Column: Iowa controls its destiny with homegrown renewables

Source: By Terry Branstad, Quad City Times • Posted: Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Control your own destiny or someone else will. Famed CEO Jack Welch’s timeless wisdom for business is equally true for public policy. Here in Iowa, we are distinctly blessed with an awe-inspiring abundance of renewable resources, and we must continue to put those natural assets to good work – backed with sound investments in our future – if we hope to keep our economic fate in our own hands.

History also serves as a guide. Iowa was leading the charge for energy independence and creating green jobs long before it was politically fashionable. The groundwork we laid during Iowa’s emergence from the 1980s farm crisis, including Iowa’s first renewable portfolio standard, locked in decades of job growth, millions in wages and state revenues, and lower energy costs for consumers. As a result, today Iowa is a national powerhouse in wind generation and number one in producing homegrown biofuels.

Those investments, and the foresight of conservative leaders, continue to pay off today. A recent report from the Council of State Governments (CSG) found that Iowa has emerged as the single most financially resilient state during the current pandemic. Communities everywhere are suffering, but our state’s economic preparedness and fiscal tenacity in the face of crisis means that Iowa families are better positioned to benefit as the nation’s recovery continues.

I’m proud to see Governor Kim Reynolds continuing Iowa’s legacy of enterprising leadership on renewable fuels. Recently, the governor proposed landmark legislation to make higher ethanol blends available to all Iowans and facilitate smart investments in Iowa’s renewable fuel infrastructure.

The investments Iowa makes today will help transition retailers to offer motorists cleaner, more affordable fuel like E15, a 15% ethanol blend, across the entire state by 2025. The plan provides similar support for biodiesel blends like B20.

In the wake of the COVID-19 downturn and the nation’s continued climb toward cleaner transportation, this is the kind of forward-looking proposal that will keep Iowa in the driver’s seat and help determine our own economic future. Iowans are very likely to agree. Polls continue to show that powerful majorities of voters, including Iowa conservatives, support clean energy development and lowering our dependence on fossil fuels. Other polls have also shown Iowans strong support for E15.

The governor’s proposal would be a huge win for Iowa farms and families. Unlocking the potential of E15 in Iowa would generate nearly 30 million bushels of new grain demand each year, grow thousands of jobs across the state, and inject millions more into the economy. At the same time, it offers Iowa families an opportunity to save three to 10 cents per gallon on every trip to the gas station.

A recent report showed that enacting the full range of proposals in the governor’s bill would create 3,500 new jobs and add $549.8 million in household income for Iowans by 2026. That is economic growth Iowa should not pass up.

Iowa’s supply chain of innovative producers and farmers is unmatched. No other state has more to gain from fully embracing renewable fuels. And, by taking this opportunity to lead the way, Governor Reynolds is offering an effective model to other states seeking to advance their own environmental and air quality goals.

The economic fate of our farms and rural communities depends on growing reliable, domestic markets for Iowa corn. The success of E15 – and millions in annual fuel savings for Iowans – rests on guaranteeing easy access across the entire state. And the future of America’s energy independence hinges on how states like Iowa shape policies to harness the full potential of renewable fuels.

Establishing the first E15 fuel standard can set the bar for Iowa’s neighbors and the rest of the nation to follow. One day, I hope Iowans will look back and see that the nationwide drive to E15 started here, and be thankful we had leaders like Governor Reynolds with the foresight to make it happen.

Terry Branstad is a former governor of Iowa.