Snow fell and a day later it began melting. The ground is partly snow-covered in today’s predawn darkness. With a forecast high of 30 degrees, there will be more melting in sunny areas. Eleven days remain in winter.
With President Biden’s March 8 announcement, “We’re banning all imports of Russian oil and gas and energy,” U.S. gasoline prices increased immediately. I’m planning to round up our gas cans, take them to town, and fill them. I expect prices to continue to climb because of Russia’s continuing aggression in Ukraine. The country should get completely off fossil fuels, although there has been a lack of political will to do so.
Lettuce and herbs are beginning to germinate on the heating pad. As soon as the snow melts I can build the burn pile and clear the first planting plot. As the growing season begins, I’m ready.
This response to my message to U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley has been sitting in a file folder waiting for me to write a response. Upon review, I don’t really have a response as the letter speaks for itself. Shorter Grassley: wind, ethanol and biodiesel are what I have been and am willing to work on going forward.
Dear Mr. Deaton:
Thank you for taking the time to contact me. As your senator, it is important for me to hear from you.
I appreciate you sharing your concerns regarding climate change with me. I have long said that I acknowledge that a changing climate is a historical and scientific fact. I also recognize that most scientists say manmade emissions contribute to climate change. In addition, it is just common sense to promote the development of clean forms of energy. In fact, throughout my tenure in the Senate, I have been a leader in promoting alternative energy sources as a way of protecting our environment and increasing our energy independence. I’ve been an outspoken advocate of various forms of renewable and alternative energy, including wind, biomass, agriculture wastes, ethanol and biodiesel. As the former Chairman and Ranking member of the Finance Committee, I’ve worked for years to enact tax policies that support the growth of these alternative resources and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. We need to develop a comprehensive energy policy and review the tax incentives for all energy sources. Our goal should be that clean energy alternatives become cost-effective, viable parts of our energy mix to power our homes and businesses for the long term.
To the extent that clean, alternative forms of energy can be made more cost effective than fossil fuels, it will be a win-win situation. In the meantime, any measure that forces a shift from low-cost energy sources to higher cost alternatives will impose hardships on hard working Americans, especially those least able to afford higher prices for home heating, food, and transportation. Higher energy costs also affect jobs, particularly in the manufacturing sector.
I believe we have an obligation to future generations that our environment is both clean and safe. Additionally, I believe it makes economic sense to have a healthy environment. Throughout my tenure in the Senate, I have authored and supported legislation that promotes renewable energy sources to protect the environment, support our economy, and increase our energy independence. I’ve been an advocate of various forms, including wind, ethanol, and biodiesel.
As you may know, Iowa has had much success in the production of these renewable energy sources. As the number one producer of corn, ethanol, and biodiesel, our state leads the nation’s renewable fuels industry. This cleaner-burning, homegrown energy supports the economy by generating 37,000 jobs and nearly $4 billion of Iowa’s GDP. In 2020, Iowa produced 3.7 billion gallons of ethanol. In regards to environmental benefits, ethanol reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent compared to conventional gasoline.
As the “father” of the Wind Energy Incentives Act of 1993, I sought to give this renewable energy source the ability to compete with traditional, finite sources. Today, wind energy supports over 9,000 Iowa jobs and provides 40 percent of our state’s electricity. Like ethanol and other advanced biofuels, wind energy is renewable and does not obligate the United States to rely on unstable foreign states. Further, the U.S. Department of Energy recently released its annual wind Markets Reports. Within this report are several notable updates about Iowa. Iowa currently leads the U.S. in wind-generated electricity. At 57 percent, Iowa has become the only state where over half of our in-state generated energy comes from wind. Lastly, the wind industry supports over 116,000 U.S. jobs.
Going forward, I believe the most effective action Congress can take to address this issue is to advance policies that increase the availability and affordability of renewable energy sources. If these energy sources can become more competitive, market forces will drive a natural, low-cost transition in our energy mix that will be a win-win for American families.
Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me. Please keep in touch.
Chuck Grassley United States Senator
Email from U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley dated Nov. 10, 2021.
When I wrote my Federal Elected Officials about climate change on Oct. 18, Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks was first to respond a few days later (see below). I did not know there was a Conservative Climate Caucus. She is a member and lifted the third paragraph of her response to me from the caucus website.
As long as she supports the beliefs of the caucus, there will be trouble reconciling my views with hers. In the long run, that’s okay. It is a starting point and we need to get going. We needed to get going 50 years ago.
The Conservative Climate Caucus was founded by Republican Congressman John R. Curtis (UT-03) in June this year with the following statement of beliefs:
What We Believe
The climate is changing, and decades of a global industrial era that has brought prosperity to the world has also contributed to that change.
Private sector innovation, American resources, and R&D investment have resulted in lower emissions and affordable energy, placing the United States as the global leader in reducing emissions
Climate change is a global issue and China is the greatest immediate obstacle to reducing world emissions. Solutions should reduce global emissions and not just be “feel good” policies
Practical and exportable answers can be found in innovation embraced by the free market. Americans and the rest of the world want access to cheaper, reliable, and cleaner energy
With innovative technologies, fossil fuels can and should be a major part of the global solution
Reducing emissions is the goal, not reducing energy choices
What We Do
Educate House Republicans on climate policies and legislation consistent with conservative values
Organize co-dels and staff-dels to better understand technologies and issues related to climate
Organize Member and staff briefings on conservative climate proposals
Bring Republicans to the table to fight against radical progressive climate proposals that would hurt our economy, American workers, and national security
Introduce Republican members and staff to leaders in industry, think tanks, and more
When it comes to hurting our economy, American workers, and national security, engagement of the federal government to address the climate crisis is essential. As long as Iowa focuses on ethanol, industrial agriculture using manufactured fertilizers, and monoculture row crops and livestock, the environment will get worse. It is pretty bad already if one looks at water and air quality. There is not much hope for the Conservative Climate Caucus as it was introduced, yet it’s what we have. It is an open question whether Democrats are up to the challenge of retiring Miller-Meeks after her first term. She is a strong campaigner and well known in the district. We have to begin somewhere, and soon. This may be it.
In 2015, Finn Harries sat at our table during former vice president Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth presentation in Cedar Rapids. I didn’t know his history as a YouTuber with his identical twin brother Jack. I was assigned as his mentor during the training yet Finn didn’t need a mentor to work on the climate crisis.
Friday, Nov. 26, Finn Harries made this statement on Instagram after attending COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland:
One of the responses I often hear from older people when I talk about the work I do is “your generation gives me hope”… but this is the wrong way to think about how we go about tackling the climate crisis. In effect, this is the same strategy that has got us so deep into this mess… just passing the problem down to the next generation. What’s different this time is that we don’t have enough time to wait for our generation to be in institutional seats of power… we don’t have any time at all. So we’re flipping it around. We’re passing the problem back, up to those who can actually instigate change. Our role as young activists is to hold people in positions of power to account. To make sure they do what they’ve said they will do. In this way, we all have a critical role to play.
Harries is right. It will take all of us to make a difference during the climate crisis. In the U.S. we are not doing enough to hold people in positions of power to account.
According to a recent Washington Post – ABC News poll, “A clear majority of adults say that warming is a serious problem, but the share — 67 percent — is about the same as it was seven years ago, when alarms raised by climate scientists were less pronounced than they are now.” What will move the public opinion needle and lead to effective climate action?
In Iowa, the effects of climate change are clear. I outlined some of them in a letter to my federal elected officials. What are the two Carbon Capture and Sequestration pipelines to transport liquefied CO2 from Iowa to North Dakota and Illinois but a response to the need to reduce CO2 emissions into the atmosphere? Our political leaders don’t even acknowledge the climate crisis while supporting CO2 removal from the atmosphere.
We do have a critical role to play to prevent the worst effects of global warming. Implementing a solution will require us all.
Here is the YouTube video Finn’s brother Jack Harries made for the Conference of the Parties 26 in Glasgow, Scotland. It features an interview with former president Barack Obama. Young people like the Harries twins are not buying much malarkey. We, as a society, need to act.
Let’s be clear about Carbon Capture and Sequestration: it is an unproven technology to enable fossil fuel use when society should be turning away and leaving fossil fuels in the ground. Among the problems with the technology is our government supports it to the tune of $8.5 billion in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act recently signed into law by President Joe Biden. There is more money for CCS in the Build Back Better Act as currently written. Why would our government do that?
The answer is a familiar one. Oil, gas and coal interests have too much invested to let go of their extraction and distribution operations. During negotiations between the White House and U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, support for CCS was included in both bills. Manchin’s vote was needed to pass the legislation.
In addition to funding CCS technology, the Biden administration appointed a prominent supporter of it, Brad Crabtree, a coal ally and longtime carbon capture advocate, to serve as the Department of Energy’s Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy and Carbon Management. While negotiations over the infrastructure bills were private, Manchin is said to have had a hand in Crabtree’s nomination. Oil, gas and coal advocates let loose a loud cheer of approval upon the announcement.
The question is whether substantial government investment in CCS via the infrastructure bills was a poison pill for environmentalists. Only a few people are asking that question here in Iowa, and fewer still knew what was in the bills. Inclusion of CCS was apparently not too toxic for environmental hawks in the U.S. Congress as it was accepted as part of the sausage-making process of creating legislation.
The partisan lines are clearly drawn. The Republican view of climate action is “with innovative technologies, fossil fuels can and should be a major part of the global solution.” Most Democrats “support increased domestic renewable energy development, including wind and solar power farms, in an effort to reduce carbon pollution. The party’s platform calls for an ‘all of the above’ energy policy including clean energy, natural gas, and domestic oil, while wanting to become energy independent.” It’s no wonder CCS made it into the first infrastructure law, and will into the second if it is passed by the Congress.
The Iowa governor’s task force on carbon sequestration quickly led to Iowa going all-in on the technology, with two proposed Iowa projects. The Iowa Sierra Club opposes them.
We want real climate solutions – not greenwashing schemes!
Iowa has two new pipeline proposals. Both are centered around Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). The lines would carry captured carbon from ethanol plants. CCS is very complicated but when you boil it down, the basic premise is that it captures the carbon and stores it underground (CCS) or it captures the carbon and uses it for industrial purposes. Both Summit and Navigator pipelines claim that they are going to permanently store the CO2 underground, but we have strong evidence that Summit will use the CO2 for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR). EOR is the process of pumping CO2 into dwindling oil fields to get the last bit of oil out of the ground. The two pipelines in Iowa are being offered as false climate solutions, especially if they will be utilized for enhanced oil recovery and extending the life of coal-fired power plants and the ethanol industry.
We already know the solutions to our climate crisis – we must end our dependence on fossil fuels and invest in solar, wind, battery storage, conservation and efficiency!
The 26th Conference of the Parties in Glasgow, Scotland seemed like a dud. My friend Rob Hogg corrected me on Twitter, posting:
So there were some positive developments. I’m reminded that zero countries is the number living up to their 2015 commitments to reduce greenhouse gases at COP 21 in Paris, France. It is difficult to let go the negativity when it comes to our collective lack of action on climate change.
On a video call a friend asked if we had installed solar panels to generate electricity for our home. I know our financial condition well enough to say it is unlikely we will because of the up front capital expense. We are doing okay financially yet know our limits.
“When it comes to climate change, we can’t afford to go backward—or even stay where we are,” former president Barack Obama said. “If we are going to act on the scale that’s required to combat this climate crisis, we all need to step up and meet this moment together.”
What does “together” mean? It means governments and a select group of non-governmental organizations and rich people that have the means to address climate change at scale. Behind Obama’s statement is the assumption we live in a democracy. Increasingly, we don’t, as floods of dark money buy our government, including the court system. An individual’s local actions matter, yet they are not enough, especially if one is the only person on the block generating electricity from solar panels.
Former Vice President Al Gore weighed in on COP 26:
Statement from Former US Vice President Al Gore on the Outcome of COP 26
“The Glasgow Climate Pact and the pledges made at COP 26 move the global community forward in our urgent work to address the climate crisis and limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C, but we know this progress, while meaningful, is not enough. We must move faster to deliver a just transition away from fossil fuels and toward a cleaner and more equitable future for our planet.
The progress achieved in the lead-up to and at COP 26 was only possible because of the power of people – young and old – using their voices to demand action.
Thanks to that advocacy, for the first time in 26 negotiations, leaders at COP 26 agreed to language that calls for a phase down of coal power and fossil fuel subsidies – a critically important step forward. Even more important, the deal significantly accelerates the timeline for nations to revisit and strengthen their net zero goals, calling for updates from every nation by the end of next year and a global convening by the UN Secretary General in 2023 to focus on more ambitious goals for cutting emissions dramatically by 2030. But despite that progress, there is much more that must be done – especially to deliver meaningful climate finance for both mitigation and adaptation to developing nations.
Ultimately, the outcome of COP 26 shows us that it has never been more important to hold our leaders accountable to their words and pledges. Advocates for climate action cannot – and must not – let up.
Six years ago, the Paris Agreement set a clear direction of travel that is moving the world away from greenhouse gas pollution and toward a sustainable future. The deal reached at COP 26 reflects the progress we’ve made in the intervening years and shows that the global community of nations is now in agreement that the era of inaction on the climate crisis must come to a swift end.”
Now is the time for government leaders, policymakers, business leaders, consumers, and activists in every nation to redouble their efforts and use the Glasgow Climate Pact as a springboard from which to drive bold action that will keep the goals of the Paris Agreement alive.”
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the scale of the climate change problem. It is a problem, although against all reasonable efforts to educate, even that is in question for many people.
I wrote to my federal elected officials about how climate change impacted my life. I heard back from Rep. Miller-Meeks and Senator Grassley and am assessing their responses. I’m using my voice to raise the issue with my federal elected officials. Their response falls flat.
We have the tools we need to solve the climate crisis. That seems certain. Yet a society that is interested in supporting the richest among us more than taking care of each other is morally bankrupt.
The latest revelations about the Trump administration’s efforts to manipulate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic are evidence that the highest office in government was willing to use mass-death as a political weapon at a cost of hundreds of thousands of lives. What kind of human can support that? Yet Trump flags fly unabated in our neighborhood. It is clear the previous administration was going to do nothing about the climate crisis. If they get back in office after the 2024 elections, they will set about undoing what Biden got started to address climate change and more.
In this context it is important to ask, “What will it take on climate change?” From these quotations and more, we know it will take action on a scale only governments can provide. Yet we can’t be reduced to helping political candidates we favor get elected. There is something more at stake. Regardless who holds political office, governments must act on climate change. There will come a time, and soon, when it will become obvious to even the most prominent naysayers we have to act. So we keep plugging away and hope we are not already too late.
I viewed the S&P Global Market Intelligence discussion between reporter Taylor Kuykendall and Former U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Nov. 8. The thirty minute video is worth viewing to hear Moniz on major technologies and technological developments that will help prevent and mitigate the effects of global warming on humans.
Dr. Moniz answered the question I posted in the YouTube chat: “Regarding CCS (carbon capture and sequestration), how important is it to leave sequestered carbon in the ground? If a market for CO2 were developed, would there be an interest in digging it back up?”
He sort of laughed at the idea of “digging it up” as something that would not be done, yet gave an answer I hadn’t expected. There may be engineering applications to use captured CO2 in order to address our goal of net zero emissions by 2050, rather than burying it in geologically stable underground rock formations. This has been a point of contention with opponents to the Summit project.
Summit Carbon Solutions, an Iowa company, has proposed construction of a pipeline to transport liquefied CO2 captured from ethanol plants and other Iowa industrial producers to North Dakota for sequestration. The Iowa Utilities Board approved public hearings in the 30 counties the proposed pipeline would cross. One of the sticking points between activists who oppose the pipeline and the company was about Summit making a written commitment to leave any sequestered carbon in the ground permanently. CEO Bruce Rastetter indicated they would not make such a commitment because markets may be found for captured CO2. Moniz’ comments yesterday indicated such markets are under study and may be developed in order to address the climate crisis.
Is carbon capture and sequestration technology a hero that will help society reach net zero emissions by 2050, or is it a villain that will violate landowner rights and cause more pollution than it prevents? Fossil fuels should be left in the ground.
The highlight of Moniz’ interview for me was that advocates against the Summit Project (or the similar Navigator CO2 Ventures project) have a lack of big picture information about addressing the climate crisis using carbon capture and sequestration technologies. The information has not been readily available.
Ed Fallon of Bold Iowa isn’t perfect. However, he is a veteran of multiple pipeline fights. In a Sept. 23 blog post he outlined his concerns about the Summit project. He claimed Summit plans to use sequestered CO2 for “fracking” instead of sequestering it in the ground. He also claimed Summit wasn’t being transparent about their intentions. Summit denies these claims. Fallon is the right person to engage in a pipeline fight, yet his blog post lacked a depth of understanding of CCS beyond his immediate concerns. Ed could use more information as could we all.
Over the coming weeks, I intend to remedy the lack of accessible information about carbon capture and sequestration. In a series of articles, I will explain what it is, evaluate whether the Summit and Navigator projects are boondoggles designed to skim taxpayer money for the richest Americans, and what plans exist for implementing CCS as a solution to the climate crisis. Hopefully, with a better understanding of the technology and its proposed applications, advocates for and against it will have a better base of information to address the climate crisis. Stay tuned.
We witnessed climate change in Eastern Iowa. For me, it’s personal.
• The 1993 flood delayed progress building our home as we moved from Indiana.
• We experienced multiple straight line wind events that damaged the house, uprooted trees, blew down large branches, and tore through our neighborhood.
• Record flooding in 2008 filled much of the Iowa and Cedar River basins, backing up water into the Lake Macbride watershed to within 100 yards of our home. It made roads around us impassible and devastated many nearby places.
• Record drought in 2012 made life outdoors miserable. It negatively impacted crops. Corn yield in Johnson County decreased from 171.9 bushels per acre in 2011 to 132.4 in 2012, a 23 percent drop.
• There was a derecho on Aug. 10, 2020. In our yard it took down one tree and damaged several others. My greenhouse lifted into the air like Dorothy’s farmhouse in the Wizard of Oz. Winds up to 140 miles per hour destroyed 70 percent of the tree canopy in Cedar Rapids.
I know about climate change from living it, as do most Iowans. It’s time for our Republican members of Congress to work with Democrats and take action to mitigate it.
~ Published in the Iowa City Press Citizen on Oct. 30, 2021.
On Monday, Oct. 18, I wrote my federal elected officials regarding the climate crisis. If U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley or Joni Ernst, or Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks respond, I will copy the response below the text.
I hope you will support Democratic proposals to address the climate crisis.
As you well know, global warming is a crisis in Iowa.
I witnessed the effects of climate change multiple times since moving to our home near Solon.
The flood in 1993 delayed progress building our home as we moved from Indiana.
We experienced multiple straight line wind events that damaged the house, uprooted trees, blew down large branches, and tore through our neighborhood.
In 2008 there was record flooding that filled much of the Iowa and Cedar River basins, backing up water into the Lake Macbride watershed to within 100 yards of our home. It made roads around us impassible, and devastated Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and other nearby places.
In 2012 there was record drought which made life outdoors difficult and negatively impacted crops. In Johnson County corn yield decreased from 171.9 bushels per acre in 2011 to 132.4 in 2012, a 23 percent drop.
On Aug. 10, 2020 there was a derecho which took down one tree and damaged several others on our property. My greenhouse lifted in the air like Dorothy’s farmhouse in the Wizard of Oz. Winds up to 140 miles per hour destroyed 70 percent of the tree canopy in Cedar Rapids.
I know about climate change from living it as do most Iowans.
I don’t expect you to agree with everything Democrats propose. We both know that’s not how legislation works. I urge you to find common ground with other members of the Congress and take needed action to prevent and mitigate the worst effects of our warming planet.
I signed up to be a mentor for the Climate Reality Leadership Corps virtual, global training this month. There are more than 500 mentors this time. It’s a chance to meet new people who are taking climate action. The training is also a form of renewal.
I attended the Chicago training in 2013. Since then I mentored groups in Cedar Rapids, and twice virtually. It is a unique kind of work. It is based upon Vice President Al Gore’s slideshow, An Inconvenient Truth. Gore updates the slides continuously and presents it so attendees get a current and terrifying picture of the state of climate change on Earth. It is a crisis.
Sleep came slowly after viewing the first half of the presentation last night.
I wasn’t terrified by the terrifying information Mr. Gore presented. I witnessed the effects of climate change multiple times since moving to Big Grove. The flood in 1993 delayed progress building our home as we moved from Indiana. We experienced multiple straight line wind events that damaged the house, uprooted trees, blew down large branches, and tore through our neighborhood. In 2008 there was record flooding that filled much of the Iowa and Cedar River basins, backing up water into the Lake Macbride watershed to within 100 yards of our home. It made roads around us impassible, and devastated Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and other nearby places. In 2012 there was record drought which made life outdoors difficult and reduced corn yields significantly. On Aug. 10, 2020 there was a derecho which took down one tree and damaged several others on our property. My greenhouse lifted in the air like Dorothy’s farm house in the Wizard of Oz. Winds up to 140 miles per hour destroyed 70 percent of the tree canopy in Cedar Rapids. I know about climate change from living it.
What kept me up late was a newfound sense of hope. There was cause to re-engage in preventing the worst effects of the climate crisis and in mitigating its damage. I couldn’t sleep while the prospect of making a difference surged through me.
The Climate Reality Project rightly focuses on the change in society that most affects global warming: increased burning of fossil fuels. We must find alternative, renewable sources of energy, stop burning fossil fuels, and keep them the ground. We must find and adopt breakthrough technologies for electricity generation to use them to electrify transportation, buildings and industry. Agriculture must play its part by reducing emissions and sequestering carbon in the soil. Let’s put new technologies to work releasing energy for the economy in a way that will improve our quality of life. We must stop using the sky as if it were an open sewer.
I ask myself, how can I make a difference where I live? Personal change is part of solving the climate crisis. We must reduce our personal reliance on burning fossil fuels. Collective action is needed more and that means finding and organizing like-minded people in our area who are inspired to take climate action.
A solution is not evident today. I’m hopeful over the next eight days, along with my colleagues, we’ll discover and take a path forward. I’m okay with losing a little sleep from excitement about our collective future for now.