterloo or anywhere else in Iowa.

Utilities could be doing much more to implement energy-efficiency measures.

Not only is every new coal-fired power plant a 50-year investment in the wrong direction, consumers will end up paying more for electricity from new power plants.

Also, coal-fired plants are a leading source of deadly fine particulate pollution and mercury pollution.

You can read more reasons to support clean energy production over new investment in coal and other fossil fuels on the websites of the Iowa Environmental Council and the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Please sign the petition and forward the link to your like-minded friends.

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Make utilities do more to save energy

Alliant Energy, which has an Iowa branch called Interstate Power and Light, wants to build a coal-fired power plant in Marshalltown. The utility claims the new plant will be needed to meet energy demand.

However, expert testimony submitted to the Iowa Utilities Board suggests that Alliant/Interstate Power and Light could be doing much more to promote energy efficiency, which is more cost-effective than building new power plants.

Last Friday,

the Iowa Environmental Council, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Law and Policy Center submitted testimony to the Iowa Utilities Board, by expert witness, Geoff Crandall of MSB Energy Associates, detailing ways to improve the Alliant Energy Efficiency plan.

The details are in the full text of the press release from the Iowa Environmental Council, which I have posted after the jump.

The big problem, according to Nathaniel Baer, energy program director for the Iowa Environmental Council, is this: “Alliant significantly underutilizes energy efficiency measures, as the plan proposes to achieve less than half of the cost-effective potential they, themselves identified as available.”

At this blog I’ve focused on environmental and health reasons not to build more coal-fired power plants, but Baer points out that consumers will also pay more for electricity from new sources of generation. Energy-saving measures are more economical.

The expert testimony submitted by the Iowa Environmental Council, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Law and Policy Center complements expert testimony filed with the Iowa Utilities Board the same day by Plains Justice on behalf of several grassroots groups. That testimony concluded that “IPL has exaggerated costs and underestimated potential for its efficiency programs.”

I am grateful to all of the non-profit groups that are making this case to the Iowa Utilities Board.

At the same time, I wish the Iowa Utilities Board had rejected the application to build the Marshalltown plant. If that had happened, these worthy non-profits could be spending their staff time and resources on other environmental and health problems facing Iowans.

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One more time: we don't need new coal-fired plants

This came in from Plains Justice yesterday:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – August 29, 2008      


Carrie La Seur, Plains Justice (Cedar Rapids), 319-560-4729, claseur AT plainsjustice.org

Chris James, Synapse Energy Economics (Cambridge, MA), 617-861-7484, cjames AT synapse-energy.com


DES MOINES – Today Plains Justice, a Cedar Rapids-based environmental justice law center, filed expert testimony in Interstate Power and Light’s energy efficiency planning docket before the Iowa Utilities Board, on behalf of a coalition of Iowa grassroots groups.  The testimony by Synapse Energy Economics concludes that IPL has exaggerated costs and underestimated potential for its efficiency programs.

Expert witness Christopher James, a former air regulator who helped develop EPA’s National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency, testifies that “IPL overestimates the costs of energy efficiency, and underestimates the amount of energy efficiency that can be achieved by 2013.”  IPL has told the IUB that energy savings of 1.5% annually, the level requested by IUB, would be difficult to achieve.  James concludes that this scenario is “very achievable” and should be pursued.

IPL’s energy efficiency planning is the subject of heightened interest because IPL claims that it cannot avoid the need for its proposed 649 MW Marshalltown plant through improved efficiency programming.  According to today’s intervenor testimony, IPL’s flawed approach to efficiency has led to the conclusion that a new coal plant is needed.  James testifies that IPL could achieve even more than 1.5% annual energy savings by including opportunities IPL has ignored, including combined heat and power at industrial sites like ethanol refineries.

The testimony states that “IPL has ignored some of the benefits of energy efficiency to Iowa’s consumers and businesses. These benefits include: deferring the need to construct new or upgrade existing generation, deferring the need to construct new or upgrade existing transmission lines and distribution system, reducing ratepayer bills, reducing emissions of criteria air pollutants (such as those which contribute to acid rain, smog and haze) and greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing public health costs (from reduced number of asthma cases, visits to emergency rooms, lost productivity at work, etc.).” James recommends that IUB require a revised and more ambitious plan from IPL.

Plains Justice argues that IUB must ensure that IPL has optimized efficiency programming before allowing a new coal plant to be built at a cost of up to $2 billion.  “Approving a coal plant before we’ve completed an aggressive efficiency planning process is putting the cart before the horse, at ratepayer expense,” says Plains Justice President and Founder Carrie La Seur.

Intervenors represented by Plains Justice in this docket are Community Energy Solutions, Iowa Farmers Union and Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility.  The intervenors are advocates for clean, community-based energy solutions that minimize the health and environmental impacts of energy production and support local and rural economies.  This intervention is one of a series brought by Plains Justice to promote better energy policy for Iowa on behalf of grassroots Iowa organizations.

The only low point of Barack Obama’s acceptance speech on Thursday was this:

As president, as president, I will tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power.

There is no such thing as “clean coal.” Every new coal-fired power plant is a 50-year investment in the wrong direction. It is unfortunate that our Democratic leaders lack the political courage to embrace an energy policy committed to meeting our needs without expanding our use of coal and nuclear power.

Al Gore laid out how this can be done in a major speech last month. Click the link to find an annotated version of the full transcript.

We can do much more with conservation and energy efficiency measures than the major utility companies acknowledge.

Thanks to Plains Justice and the other non-profit groups that are continuing to push the Iowa Utilities Board in the right direction.

If only the IUB had done the right thing back in April, these worthy non-profits could be spending their staff time and resources on other environmental and health problems facing Iowans.

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Grassley holding town-hall meetings on Monday

Senator Chuck Grassley has four town-hall meetings schedule for this Monday:

   * Monday August 25, 9:15-10:15 AM: Buchanan County Courthouse Assembly Room – 210 5th Avenue NE, Independence 50644

   * Monday August 25, 11:15-12:15 AM: Hudson Public Library – 401 5th Street, Hudson 50643

   * Monday August 25, 2-3 PM: New Hampton Public Library Meeting Room – 20 West Spring Street, New Hampton 50659

   * Monday August 25, 4-5 PM: Cresco City Hall Council Chambers – 227 North Elm Street, Cresco 52136

The Sierra Club is encouraging constituents to attend these meetings and send Grassley the message that “drilling won’t lower prices at the pump and it’s time we invest in green solutions that will solve the energy crisis.”

Click here to let the Sierra Club know you plan to attend.

Click the same link to find facts, figures and talking points on why increased offshore oil drilling only benefits oil companies and why Americans need clean energy solutions. The same page contains a word document you can download and print out to take to the town-hall meeting.

If you go, please put up a diary afterwards, like IowaVoter did after he attended a Grassley town-hall meeting in June.

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Giant chickens show up outside King's town-hall meeting

2laneIA posted a great diary at Daily Kos with photos of activists in chicken suits outside one of Representative Steve King’s recent town-hall forums. Do click over, not just for the pictures. I love this line:

We used to think King was a chicken hawk.  Now he’s just plain old chicken.

I also enjoyed the way 2laneIA referred to the recent publicity stunt by King and other House Republicans as “the Exxon Sleepover Camp on the House floor.”

Background on King’s excuse for not debating Rob Hubler is here.

Hubler staff and volunteers will be out canvassing in more than a dozen towns today. Go here for more details.

Go to Hubler’s campaign website to get more involved in his effort to send Steve King into early retirement.

UPDATE: Anyone in southeast Iowa have a chicken suit? Apparently King is doing a fundraiser with Mariannette Miller-Meeks, the GOP candidate against Dave Loebsack, on Monday, August 18 at 6 pm at The Drake in Burlington.

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Events coming up this week

As always, post a comment if you know of any important event I have left out.

Democratic candidates, send me your public schedules (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com) so I can include your events on my calendar.

I have included notices about public meetings convened by the Rebuild Iowa Office, but note that  you can give your feedback in person any day at the Iowa State Fair:

The Rebuild Iowa Office will have representatives at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines to answer questions and hear Iowans’ concerns and ideas as the state moves forward with flood recovery. RIO representatives will greet Iowans alongside members of the Governor’s Office staff at the Governor’s Office booth, located in the center of the Varied Industries Building on the main concourse.

Iowans can also go online and submit their ideas at the Rebuild Iowa Office Web site (www.rio.iowa.gov) or call the RIO office at (515) 242-5004. […]

The RIO and Rebuild Iowa Advisory Commission were established by Executive Order after the Flood of 2008. RIAC is a 15-person, bipartisan commission whose members chair nine task forces focused on specific issues that will develop further recommendations to support the state’s strategic recovery and rebuilding process. The Commission reports to the Lt. Governor. Major General Ron Dardis, adjutant general of the  Iowa National Guard serves as the Commission’s chairman. The RIO coordinates all state recovery activities.

Iowans can fill out “Speak up Iowa!” surveys at the RIO/Governor’s Office booth. “Speak Up Iowa!” input sessions are taking place across the state and were created to initiate dialogue on the major issues facing the State of Iowa and provide an opportunity for official public and community involvement, with specific focus on gaining input for the RIAC 45-day Report due Sept. 2, 2008. “Speak Up Iowa!” allows residents the opportunity to voice their ideas and desires regarding the long-term recovery of their communities.

Now, on to the rest of the calendar.

Sunday, August 10:

There’s a fundraiser for Rob Hubler in Carroll, which former Governor Tom Vilsack will attend. Reception starts at 6pm; dinner at 7pm. Crossroads Bistro, 12012 Hwy 71 in Carroll. To RSVP for this event, please call the Hubler campaign headquarters: 712-352-2077.

Monday, August 11:

The Rebuild Iowa Office is holding its third “Speak Up Iowa!” public input session at the Red Coach Inn, Banquet Rooms 2 and 4, 1200 Senate Avenue in Red Oak, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.

Tuesday, August 12:

The Rebuild Iowa Office is holding its fourth “Speak Up Iowa!” public input session at the Iowa Central Community College Career Education Building (Rooms 108 and 110), 330 Ave. M in Fort Dodge from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m.

It’s the last day to reserve a spot at the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa’s Crossroad lunch event, which will take place on Friday, August 15. (see below for more details). For more information or to make a reservation, call (515) 279-8715 or email tiaiowa@dwx.com.

Tom Harkin is attending a fundraising reception and private classic car display in Ankeny hosted by Dennis Albaugh at 5:30 pm. The evening promises to be a fun one with over 120 classic Chevrolets for you to view.  For full details of this great event please click here.

One Iowa is holding its “Coffee House/Happy Hour” at Ritual Cafe, a time to meet like-minded friends and relax in a welcoming atmosphere, from 5:00 pm to 6:45 pm. At One  Iowa , we believe all families should have equal protections and responsibilities; the way to achieve this is through marriage.  As we continue our work toward Marriage Equality, this month Phyllis Stevens will talk about the Seven Straight Nights for Equal Rights events going on in September. Ritual Cafe, located on 13th Street between Grand and Locust in downtown Des Moines, is an LGBT-operated coffee shop and cafe offering “really great coffee and food” in an open and affirming place. For questions, please contact One Iowa at (515)288-4019, or you can visit our web site at www.oneiowa.org.

State Representative Bruce Hunter (House district 62) is holding his Re-Election Kickoff and fourth annual Hunter house party, with special guest Michael Mauro, Iowa Secretary of State. The party will take place on Tuesday from 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. at the home of Bruce Hunter & Betty Brim-Hunter, 452 Wilmers Avenue, Des Moines. Suggested donation $25. Please Make Checks Payable To The Committee To Elect Bruce Hunter.

The Des Moines Business Record is honoring this year’s “women of influence” at a reception on August 12 from 4:30 to 7:30 pm (honors presentation at 5:00) at the Des Moines Marriott Downtown. You can register for the event, which costs $25 to attend, at http://www.businessrecord.com. The honorees are:

Des Moines Register columnist Rekha Basu

Former Iowa Attorney General Bonnie Campbell

Des Moines attorney Lori Chesser

Community volunteer Sheila Drevyanko

Wells Fargo Home Mortgage employee Cara Heiden

Iowa Environmental Protection Commissioner and philanthropist Charlotte Hubbell

Community activist Willie Glanton

Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge

West Des Moines City Council member Loretta Sieman

The woman business owner of the year is Sarah Grant of Sticks.

Wednesday, August 13:

From the Iowa Power Fund:

(DES MOINES)- The Iowa Power Fund board of directors will hold three of its monthly meetings in locations around the state with the second meeting being held on Wednesday, August 13 in Algona.  This meeting, as well as the last summer meeting of the Power Fund directors, will be followed by an evening public forum on energy issues.

The August 13 meeting of the Power Fund directors will be held at 10:00 a.m. at the Water’s Edge  Nature Center, 1010 250th, Algona.  The meeting will include presentations by seven applicants for funding.  They will include: Soy Energy, LLC – Biodiesel Plant at Marcus using PEF Pellet Boiler; Carbon-Free Energy, LLC – Vertical Wind Turbine Manufacturer; The cornerstone BRAD, LLC managed by Bison Renewable Energy, LLC; Indigo Dawn, LLC – Green & Main, Integrating Efficiencies into a Historic Mix; I-Renew – Energy and sustainability EXPO; TPI Iowa LLC – TPI Wind Blade Advanced Manufacturing Initiative; Prairie Land Enterprises L.C – Switchgrass.

The evening public forum is the second in a series of six annual forums hosted by the Office of Energy Independence. The energy forum in Algona will also be held at the Water’s Edge Nature Center and will begin at 6:30 p.m.

From 1000 Friends of Iowa:

NW 26th Street Public Input Meeting

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Central Senior Center

2008 Forest Ave.

Des Moines, IA 50311

Commonly known as the MLK Parkway Extension, Polk County and other leaders are now calling this project the “NW 26th Street” project. This proposal consists of

   * Reconstruction of NW 26th Street to a 4-lane facility between IA 415 and I 35/80

   * Construction of a new interchange at I-35/80 and NW 26th Street, and

   * Construction of a new four-lane roadway on new alignment from near Euclid Ave/U.S. 6 and MLK Jr Parkway and the proposed NW 26th St interchange

This will be an open house with some audio/visual presentations, and held by Snyder and Associates, the engineering firm doing the study for Polk County. This will be a meeting to provide an update on the study and collect input on proposed alternative locations for the project, including possible expansion of existing streets in Des Moines like Beaver Avenue and 6th Avenue. Another alternative presented for public comments is for expansion of transit services in the metro area to prevent congestion in the future.

This meeting is a part of the Environmental Impact Statement, a federally required evaluation for a project that has extensive environmental impacts.

Thursday, August 14:

Congressman Leonard Boswell, who represents Iowa’s third district, will be speaking at the Des Moines Register’s Soap Box (outside the Register’s Service Center on the Grand Concourse) at 1:30 pm. As part of this new Iowa State Fair tradition, the Congressman will be speaking on the challenges facing our country in these uncertain times and about his work to put us back on the road to peace and prosperity.

Friday, August 15:

The Interfaith Alliance of Iowa is holding a Crossroads lunch featuring Michele Soria of New Realities Diversity & Innovation Training & Consulting:


Do I really value diversity?

Challenging perceptions & creating new behavior

Does equity exist for all people? Is it possible? What is my responsibility to create multi-cultural inclusiveness in society?

An intensely interactive experience which will challenge your beliefs and create new behaviors.

The Crossroads luncheon is Friday, August 15 from  11:45 am – 1  pm at Plymouth Congregational Church, 42nd &  Ingersoll Avenue , Des  Moines .

Reservations are required for Crossroads and must be received by Tuesday, August 12.

Cost is $8 and is payable at the door.

For more information or to make a reservation, call (515) 279-8715 or email tiaiowa@dwx.com.

Dr. Steven and Jill Kraus will be hosting a reception at their home for Tom Harkin in Carroll on Friday, August 15th at 5:30 PM.  Hors d’oeuvres and refreshments will be provided and valet parking is available.  For the full details on this event, please click here.

Saturday, August 16:

Senator Harkin and Mayor Jerry Sullivan, candidate for Statehouse (HD-59), will attend a fundraiser for Sullivan’s campaign from 3:00 to 4:30 pm at the Great Midwestern Café, 1250 NW 128th St in Clive. Catering provided by Great Midwestern Café. Suggested donation $50 (host levels higher). Checks can be made payable to Sullivan for State Representative, 7018 Franklin Ave, Windsor Heights, IA  50322. RSVP to Mike at mmccall@iowademocrats.org or call (614) 561-9117.

1000 Friends of Iowa is holding its 10th anniversary celebration and annual meeting at the Griffieon family farm near Ankeny. The event starts at 9:00 am and runs all day. Click here to register for the meeting or find more details about the event, including a schedule and directions to the farm. Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey will be the keynote speaker. Registration costs $30, and that includes an “Iowa grown lunch.” Other events of the day include:

Presentation – Connie Mutel author of The Emerald Horizon: The History of  Nature in Iowa  Mutel will describe her new book, which offers an opportunity to understand,  reconnect with, and nurture Iowa’s precious natural world. She’ll also discuss  the functions (such as flood-resistance) provided by healthy native communities,  and offer a challenge to restore these functions through reintegrating nature into  Iowa’s working landscape.      1:30     Presentation – Erv Klaas  Dr. Klaas will discuss how reserving valuable cropland for growing corn and  soybeans creates difficult challenges to livestock owners who use riparian zones  for pasture. He will use the Griffieon pasture to illustrate problems livestock  owners face, the technique LaVon is using to remedy the problem and how  improvements to water quality and to our streams depends on a total watershed  approach.       2:00     Tour de Sprawl – Guides: LaVon Griffieon & Stephanie Weisenbach  In the past decade development has encroached upon the farmland next to the  Griffieon’s farm.  We will tour the neighborhood by bus to see the changes made  upon some of the world’s most prime soils.

I am involved with 1000 Friends of Iowa and will attend this meeting, but not in my capacity as desmoinesdem, so don’t expect any talk about partisan politics!

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Steve King: Hearing himself talk = good, Taking tough questions = bad

The U.S. House is in its summer recess, but a bunch of Republicans are giving speeches in the chamber calling for a special session to deal with energy policy.

When there’s an opportunity to score political points without accomplishing anything on behalf of constituents, you know Steve King will be on the scene. Rob Hubler, Democratic candidate to represent Iowa’s fifth district, was rightly dismissive:

Hubler accuses King of grandstanding rather than working to find a “real” resolution. “This is another example of how it is better to go before the camera and try to make some kind of a show out of something,” Hubler says.

Hubler opposes drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, something King supports, as Hubler says there’s a less than six-month supply of oil there and that wouldn’t dramatically reduce the price of gasoline. “I think we need to have a comprehensive approach. We need to understand that we have gotten to where we are because of bickering and because of arguing and because of a lack of congress — Republicans and Democrats — to really look at the future and say, ‘What do we need to be doing?,'” Hubler says. “We need to be looking at alternative, green answers. We need to get nuclear power onto the discussion table.”

Personally, I believe expanding nuclear power is too expensive and too risky, but by all means make it part of a comprehensive discussion on energy policy. I believe its shortcomings will be exposed when compared to less costly options for generating more power or reducing our electricity usage.

But getting back to the point of this diary, it’s typical of Steve King to seize any chance for a monologue as opposed to engaging in real dialogue. Last week King refused an invitation from the Sioux City Journal and the League of Women Voters to debate Hubler. King’s letter to the editor of the Sioux City Journal is after the jump, along with Hubler’s statement on the importance of public debates.

I was amused by King’s excuse for not participating in this debate. He blamed the Sioux City Journal and its “attacks on my character,” adding:

If there are to be Congressional debates, they will take place in a neutral environment.

I wonder what kind of “neutral environment” would satisfy King. He was willing to spend at least an hour answering friendly questions from his fans on a constituent conference call, but his staff screened out SW Iowa Guy’s efforts to ask him about debating Hubler.

I predict that King will find excuses for rejecting all invitations to debate, unless they come from some group like the pro-corporate Club for Growth, which gave King a 98 percent rating on its latest scorecard.

UPDATE: I missed this hilarious passage from John Deeth’s write-up at Iowa Independent:

King spoke Monday on a darkened House floor, next to a giant photo of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with the words “I am trying to save the planet” underneath.

King said Pelosi has decided that “saving the planet is worth more than saving the Homo sapiens.”

You’ll never catch Steve King trying to save the planet, that’s for sure!

By the way, Representative Tom Latham is echoing the House Republicans’ talking points on energy policy. Becky Greenwald got it just right in her response:

Greenwald suggests Latham should be embarrassed by his fellow Republicans who are staging a sort of sit-in in the U.S. House of Representatives. “I just look at it more as an election year prank and we have serious work that needs to be done and compromising and discussion that needs to happen and not be trying to pull stunts to garner attention,” Greenwald says.

Greenwald would support drilling for oil along a greater expanse of the U.S. coastline if oil companies prove they’ve fully explored the 68 million acres of ocean ground they’ve already been awarded leases to tap for oil.  “When you think about it, that’s two times the physical size of the state of Iowa and so I’d like to understand why we don’t make use of those lands and that offshore drilling that’s already available,” she says.

If she’s elected to congress, Greenwald says she’ll back greater federal support of alternative energy industries like wind energy, which she says puts Iowans to work in good-paying jobs that cannot be outsourced. “We absolutely need a comprehensive energy policy that’s going to take us into the next several decades,” she says. “We need to be addressing it from all angles.”

Latham went up on the radio last week with an ad touting his support for more offshore oil drilling in the U.S. His rhetoric is consistent with a new Republican strategy document calling on Congressional candidates to put energy issues front and center in their campaigns.

Let’s improve Iowa’s representation in Congress. Get involved in Hubler’s campaign or in Greenwald’s campaign if you have time or money to spare.

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Sierra Club: McCain "prefers own rhetoric to facts" on offshore drilling

Following up on my earlier post on the best way to combat John McCain’s demagoguery, the Sierra Club put out a great release today:


Contact: Kristina Johnson, 415.977.5619

            Josh Dorner, 202.675.2384

                         Oops, He Did It Again!

                  McCain Prefers Own Rhetoric to Facts,

                   Actual Experts on Offshore Drilling

Washington, D.C.–In Florida today, Senator John McCain said he was

convinced offshore drilling would yield immediate oil-despite hard data to

the contrary from experts like the federal government’s Energy Information


According to the EIA, it would take 7-10 years for oil to come online from

new drilling, and twenty years to reach peak production. And, as the New

York Times recently noted, because of a recent shortage in drilling

equipment, it could likely take even longer.

But McCain said:

“…So I disagree with those experts and I’ve talked to the actual people

that do the work, that are in the business that say within months and

certainly within a very short time, we could have additional oil supply for

this nation. So we ought to drill now.” (Video HERE)

        Statement of Sierra Club Political Director Cathy Duvall

“Senator McCain may ‘disagree with the experts,’ but that doesn’t make the

facts go away. New offshore drilling simply won’t provide any oil for

roughly a decade. And even then, the Bush administration itself admits that

drilling will do absolutely nothing to lower gas prices today, tomorrow, or

even two decades from now.

“Oil companies aren’t interested in lowering gas prices. Keeping supply

tight and oil prices high keeps Big Oil rolling in record profits. The oil

companies are spending almost ten times more-a full 55 percent of their

record profits-on stock buybacks and dividends than they are on

exploration.  This drives up the price of their shares, their profits, and

the paychecks of their executives.

“This episode is eerily reminiscent of Senator McCain’s insistence that his

misguided ‘gas tax holiday’ would benefit consumers and not simply add to

Big Oil’s record profits.  McCain and his aides continue to insist that the

230 leading economists — including 4 Nobel Prize winners — who denounced

his plan are simply wrong.

“We’re in an energy crisis.  Americans do need short-term help to offset

the cost of gas, and Senator Obama has a plan to give it to them. He has

proposed a $1,000 refund check paid for by taxing Big Oil’s record profits

that would offer us immediate relief. That’s something new drilling won’t

do, no matter what John McCain says.”

                                  # # #

I like this better than the MoveOn “gimmick” ad (which you can view in the earlier post). In addition to pointing out why McCain is wrong on this issue, it links his proposal to what big oil companies want and profit from. Also, the Sierra Club statement has a healthy dose of ridicule, which McCain deserves.

All that’s missing is a line about how we don’t need a third term of a presidency in the pocket of Big Oil. I’m with Dansac on the need to repeat “McCain is Bush’s third term” as often as possible.

Meanwhile, Obama took several steps in the right direction at a town hall meeting in Florida today. He is calling for a $1,000 tax rebate for low and middle-income families. A windfall profits tax on oil companies would pay for the rebates.

The Illinois senator also revamped his proposal for a $50 billion economic stimulus plan to include $25 billion to replenish the highway trust fund and pay for infrastructure improvements that he said could save up to 1 million endangered jobs.

“With job losses mounting, prices rising, increased turbulence in our financial system, a growing credit crunch, we need to do more,” Obama said at a town hall meeting in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The proposals came as the government announced the U.S. unemployment rate hit its highest level in four years with another 51,000 non-farm jobs lost in July, bringing job losses for the year to 463,000.

“Do you think you can afford another four years of the same failed economic policies?” Obama asked, accusing McCain of embracing President George W. Bush’s economic approach.

Let McCain explain why he and the Republican Party refuse to consider a windfall tax on oil companies that are reporting record profits this year.

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Obama in Cedar Rapids today and other events coming up

Use this as an open thread to talk about Barack Obama’s town hall meeting in Cedar Rapids today:

Economic Security Town Hall with Barack Obama

Coe College

Moray L. Eby Fieldhouse

1220 1st Avenue NE

Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52402


Doors Open: 9:30 AM

Program Begins: 11:30 AM

The event is free and open to the public.  However, tickets are required.

Also, here are some other events coming up.

Thursday, July 31:

It’s the last day to contribute to Barack Obama’s campaign for a chance to win a trip to the Democratic National Convention in Denver:


The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is also giving away a trip to Denver. Donate before midnight on July 31 for a chance to win:


One Iowa and Green Drinks are co-hosting a Happy Hour from 5 to 7 pm at the Hillside Condo Penthouse, 1902 Woodland Ave in Des Moines, suite 300 (the building next to the Gateway Market). Suggested donation $20, but no one is turned away. Please RSVP at oneiowa.org.

From Polk County Democrats:

You are cordially invited to attend a wine and cheese reception for John Scarpino, Democratic Candidate for Polk County Supervisor, at the home of Ray and Karen Blase, 913 NE 34th Street, Ankeny, July 31 from 5:30 to 7:30 P.M.

From the Rebuild Iowa Commission:

First ‘Speak Up Iowa!’ Public Listening Session Will Also Be Held at

Kirkwood Community College Thursday 4-7 p.m.

Press Release from Rebuild Iowa Office



First ‘Speak Up Iowa!’ Public Listening Session Will Also Be Held at

Kirkwood Community College

On Thursday, the Rebuild Iowa Office will hold its second Rebuild Iowa

Advisory Commission (RIAC) meeting at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar

Rapids to discuss the state’s recovery and rebuilding efforts following this

year’s severe storms and flooding. In addition, the public will have the

opportunity to give their input on the recovery process at the first “Speak

Up Iowa!” public listening session, which will also be held Thursday.

The “Speak Up Iowa!” listening sessions initiate dialogue on the major

issues facing the State and provide an opportunity for official public and

community involvement, with specific focus on gaining input for the RIO

45-day Report due September 2, 2008. The session will include nine booths,

each representing one of the nine task force areas. At these booths,

residents will have the opportunity to voice their ideas and desires

regarding the long-term recovery of their communities.


WHAT: Rebuild Iowa Advisory Commission to hold its second meeting to discuss

the state’s disaster and rebuilding efforts.

WHERE: Emergency Operations Center

              (located in the Community Training and Response Center)

              Kirkwood Community College Campus

              6301 Kirkwood Blvd. SW

              Cedar Rapids, Iowa

              (A map of the campus is available at


WHEN:   2 to 5 p.m.


WHAT: Rebuild Iowa Office holds first “Speak Up Iowa!” public listening


WHERE: Iowa Hall, Rooms A through D

              Kirkwood Community College Campus

              6301 Kirkwood Blvd. SW

              Cedar Rapids, Iowa

(A map of the campus is available at www.kirkwood.edu/maincampus.)

WHEN:   4 to 7 p.m.

From 1000 Friends of Iowa:

Johnson County Conservation Board Holding Public Meetings on Land Conservation

A series of informational meetings will be held to receive input from the public on the Johnson County Conservation Board’s proposed $20 million Conservation Bond Issue Ballot Measure for land protection. The measure will be put before the voters of Johnson County on the November 4, 2008, General Election Ballot. Conservation Board members and staff will be on hand to give an overview of the proposal and Mark Ackelson, President of the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, will facilitate the meetings.

According to the Johnson County Conservation Board’s newsletter, The Conservation Connection:

   * “Local organizations and individuals struggle to preserve some natural lands. The Johnson County Conservation Board, which has the mandated responsibility, has responded by making a serious commitment to find ways to protect more remaining vestiges of unique natural areas before they are destroyed by the relentless march of development.”

Two of these public meetings have already occurred, and there are two left.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

7:00 – 9:00 pm

North Liberty Recreation Center

Classroom C

520 West Cherry Street

North Liberty

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

7:00 – 9:00 pm

Solon Public Library

Meeting Room

320 West Main Street


To learn more about the proposal before the meetings, check out the JCCB’s newsletter article at


Questions about the meetings should be directed to Harry Graves, Director, Johnson County Conservation Board at 319-645-2315 or email hgraves@co.johnson.ia.us.

It’s a rare opportunity to vote on a topic such as this Conservation Bond Issue. Only through the involvement of committed citizens will governments be able to implement strategies that protect natural areas from development. Your ears, eyes, and voices are critical!

Friday, August 1:

From the Polk County Democrats:

The Festa Italiana is going on this weekend.  We will be manning a booth on Friday and Saturday this year.  The hours we need volunteers are:

Friday, August 1 5p – 7p or 7p – 9p

Saturday, August 2  2p – 4p, 4p – 6p, and 6p – 9p

Please let me know if you are available to help out.


Tamyra Harrison

Executive Director

Polk County Democrats


Saturday, August 2:

From Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa:

Volunteer Opportunity

Des Moines Farmer’s Market

Court Avenue Area

Des Moines

Saturday, August 2nd


Click Here to Volunteer!

Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa and the Healthy Families project will be at the Des Moines Farmer’s Market this Saturday, August 2nd.

We need your help!

Volunteers will represent the Planned Parenthood mission, and help educate people about the need to reduce unintended pregnancies in Iowa.  Of course we’ll be handing out lots of goodies as well!

Past Farmer’s market volunteers have had a lot of fun, and say it’s one of the best volunteer opportunities available.

“This was the first time I’ve ever volunteered for Planned Parenthood and it was so much fun!  I felt like I really made a difference!” – Judy, volunteer at past Des Moines Farmer’s Markets.

Help educate the public and have fun too. Any time you can give is much appreciated: work for a couple of hours, or the whole time. Shifts are available from 8am – 12pm.

Thanks for all that you do for Planned Parenthood!

E-mail Chelsea Hammond to volunteer (chammond AT ppgi.org) or call (515) 235-0415

From the Sierra Club e-mail loop:

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – A Priceless Gift

A Presentation and Storytelling

about a very Special Place

When:      Saturday August 2nd, 2008, at 10:00 am

Where:     Urbandale Public Library, Meeting Room A/B

               3520 86th Street Urbandale, Iowa  50322

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of America’s premier wilderness

areas.  The coastal plain of the Refuge has been threatened by oil drilling

many times in its 50 year history. Today, threats from Big Oil are greater

than they have been for over two decades.  Come learn about the history,

it’s values, and how you can help protect this national treasure.

This is a story, as well, of indigenous concerns, and about raising the

voices of those urging our government to recognize the rights of indigenous


For more information contact: Lois Norrgard 952-881-7282 lois@alaskawild.org

Presented by:

Sarah James, a Neetsaii Gwich’in Athabascan Indian from Arctic Village,

Alaska, raised in the traditional nomadic way. Sarah was one of the first

recipients of the Ford Foundation Leadership for a Changing World Award and

a co-recipient of the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for her work

with the Gwich’in Steering Committee to protect the calving and nursery

grounds of the Porcupine River Caribou Herd. The Porcupine Caribou Herd has

sustained the Gwich’in for over twenty thousand years.

Lois Norrgard, the Upper Midwest Field staff for the Alaska Wilderness

League. She has worked for the League and Alaska Coalition for the past

three years, continuing to raise awareness about the values and threats

facing our beautiful wild lands in Alaska.

Some places are just too special to destroy for a short term gain – the

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of these places

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Push utilities to do more on energy efficiency

Yesterday I linked to this article by Joseph Romm in Salon about how efficiency measures could solve many of our energy problems. His piece starts with the following analogy:

Suppose I paid you for every pound of pollution you generated and punished you for every pound you reduced. You would probably spend most of your time trying to figure out how to generate more pollution. And suppose that if you generated enough pollution, I had to pay you to build a new plant, no matter what the cost, and no matter how much cheaper it might be to not pollute in the first place.

Well, that’s pretty much how we have run the U.S. electric grid for nearly a century. The more electricity a utility sells, the more money it makes. If it’s able to boost electricity demand enough, the utility is allowed to build a new power plant with a guaranteed profit. The only way a typical utility can lose money is if demand drops. So the last thing most utilities want to do is seriously push strategies that save energy, strategies that do not pollute in the first place.

Yet money invested in energy efficiency can generate huge savings in energy costs. According to a report filed with the Iowa Utilities Board by the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives,

In 2007, Iowa’s electric cooperatives, which provide electricity in each of the state’s 99 counties to approximately 650,000 Iowans, invested $11 million in energy-efficiency programs. Participation in the programs by electric cooperative member-consumer-owners in 2007 resulted in approximately $30.3 million in energy savings.

There also was an environmental benefit to the investment in energy-efficiency programs. By reducing demand for electricity, consumers reduced the amount of electricity that utilities would otherwise have generated, which would have placed emissions into the air. The energy savings over the life of the energy-efficiency measures installed in 2007 is equal to enough electricity to provide power for approximately 34,000 homes or a city the size of 85,000 people, which is equivalent to Iowa City and Coralville, combined.

The Salon article describes various state regulations that have helped reduce energy consumption in California.

While I would welcome action on that front by the Iowa legislature, it’s important to note that state regulators can push utilities to do more even without any new laws being passed.

This week three environmental groups (Iowa Environmental Council, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Law and Policy Center) submitted expert testimony to the Iowa Utilities Board regarding problems with MidAmerican Energy’s efficiency plan for the years 2009-2013. This press release from the Iowa Environmental Council provides more details:

Editors Contact: Lynn Laws

Iowa Environmental Council

515-244-1194, ext 210


July 29, 2008


MidAm Energy Efficiency Plan Falls Short

Clean energy advocates call MidAmerican Energy’s new energy efficiency plan a good start, but note missed opportunities.

“At a time when energy prices are sky rocketing and global warming regulation is looming on the horizon, MidAmerican must take all the cost-effective energy efficiency steps available,” said Nathaniel Baer, energy program director for the Iowa Environmental Council.

“The programs they propose simply don’t take advantage of the opportunities that are out there to save money and protect the environment,” Baer added.

Environmental advocates submitted testimony Monday responding to MidAmerican’s Energy Efficiency Plan for 2009-2013.  Under Iowa law, public gas and electric utilities, including MidAmerican Energy and Alliant Energy, must create comprehensive plans for energy efficiency for all types of customers.  Programs often include rebates or incentives for energy efficient equipment like advanced lighting, heating and air conditioning systems, insulation, energy efficient buildings, and other types of equipment and technology, as well as customer education. The Iowa Utilities Board must approve these plans, with input from stakeholders provided in a formal proceeding before the Board.

The Iowa Environmental Council, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Law and Policy Center submitted testimony by expert witness, Geoff Crandall of MSB Energy Associates, yesterday detailing significant shortcomings in the 2009-2013 MidAmerican Energy plan:

–          The plan understates the potential for energy efficiency improvements, especially in the industrial sector, which consumes 50% of the electricity in MidAmerican’s service territory;

–          The plan fails to include assistance to help consumers generate their own energy using renewable energy systems such as small solar panels (photovoltaic or “PV”), small wind turbines, and solar hot water heaters.

–          The plan does not incorporate enough next-generation lighting technology such as L.E.D. bulbs.

–          The plan fails to provide adequate funding for public education particularly as, it relates to the high energy needs of plasma TVs and home entertainment systems, and about unplugging appliances that use power even when they have been turned off (known as “phantom load.”).

“We can’t do this half way.  The end result of failure is billions of dollars spent on new power plants and thousands of tons of pollution,” said Wally Taylor, an attorney with the Sierra Club.  

“The Utilities Board has to step up and force MidAmerican to do the best job it can here,” he added.

Iowa Utilities Board’s decision is due by the end of 2008. — end —

After the jump you can find contact information for people who can provide copies of this expert testimony.

UPDATE: The Iowa Utilities Board released a statement today urging Iowans to “take steps now to reduce the impacts of increased energy prices this winter heating season”:

Many utilities offer cash rebates for the purchase of energy efficient appliances.  Some Iowa utilities, including MidAmerican Energy Company and Interstate Power and Light Company (Alliant Energy), have increased rebate amounts on energy efficient appliance purchases made by flood-affected customers this year, so inquire with your local utility.

Examples of wise energy-efficiency investments, regardless of utility or even manufacturer rebates, include programmable thermostats, high efficiency heating and/or cooling systems, hot water heaters, replacement windows, additional or replacement insulation, washers or dryers, refrigerators, and stoves.  To assure energy efficiency when purchasing new appliances, look for the ENERGY STAR label.  More information about the ENERGY STAR program for improving energy efficiency is available at www.homeenergysaver.lbl.gov.

A simple, short-term step for conserving energy is to adjust your thermostat for sleeping or periods when your home will be unoccupied.  If constantly changing your thermostat is difficult, consider a programmable thermostat.  Another inexpensive step to help mitigate heating costs is to weatherize around leaky windows and doors and on exterior walls in areas that are usually cold or drafty.  Please contact your local utility for additional energy efficiency information in preparation for this winter.

The full text of this press release is after the jump.

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Latham thinks we can drill our way out of high gas prices

Iowa Politics has this press release from Representative Tom Latham’s campaign about

a statewide radio ad highlighting Latham’s work to lower gas and energy prices for Iowa families.

The sixty second ad reinforces Latham’s continued commitment to renewable energy but also discusses the need for Congress to work immediately to increase domestic energy supplies that America controls.

“$4.00 a gallon gas hurts Iowa families,” notes Latham in the ad. “And they’re frustrated with leaders in Congress for not doing more about it – and they have every right to be.”

“I have always been, and will continue to be, a strong supporter of alternative energy research and production, but we need to work for solutions that get Iowans from point A to point B without busting their family budget.”

Latham has been working in Congress on legislation aimed at increasing our domestic supply of affordable that will lower gas and energy prices through the increased use of our current resources, to include off-shore drilling and drilling in ANWR.

Latham recently told Iowa Independent that Republicans can ride high gas prices to victory this November. It’s not clear to me why this is a big selling point for the GOP–shouldn’t they have been doing something to reduce our dependence on foreign oil during the years Republicans controlled Congress as well as the presidency?

Anyway, some Republicans clearly believe that this issue will save them from an otherwise hostile political environment. Last week John McCain started running a television ad blaming Barack Obama for high gas prices because Obama opposes more offshore oil drilling.

The rapid response from Becky Greenwald’s campaign points out the various misleading aspects of Latham’s radio ad:

For Immediate Release                                                                      Contact: Erin Seidler

July 29, 2008                                                                                                         515-537-4465

Latham Runs Misleading Ad on Drilling To Divert From Votes Against Immediate Gas Price Relief

Waukee, IA – This week, Tom Latham’s campaign released a radio ad misleading voters about offshore drilling. Experts agree that offshore drilling will do nothing to lower gas prices for seven to ten years, and its clear that this ad is a diversion from Latham’s votes against opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserves and forcing oil companies to drill on existing leases. (McClatchy, 6/18/08)

“I’m running for Congress because of these sort of shenanigans. Latham is trying to get Iowans to think about leasing 2,000 more acres when 68 million acres already leased are open, untapped and will lower prices. Latham is trying to divert attention from his failure to support immediate relief through opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserves and forcing oil companies to drill on existing leases,” said Becky Greenwald, Candidate for Congress in Iowa’s 4th District. “Is it too much to ask for leaders to be honest with us?”

Unfortunately, Latham, like George Bush decided to play politics with gas prices. Last week, he voted against a bill that would release 70 million barrels of oil from the strategic oil reserve to bring relief from high gas prices. This bill would bring almost immediate relief to high gas prices. (H. Res. 6578)

And two weeks ago, Latham voted against a bill to force oil companies to drill on existing leases. There are 68 million acres of federal land already leased by oil companies. That is two times the size of the state of Iowa available for energy production that is now sitting idle. (H.R. 615)

Instead, Democrats in Congress and Becky Greenwald are fighting for a comprehensive energy policy that includes in the short term, opening the Strategic Petroleum Reserves and forcing oil companies to drill on almost 68 million acres of existing leases.

In the long term, Becky will fight to invest in a green energy industry here in Iowa by investing in ethanol, wind energy, biodiesel, and other homegrown, alternative forms of energy.

“I know that investing in renewable fuels will reduce our reliance on foreign oil and bring down gas prices and create thousands if not hundreds of thousands of jobs in rural America, including Iowa’s 4th District,” Greenwald continued. “It’s time for a solution, not diversion tactics.”

The bolded passages were bold in the original, by the way.

Latham’s advocacy of more oil drilling will do nothing to solve our energy problems. Even the president of the Teamsters Union, which has long supported increased oil drilling in the U.S., declared last week that

“We must find a long-term approach that breaks our dependence on foreign oil by investing in the development of alternate energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal power.”

Furthermore, public opinion on this matter may not be where Latham thinks it is. The polling firm Rasmussen says the public is divided on whether more drilling is the answer:

A new Rasmussen Reports national survey, taken last night (Monday), finds that 45% think placing more restrictions on energy speculators is more important , while 42% take the opposite view that allowing offshore oil drilling is more important.

A major partisan divide on the issue, like the split in Congress, is evident, however. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of Republicans say lifting the ban is the highest priority, while 59% of Democrats – and 48% of unaffiliated voters — say controlling speculators is more important. Only 29% of unaffiliateds say lift the ban first.

Unaffiliated or “no-party” voters have a slim plurality among registered voters in Iowa’s fourth district, and there are about 8,000 more Democrats than Republicans in the district.

If Rasmussen’s findings are accurate, it seems that Latham is out of step with his district.

If you reject Latham’s misleading spin on energy policy, please donate to Greenwald’s campaign to help her respond on the air. This race will be very competitive if she can raise enough money to get her message out. Remember, the fourth district has a partisan index of D+0, meaning that its vote in 2004 closely matched the nationwide partisan split.

Final note: Latham’s press release says the radio ad is running statewide. That’s a lot more expensive than just running the ad in fourth district markets.

Is he trying to raise his profile outside his district to pave the way for a gubernatorial bid in 2010? If he loses to Greenwald, he could start campaigning for governor immediately. But even if he wins re-election, serving in Congress isn’t much fun when you’re in the minority party.  

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Repeat after me: we don't need new coal or nuclear plants

This article by Joseph Romm for Salon explains “Why we never need to build another polluting power plant.”

That’s right, conservation and efficiency measures can help us save money, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet our energy needs without building any new coal-fired power plants or nuclear reactors.

The whole article is worth reading, but here’s a small excerpt:

America is the Saudi Arabia of energy waste. A 2007 report from the international consulting firm McKinsey and Co. found that improving energy efficiency in buildings, appliances and factories could offset almost all of the projected demand for electricity in 2030 and largely negate the need for new coal-fired power plants. McKinsey estimates that one-third of the U.S. greenhouse gas reductions by 2030 could come from electricity efficiency and be achieved at negative marginal costs. In short, the cost of the efficient equipment would quickly pay for itself in energy savings.

While a few states have energy-efficiency strategies, none matches what California has done. In the past three decades, electricity consumption per capita grew 60 percent in the rest of the nation, while it stayed flat in high-tech, fast-growing California. If all Americans had the same per capita electricity demand as Californians currently do, we would cut electricity consumption 40 percent. If the entire nation had California’s much cleaner electric grid, we would cut total U.S. global-warming pollution by more than a quarter without raising American electric bills. And if all of America adopted the same energy-efficiency policies that California is now putting in place, the country would never have to build another polluting power plant.

How did California do it? In part, a smart California Energy Commission has promoted strong building standards and the aggressive deployment of energy-efficient technologies and strategies — and has done so with support of both Democratic and Republican leadership over three decades.

There’s no good reason why the Iowa legislature and Governor Chet Culver could not cooperate to implement some of the successful regulations from California. Then we could convince the members of the Iowa Utilities Board that conservation would go a long way toward meeting our baseload needs.

Too many people believe in the false choice of “clean coal” or nuclear power.  

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Teamsters president: "We are not going to drill our way out of the energy problems we are facing"

There’s big news today for those who have been working toward “blue-green alliances” between organized labor and environmental groups.

Thanks to this Daily Kos diary by TomP, I learned that Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa has pulled the union out of an alliance supporting more oil drilling in environmentally sensitive areas:

“We are not going to drill our way out of the energy problems we are facing-not here and not in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” Hoffa told labor and environmental activists at an Oakland, Calif., summit on good jobs and clean air. “We must find a long-term approach that breaks our dependence on foreign oil by investing in the development of alternate energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal power.”

Hoffa then announced the union’s withdrawal from the ANWR coalition, citing the need to build a green economy that fosters the development of alternative energy sources and creates good union jobs-instead of lining the pockets of big oil tycoons.

Hoffa also said that by investing in green energy solutions, the nation will reap the benefits of curbing its dependence on oil through a revitalized economy with the creation of millions of new jobs in a rapidly growing industry.

The Sierra Club and United Steelworkers forged a “Blue-Green Alliance” in 2006 and jointly endorsed Barack Obama for president at an event in Ohio last month.

But the Teamsters have been strong supporters of expanding oil drilling in the past. I never thought I’d see the day when Jim Hoffa pulled out of the ANWR coalition.

The battle over proposed coal-fired power plants has strained relations between labor unions and environmental advocates in Iowa this year. Today’s news gives me hope that in the future we will see more cooperation between those groups in promoting a forward-looking energy policy.

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Watch Republicans spin as Obama is proved right on Iraq

UPDATE: Al Rodgers has lots of video and photos of the reception Obama got from American soldiers in Baghdad. Think these people want to be home with their families?

A staple of John McCain’s stump speech has been to play up his military experience and to claim that he, unlike Barack Obama, will be able to win the war in Iraq.

It wasn’t the strongest hand to begin with, because polls show that a clear majority of Americans would rather bring our troops home from Iraq than keep them there indefinitely. Nevertheless, it made sense for McCain, an outspoken supporter of this unpopular war, to try to depict Obama’s plan for Iraq as irresponsible.

Trouble is, earlier this month Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki called for a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops. Obama quickly published this New York Times editorial laying out his plan:

Only by redeploying our troops can we press the Iraqis to reach comprehensive political accommodation and achieve a successful transition to Iraqis’ taking responsibility for the security and stability of their country. Instead of seizing the moment and encouraging Iraqis to step up, the Bush administration and Senator McCain are refusing to embrace this transition – despite their previous commitments to respect the will of Iraq’s sovereign government. They call any timetable for the removal of American troops “surrender,” even though we would be turning Iraq over to a sovereign Iraqi government.

But this is not a strategy for success – it is a strategy for staying that runs contrary to the will of the Iraqi people, the American people and the security interests of the United States. That is why, on my first day in office, I would give the military a new mission: ending this war.

As I’ve said many times, we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. We can safely redeploy our combat brigades at a pace that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 – two years from now, and more than seven years after the war began. After this redeployment, a residual force in Iraq would perform limited missions: going after any remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, protecting American service members and, so long as the Iraqis make political progress, training Iraqi security forces. That would not be a precipitous withdrawal.

As Obama pointed out, President Bush and McCain have repeatedly said they would respect the wishes of the sovereign Iraqi government. Well, Al-Maliki told the German magazine Der Spiegel last week that he supports the timetable laid out by Obama.

An unnamed Republican strategist summed it up for Marc Ambinder: “We’re f*cked.”

Couldn’t Al-Maliki have been mistranslated? It doesn’t look that way. NBC’s First Read had this to say on Monday about John McCain’s “rough weekend”:

You know you had a problematic weekend when: 1) one of your top economic advisers/surrogates finally steps down from the campaign after his “nation of whiners” remark; 2) you get panned for breaking CODEL protocol/etiquette by announcing (incorrectly) at a fundraiser that your opponent is headed to Iraq on Friday or Saturday; 3) the prime minister of Iraq tells a German magazine that he backs your opponent’s plan for withdrawing troops from that country; and 4) when the Iraqi government tries to walk back that support, it does so unconvincingly. On the bright side for McCain, his campaign seized on remarks from Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen that withdrawing US troops over the next two years would be “dangerous.”


Per NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Obama has arrived in Baghdad and he spoke with Maliki. The headline after their photo-op: Maliki’s spokesman said afterwards (in English) that the Iraqi vision is for all US troops to be out of Iraq by 2010. And with this news — as well as the Der Spiegel interview, in which Maliki seemed to back Obama’s withdrawal plan — the trip seems like it has already been a PR success for the Illinois senator.

Memo to political journalists: this trip is a lot more than a PR success. McCain simply doesn’t have anything left supporting his determination to keep us in Iraq long-term. Why should Americans hire him as our commander-in-chief?

Now Republicans are trying to change the subject. Talking heads claim recent events in Iraq prove that McCain was right to support the “surge” in U.S. troops (which Obama opposed but voted to fund).

McCain tried to submit his own op-ed about Iraq to the New York Times, but the newspaper’s editors rejected it because it didn’t contain anything new of substance. (You can read the rejected piece here.)

It doesn’t look like McCain believes he can win the election on the Iraq issue, though. I say that because his paid advertising is not using his own campaign’s talking points on Iraq, such as how Obama never talks about winning the war, only about ending the war.

Instead, the McCain campaign has focused on energy policy in some early commercials. On Monday, as Obama visited Iraq, McCain started running a new television ad contrasting himself and Obama on new oil drilling:

Open Left has the script:

ANNCR: Gas prices – $4, $5, no end in sight, because some in Washington are still saying no to drilling in America.

No to independence from foreign oil.

Who can you thank for rising prices at the pump?

CHANT: Obama, Obama

ANNCR: One man knows we must now drill more in America and rescue our family budgets.

Don’t hope for more energy, vote for it. McCain.

JOHN MCCAIN: I’m John McCain and I approve this message.

On substance, this ad is absurd. Drilling for more oil in the U.S. wouldn’t come close to replacing the oil we purchase from foreign countries. Oil companies aren’t even leasing all the currently available fields for offshore drilling. Opening up new drilling sites wouldn’t bring any new oil onto U.S. markets for years.

And anyway, who’s been running the country for the last seven and a half years? Obama’s just one senator out of 100, and he’s only been in Washington since 2005. But suddenly he’s to blame for rising gas prices?

At the same time, this commercial may be effective spin for McCain. To the average person, drilling for more oil here in America may sound like a good way to bring down prices and help us be independent from foreign oil. I also think the crowd chanting Obama’s name will be a turnoff for many viewers. If you don’t already support Obama, that probably sounds creepy.

An earlier McCain ad sought to tie Obama’s “hope and change” message to 1960s hippie culture, but I suspect this new approach has more potential for McCain. It suggests Obama only offers empty hope for more energy, while McCain has a plan. (Never mind that Obama has a much better plan for producing clean energy in the U.S.)

When Obama returns from his trip to the Middle East and Europe, he better have a good response ready on offshore drilling and energy independence.

In other McCain diversion news, the sometimes well-informed columnist Robert Novak says McCain may have something else in mind to steal Obama’s thunder this week:

Sources close to Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign are suggesting he will reveal the name of his vice presidential selection this week while Sen. Barack Obama is getting the headlines on his foreign trip.

If McCain does name his running mate early, I doubt he will choose a dark horse. My money would be on Mitt Romney.

Final note: I don’t have satellite radio, but Keith Nichols mentioned that The Bill Press Show on Sirius 146 is doing a countdown of 101 reasons to vote against John McCain. They give a new reason every morning at 7:25 am (central time). The list of reasons 63 through 101 can be found here. The page is updated daily.

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This is what a leader sounds like

It doesn’t get much more visionary and ambitious than Al Gore’s speech last week on energy and climate change, and this sentence in particular:

Today I challenge our nation to commit to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years.

If you missed it, you can find the full text here or read a helpfully annotated version here.

My only quibble with this fantastic speech was that Gore said little about the transportation sector, which is the second largest contributor to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

But that’s a minor point. Go read what he said, if you haven’t already. We can meet demand for electricity using clean, renewable sources. We do not need new nuclear reactors or coal-fired power plants.

Gore turned up at the Netroots Nation conference over the weekend, and Mooncat at Left in Alabama posted some videos from his speech.

Andrew Villeneuve of the Northwest Progressive Institute liveblogged Gore’s speech in Austin here for those who don’t have time to watch the video.

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Iowa Power Fund holding public meeting in Jefferson on July 9

I didn’t find out about this meeting soon enough to add it to my weekly calendar of events, but I wanted to let you know that the Iowa Power Fund is holding a public forum in Jefferson (Saint Joseph’s Parish Hall at 501 North Locust Street) at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 9.

Earlier that day, the Power Fund directors are meeting in Jefferson to consider four requests for funding.

More details about both meetings are after the jump.

The Power Fund is scheduled to hold public forums in Mount Vernon on August 13, Algona on September 10, and possibly in Decorah in October, Sioux City in November, and somewhere in southeastern Iowa in December.

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McCain campaign knows the GOP brand is toxic

Via Jeralyn at TalkLeft, I saw this video from Progress Now. Today in Denver, McCain campaign staff got the police to escort a 61-year-old librarian from a public town-hall meeting on public property. She was issued a ticket for trespassing as well. Her offense was to stand there with a sign that said, “McCain = Bush”:

If you watch the video, you’ll see a man dressed up as a peapod with photos of Bush and McCain. It looks like he was also forced to leave the venue.

I don’t think it’s consistent with the First Amendment for the police or the Secret Service to remove Democrats from McCain’s public appearances.

But I’m gratified to know how worried they are about a “McCain = Bush” sign. At the end of that video clip, the librarian asks rhetorically why any Republican who voted for Bush would find her sign offensive. The obvious answer is that Bush is the most unpopular president in history.

In case you think this was an isolated incident that doesn’t reflect the judgment of McCain’s senior staff, watch the tv ad McCain has been running in Pennsylvania:

That’s right, the ad explicitly praises McCain for allegedly standing up to the president on global warming.

Chris Bowers explains why this ad spells doom for McCain:

McCain’s message focus for over a week now has been on how we need progressive change on energy and global warming. Even if his policies don’t match, he is at least running on a progressive, Democratic message. Not only does this imply that Democrats have the right ideas on energy, global warming and other ideas, McCain’s ad explicitly says that he stood up to other Republicans on this issue. In other words, McCain is bluntly saying that Democrats are right, and Republicans are wrong.

I don’t know how you win an election by making “the other guys were right [all] along” the focus of your message. Seems to me that it will only reinforce the growing notion that Democrats were right all along, and result in more people voting for Democrats.

Do you think the Republican Party is angry about McCain’s messaging? Not from the looks of this ad that the Republican National Committee is now running in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin:

Josh Orton notes the irony of the RNC paying to run ads that brag about how McCain pushed his own party to act on climate change.

As I mentioned a few days ago, the National Republican Congressional Committee is advising candidates to make their campaigns about personal and local issues.

Republican strategists know which way the wind is blowing, and it’s not at their backs.

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Iowa Democratic Party announces delegation to National Convention

The Iowa Democratic Party posted a press release announcing the Iowa delegation to the Democratic National Convention on its website.

I’ve reposted the release after the jump. It lists not only all of the delegates and alternates, but also members of the various National Convention Standing Committees.

I hadn’t realized that Iowa Utilities Board chairman John Norris was on the Platform Committee. Maybe someone in Denver will be able to persuade him that we have better options on energy policy than building more coal-fired power plants or expanding our use of nuclear power.

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The Bush administration is more brazen than you thought possible

It’s no surprise that the Bush administration and other Republican politicians would seize on high gasoline prices as an excuse to expand offshore drilling for oil. Never mind that oil companies apparently are not fully utilizing the leases they already have to drill offshore, as Tom Harkin points out in a statement excerpted at iPol.

But are you cynical enough not to be surprised by this story in the New York Times?

Faced with a surge in the number of proposed solar power plants, the federal government has placed a moratorium on new solar projects on public land until it studies their environmental impact, which is expected to take about two years.      

The Bureau of Land Management says an extensive environmental study is needed to determine how large solar plants might affect millions of acres it oversees in six Western states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

But the decision to freeze new solar proposals temporarily, reached late last month, has caused widespread concern in the alternative-energy industry, as fledgling solar companies must wait to see if they can realize their hopes of harnessing power from swaths of sun-baked public land, just as the demand for viable alternative energy is accelerating.

If that makes you mad, get involved with the Iowa Renewable Energy Association. Their list of upcoming events includes a residential solar energy workshop on July 19, as well as a huge annual Energy Expo, which will be in Cedar Falls the weekend of September 13 and 14.

Speaking of renewable energy, the Iowa News Service ran this report on growing demand for wind turbine technicians, which has prompted Iowa community colleges to create new programs for training them.

Also from the Iowa News Service, I found this report on how farmers can increase their cash flow by owning their own wind turbine.  

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Sierra Club slams McCain on "gimmick"

John McCain offered some new ideas on energy policy yesterday at a campaign stop in California:

The Arizona senator proposed a $300 million prize for whoever can develop a better automobile battery, and $5,000 tax credits for consumers who buy new zero-emission vehicles. The latest proposal is in addition to his support for overturning the federal ban on offshore oil drilling.

There was a rapid response from Sierra Club, which along with the United Steelworkers jointly endorsed Barack Obama a few days ago. I received this statement on the Iowa Sierra Club e-mail loop:


CONTACT: Josh Dorner, 202.675.2384

             McCain Falls Short on Fuel Economy, Gas Prices

         America Needs Obama’s 50 MPG, $150 Billion Energy Plan

Washington, D.C.–The Sierra Club issued the following response to John

McCain’s speech on fuel economy and cars delivered today in Fresno,


         Statement of Carl Pope, Sierra Club Executive Director

“Senator Obama has demonstrated the real leadership America needs to

address both our energy and economic crises.  He understands that the

long-term solution to high gas prices is making our cars get better gas

mileage. He pushed hard last year to raise fuel economy standards to 35

miles per gallon and wants to give the American auto industry the help it

needs to hit 50 miles per gallon within two decades.

“By contrast, John McCain has a spotty record when it comes to fuel economy

and seems more interested in offering up a $300 million gimmick rather than

exercising the kind of bold leadership America needs. He has repeatedly

failed to embrace what America really needs — a vehicle fleet that gets to

50 mpg on a predictable and aggressive schedule, and then keeps on getting

better.  Instead of a $300 million giveaway, Barack Obama has proposed to

do what is really needed.  He has a plan that calls for a $150 billion

investment in the technologies we need to fight global warming and end Big

Oil’s chokehold on our economy once and for all. Senator Obama also wants

to end taxpayer-funded giveaways to the oil industry, wants the industry to

pay its fair share on its record profits, and will crack down on the Wall

Street speculators gaming the system at the expense of hardworking

Americans.  Meanwhile, Senator McCain continues to oppose the key

incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency that we need to make

the clean energy future a reality.”

In other recent McCain campaign news, Fortune magazine quoted the candidate’s adviser Charlie Black as saying a terrorist attack inside the U.S. “certainly would be a big advantage” to McCain.

The Republican nominee immediately disavowed Black’s comment, and Black apologized soon after.

If you’re wondering why the name Charlie Black sounds familiar, he’s a lobbyist who has represented heinous foreign dictators, and I mentioned him in this post a while back.

The Associated Press profiled the man leading McCain’s search for a running mate here.

Meanwhile, campaigning yesterday in New Mexico, Obama said he will “stand up for equal pay” for women as president, unlike McCain. I wrote about McCain’s opposition to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act here. He claims to be “all in favor” of equal pay, but he won’t support a law that would help women who are denied equal pay to seek legal remedy for that discrimination.

Add that to Demo Memo’s list of ten reasons women should not vote for McCain.

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Congratulations to The Photo Specialists in Dubuque

That was the first Iowa business (and as of June 23 the only Iowa business) to sign on to Greenpeace’s “Businesses for a Safe Climate” petition.

Click the link to read the list of more than 200 businesses that have signed the petition so far. Here is the text:

“As a business owner, it concerns me that Congress has yet to take serious action on global warming. Leading scientists and economists have identified the steps that we need to take in order to curb global warming and move toward the prosperity of a green economy. I call on Congress to follow these steps and pass legislation that will…

1) Create 5 million Green Jobs in order to conserve 20% of our energy by 2015 and create pathways out of poverty for people.

2) Freeze climate pollution levels now, then cut by at least 25% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% by 2050.

3) End development of new coal plants that emit global warming pollution. Pivot boldly away from fossil fuel dependence, and toward a clean energy future with strong standards and incentives for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

_____________ believes in being a responsible member of the community. As such, we commit to examine and create a plan to reduce our carbon footprint in order to minimize our impact on the environment. We are doing our part, now it’s time for Congress to do theirs.”

If you know of a business that might be recruited to sign this petition, click here.

If you would like to list your business among those that have signed the petition, click here.

Many scientists expect global warming to increase the incidence of extreme weather such as the rainfall that caused catastrophic floods in Iowa this month.

It’s a good time for business owners to lend their support to efforts to reduce global warming, especially since some advocacy groups for business oppose further regulation of greenhouse-gas emissions.  

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Action: Give us more transportation choices

I received this action alert today from Smart Growth America:

Dear [desmoinesdem],

Can you believe the impact rising gas prices are having across the country?

Here in D.C., people are abandoning their cars and taking the Metro in record numbers. But most Americans don’t have options like Metro for relief — they don’t have access to convienient public transportation or live in walkable, connected neighborhoods. For years, our leaders have underinvested in these solutions, and now we’re paying the price as fuel prices rise by the day.

We need to demand better transportation choices that can help us get where we need to go — while saving money, conserving oil, and fighting global warming. Urge your Congressional member to support more funding for transit, biking, and smart growth by clicking on the button below to send them a message.

Congressional members Earl Blumenauer and Ellen Tauscher are leading an effort to invest in transit and smart growth — please ask your Representative to join them!

Thanks for your support.

Steve Davis

Smart Growth America

Please feel free to forward this to any of your friends and colleagues who might be interested in taking action or receiving alerts like this one in the future. If you received this message from a friend, you can sign up for news and alerts here.

Keep track of SGA’s current advocacy work and get valuable resources to bolster your own efforts on our action page.

You can click here to

write and tell your representative to sign onto a letter from Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Ellen Tauscher urging Congress to increase funding for public transit, biking, public transportation, and walkable neighborhoods in federal climate legislation. Note: you can edit or personalize the text of the email below, which will help strengthen your message. Feel free to personalize it or add a story of your own from your legislator’s district.

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Two pieces worth reading on transportation policy

At Daily Kos, Devilstower offers five Good Ideas that are Bad Politics. They are:

A five year moratorium on new highway construction

End to single-purpose zoning

Bus Rapid Transit with Dedicated Lanes

Relaxing automotive safety laws

Fifty-five Mile an Hour Speed Limit

Click the link to read the case he makes for each of those. I agree with all of them except relaxing the safety rules. He makes some intriguing points, but I don’t think that change would produce the effect he’d like to see.

Yesterday, Daily Kos user bink wrote this diary: Amtrak Has Too Few Usable Train Cars Left. The gist is that demand for passenger rail is skyrocketing because of high gasoline prices, but Amtrak has a limited ability to lay on more trains because it has been starved of adequate funding for so long.

This should concern anyone who wants to see more passenger rail options available to Iowans.

By the way, Barack Obama wants to invest more in rail transportation, while John McCain has opposed funding for Amtrak for many years.

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