# Energy



Iowa environmentalists react to Inflation Reduction Act

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

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

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

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

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A science-based case against carbon dioxide pipelines across Iowa

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

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

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

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Another kind of inflation: economic benefits of CO2 pipelines

Silvia Secchi is a professor in the Department of Geographical and Sustainability Sciences at the University of Iowa. She has a PhD in economics from Iowa State University.

There is a long tradition of industry proponents overselling the economic benefits of pipelines by paying for economic impact studies.

Two kinds of goals drive this practice. The first is to increase the social acceptability of the pipelines, which often require formal environmental assessments because of their long and short-term environmental effects. Local landowners and environmental groups often oppose the projects, concerned about impacts on existing infrastructure like tile drainage, and on water and land resources. Second, if the pipelines are in line for subsidies, such studies help create the impression that the subsidies are justified.

The inflated economics reports go back to the Trans-Alaskan pipeline in the 1950s and early 1970s, and the more recent infamous examples of the Keystone XL and the Dakota Access pipeline. The tricks in the consultants’ playbook have largely remained the same.

In this post, I will discuss several issues associated with the report that Ernst and Young prepared for Summit Carbon Solutions.

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A cleaner grid is a more reliable, resilient grid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Iowa Democratic Party refuses to address carbon pipelines

Emma Schmit is a member of the Iowa Democratic Party State Central Committee representing the fourth district. Emma is also chair of the Calhoun County Democrats and webmaster for the Fourth District Democrats.

I’ve always been a proud rural Democrat. But it has never been an easy road in a largely Republican county. We’ve been booed in parades, yard signs have been lit on fire. Canvassers have faced a litany of threats and intimidation – from a gun being brandished to bumper stickers and spark plugs being stolen from a vehicle. While I was working the polls on Election Day 2020, my dad was busy removing my yard signs and window placards because he was worried for my safety.

Despite everything, I’ve always believed that the party was worth fighting for because the party was fighting for me, for Iowa, and for a better future. 

However, right now, the party’s governing body is failing us.

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