Howard Learner Talks Iowa’s Green Economy in Des Moines Register
Thursday, July 12, 2012
Published July 12, 2012
Another view: Economy, environment can benefit each other
By Howard A. Learner
The campaign season is bringing hypercharged political sound bites about environmental progress even though there’s very strong public support for cleaner air that’s healthier to breathe, cleaner water that’s safer to drink and enjoy for recreation, and fewer dangerous toxics in our communities.
The best news is that environmental progress is being achieved together with the growing green economy and it’s helping drive Iowa’s and the nation’s economic recovery. Energy-efficient equipment and appliances, wind and solar energy development, cleaner more fuel-efficient cars and modern high-performance rail development are good for job creation, good for economic growth and good for the environment.
Nonetheless, some defensive polluters and politicized critics are hauling out the old myth and false dichotomy that we must choose between job creation and environmental progress. That wasn’t true 30 years ago, and it isn’t true today.
Let’s look at the facts and progress of innovative clean technologies here.
Energy efficiency improvements are creating jobs, saving people and businesses money on their utility bills, keeping money in Iowa’s economy and reducing pollution. The Energy Group (Des Moines), Michaels Energy (Cedar Rapids) and Energy Solutions-OTB (Ames) are among the many energy-efficiency businesses employing skilled workers designing and retrofitting commercial, agricultural and governmental buildings, schools and homes.
Saving energy saves consumers money. Less pollution means better public health and cleaner lakes and rivers for all. Why would anyone argue that it’s somehow smart to waste energy and money?
Wind power and solar energy development create manufacturing and technical jobs, rural economic development and pollution-free energy. Wind power is the fastest-growing global energy source, and Iowa ranks second nationally for installed wind power. The Environmental Law & Policy Center’s report on the wind energy supply chain in Iowa shows 2,300 wind-related manufacturing jobs in Iowa.
President Barack Obama called for extending the federal tax incentives in his May 24 speech at TPI Composites in Newton, which manufactures wind turbine blades. Solar is also ready to move forward. That means more work for Eagle Point Solar in Dubuque, Go Solar in Decorah and Inerex in Council Bluffs. Iowa politicians must get the policy framework right to keep advancing the state’s clean energy economy leadership.
Cleaner, more efficient cars and trucks save us money at the gas pump, cut back air pollution, and improve national security by making our country less dependent on foreign oil. They keep money in Iowa’s economy rather than drain dollars to the Middle East, Venezuela and oil-producing states.
The Obama administration’s leadership in stabilizing and modernizing the American auto industry is a true success story. The federal clean-car standards will increase fuel economy to a fleet-wide average of 35 mpg in 2016 and 54.5 mpg by 2025. That will save trillions of dollars for America’s economy, create jobs for Americans building the cleaner cars and reduce greenhouse gas pollution. This is a smart solution.
High-performance rail improves mobility, creates jobs and spurs economic growth, and reduces pollution. Midwest supply chain businesses will be manufacturing high-speed rail equipment. Modern, fast, comfortable and convenient rail service connecting Des Moines to Chicago and Omaha and other Midwestern cities is an important third transportation option to highway congestion with higher gas prices and rising air fares with fewer flights.
Gov. Terry Branstad should accept federal funding to upgrade Iowa City-Quad Cities-Chicago passenger rail. This is a sensible solution for our future.
We will soon be overwhelmed by 30-second political attack ads from all sides. Let’s separate sound solutions from the sound bites. We are achieving job creation, economic growth and better environmental quality together. That’s what the public wants and it’s happening.