There is a lot of climate-related stuff going on in Iowa. The presumption that made Iowa an agricultural center is there would be enough naturally occurring rain in the growing season to support our major crops of corn, soybeans, and hay. I’m not sure where winter tornadoes fit in. On Jan. 16, two tornadoes were sighted near Williamsburg, Iowa, the first winter tornadoes in 56 years.
There is an ongoing drought about which some local buddies and I talked on Tuesday. Our discussion centered around good yields with drought resistant seeds, pivot irrigation rigs found near Marengo, and the need to protect the Silurian aquifer where our village well draws its water. We shouldn’t want to become like western Nebraska where they are drawing down the Ogallala aquifer. Things appear to be akilter as far as atmospheric moisture and precipitation goes. Corn and beans won’t grow without rain.
It is important for our government get involved with mitigating the effects of climate change. Doing something significant is beyond the power of a single citizen or community. I wrote our U.S. House Representative this week to encourage what she’s doing already.
Congratulations on being assigned to the Committee on Energy and Commerce and for providing some history of the committee’s work in your last newsletter.
I’m writing today to encourage your work on the House Conservative Climate Caucus. I also note your participation at COP 26 and COP 27. Thank you for engaging in one of the most important issues facing our society.
While you and I may not always agree on how to approach climate solutions, I believe the science will out. If anything, you have repeated you believe in science-based solutions. I agree with that wholeheartedly.
Good luck in the 118th Congress. I’ll write again if I have any more specific requests.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide feedback.
Email to Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks on Jan. 16, 2023.
If I hear back, I’ll post the response here. I’m not hopeful she or her office will respond, as they did not respond to my last email in 2022.
With Republicans assuming the reins of government in Iowa, everything about addressing the climate crisis will be a slog. Because political work to gain more climate friendly representation during the last three cycles proved futile, we have to make do what what we have. That means staying in tune with what’s going on in the atmosphere and spreading the word as it is revealed. It will not be super-sexy work, yet it is what is needed and climate action takes a back seat to tax cuts for the wealthy.
I have confidence we’ll slog through it no matter how difficult.
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.
Governor Kim Reynolds mentioned carbon-capture in her condition of the state address during a segment on renewable energy.
I am introducing new legislation that will improve access to E15 and B20 and upgrade Iowa’s fuel infrastructure to offer higher blends. And I’m proposing that we invest in carbon-capture solutions to sustain and build on our leadership position in renewable energy.
Governor Kim Reynolds Condition of the State Address, Jan. 11, 2022.
To be clear, the governor supports carbon-capture to protect Iowa’s investments in ethanol and bio-fuels. It has nothing to do with addressing the climate crisis, and everything to do with continuing to grow corn for ethanol. We are not sure if carbon-capture even works.
“The U.S. Department of Energy invested $684 million in unsuccessful carbon capture and storage demonstration projects at coal plants under the 2009 stimulus package, a U.S. Government Accountability Office audit found,” according to Karin Rives at S&P Global. “This time, the DOE has close to $1 billion from the 2021 infrastructure law earmarked for large-scale carbon capture pilot projects, as well as $2.5 billion for carbon capture demonstrations.”
If DOE spent $684 million on carbon capture and it failed to capture carbon, why would our government increase the amount to be spent? To address the climate crisis, ethanol and bio-fuels need to go out of business. Society should develop true alternative fuels that free farmer fields to grow food crops and don’t rely on release of carbon dioxide to produce ethanol.
Fool me once on carbon capture, shame on you. Fool me a second time, shame on me.
Two corporations plan to install Carbon Capture and Sequestration technology to collect CO2 emissions at about 40 ethanol and fertilizer plants spread across Iowa. Next, they plan to permanently bury the resulting liquefied CO2 in deep rock formations in North Dakota and Illinois. I don’t know who is swallowing this malarkey. Almost no one is.
The CO2 pipeline is planned to cross Karmen McShane’s family land in Linn County.
“It’s heartbreaking,” McShane told Gannett’s Donnelle Eller for a story. “My dad is 77. My mom needs care. And he feels powerless (to fight the pipeline).”
There is a lot of that going around.
The pace of news articles on CCS is increasing. Eller wrote about it in Monday’s Iowa City Press Citizen and followed it with another article in Tuesday’s newspaper. Erin Jordan of the Cedar Rapids Gazette has been covering CCS as well. When the regular news coverage is frequent, we should read what paid media writers have to say. That’s what I’ll be doing to see how the process unfolds over the end of year holidays. This is my seventh post on CCS.
The Iowa oligarchy of agriculture decided to do this thing, so resistance may be futile unless more people than have become engaged. If McShane is typical, the train left the station and once ground is broken for the pipeline, there will be no stopping it.
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. Implementing CCS does not address any of this and is a distraction from needed action to address Iowa’s water and air quality.
CCS is premised on a vague statement that we must decarbonize the economy. People have written books on this, and just because two companies are spending big bucks on the project, the one-off process in Iowa does not address broader concerns about reducing the amount of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere as if it were an open sewer. As far as I can tell, the sole reason for the project is to protect agricultural oligarchs’ two children: corn ethanol production and fertilizer manufacturing.
To read the rest of my coverage of carbon capture and sequestration in Iowa, click here.
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.
The more sunshine that falls on Carbon Capture and Sequestration plans of Summit Carbon Solutions and Navigator CO2 Ventures the better.
On Sunday, Erin Jordan of the Cedar Rapids Gazette reported something surprising: “Scientists with the Iowa Geological Survey say the state has the underground infrastructure for sequestration here, which would allow Iowa companies to keep more of the federal tax credits for CO2 storage and build fewer miles of new pipelines.”
If CO2 can be stored in Iowa, why build the contentious pipelines from Iowa to North Dakota and Illinois?
“Elizabeth Burns-Thompson, Navigator vice president of government and public affairs, said at a meeting last week Iowa isn’t suited for carbon sequestration,” Jordan wrote. Not so fast say Iowa scientists who produced a study of the matter.
My point in publicizing this article is 1). to thank Jordan for covering an important issue, and 2). what is the rush in building the Summit and Navigator CCS operations?
The climate crisis is an urgent matter now and will escalate in importance during coming years. Before we invest dollars in an unproven, complicated scheme to protect ethanol and fertilizer production in a decarbonized economy, perhaps government should take the lead in determining whether CCS will actually work. In other locations around the world it hasn’t, for example, in Chevron’s operation in Western Australia. Asking the current Iowa government to get involved in examining project viability is contrary to the direction legislators and the governor would take us.
While the federal government budgeted a significant amount of money for CCS, how exactly it will be used is a moving target. Reuters reported “California lawmaker Ro Khanna introduced a bill into the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday that would prevent investors from securing carbon capture and sequestration tax credits if the carbon is used to boost oil production.” Given the propensity of the Congress to support CCS, it seems unlikely Khanna’s bill will see passage. As Reuters reported, “The bill… reflects deep political divisions in Congress over whether and how carbon capture can be used as a tool in the fight against climate change.” Until the Build Back Better Act is passed CCS funding won’t be final. Even then it is subject to modification by the Congress.
As the public and members of news media engage in the Summit and Navigator proposals it should be positive for Iowans. To learn more, check out our updated resource page here. And let the sunshine fall.
The language used by supporters of carbon capture and sequestration in Iowa is very specific. Not only doesn’t it include the words “climate change,” it specifically avoids mentioning it. This is a long-standing practice among major agricultural groups.
As mentioned last week, Iowa is primarily a production landscape for hogs, cattle, corn and beans where our water, air and land have been and continue to be used like an open sewer. The major agricultural groups are the Iowa Pork Producers Association, the Cattlemen’s Association, the Iowa Corn Growers Association, and the Iowa Soybean Association. Agricultural Iowa is about business at a distance from the meme farmers are the original environmentalists. To them, carbon capture is about business, not reducing greenhouse gas emissions or stewardship of the environment.
Representatives of these agricultural associations showed up in Mount Pleasant, Iowa during the 2012 drought. Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds heard their report. The words “climate change” were absent from public discussion of the drought.
The eight hundred pound gorilla in the Mount Pleasant High School Gymnasium today was the subject of climate change. Governor Terry Branstad called for a public discussion on drought conditions in Iowa and all of the governmental players were there: USDA, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Farm Services Administration. The phrase “climate change,” or any analysis of causation for the current drought was absent from the public discussion. This was a meeting about row crop agriculture and related agricultural producers and it was intended to deal with the as-is situation. The obvious problem, as Mark Schouten of Homeland Security and Emergency Response put it, “you can’t snap your fingers and make it rain.”
The eight hundred pound gorilla has returned to Iowa as the Iowa Utilities Board hears the case for Summit and Navigator to implement carbon capture and sequestration systems which include hundreds of miles of buried pipeline. The language is familiar in its avoidance of discussion of climate change.
On Monday, Rep. Chuck Isenhart attended a public information meeting held by the Iowa Utilities Board for the Navigator project in Manchester. He used Twitter to relay news from the meeting. If landowners were most concerned with restoration of land productivity in the event the CO2 pipeline crossed their property, following is a main point about the absence of climate change from the discussion:
While the project as proposed would offset the CO2 equivalent of 34.7 million barrels of oil annually, according to Isenhart, “No meaningful impact on PPM atmospheric CO2 anticipated from project.” What is the project about if not reducing greenhouse gases like CO2? “Economic competitiveness of ethanol and fertilizer producers.”
States like California and Oregon have already begun to move toward a low carbon economy, including debate on whether ethanol is a “low carbon fuel.” Let me settle it this way. Summit and Navigator are spending more than a billion dollars to ship condensed CO2 from ethanol and fertilizer plants and bury it deep geological formations. Seems like a lot of carbon dioxide production to me. Why are they doing that?
The delay by the Biden administration in release of volume requirements in the Renewable Fuel Standard for 2021 and 2022.
The ethanol industry suffered major setbacks in court with the loss of year-round E15 and at the Supreme Court on a small-refinery exemptions case.
In response to policies like the Renewable Fuel Standard, California Low Carbon Fuel Standard, and Oregon Clean Fuels Program.
President Biden rejoined the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The debate among environmentalists is whether a decarbonized economy reaches net zero emissions or zero emissions. In either case, pairing ethanol and fertilizer production with CCS doesn’t meet the requirements.
The more study of the matter, the clearer it becomes that the Summit and Navigator projects are about making ethanol “competitive” should the economy decarbonize. It is a big hedge against a government directive to eliminate the financial and policy incentives to produce corn for ethanol.
Opposing production of corn ethanol is not a popular position in Iowa because more than half of corn raised is feed stock for ethanol. However, it is the right position.
Miller-Meeks attended COP26, but her record on climate isn’t promising
To address global carbon pollution everyone must get involved. Even Republicans understand this. In response to the climate crisis, and to political pressure, Republican Congressman John R. Curtis (UT-03) launched a “Conservative Climate Caucus” last June. My member of Congress, Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks joined.
Solutions to the climate crisis will take government at all levels. In the United States, only the federal government has the reach to take effective national action which could impact the globe.
To my surprise, Miller-Meeks showed up at the 26th Conference of the Parties in Glasgow, Scotland, where she participated in a podcast with other caucus members extolling the positions of conservatives on climate.
“As a member of the Conservative Climate Caucus this issue is important to my colleagues and myself,” she wrote me in an email.
Well okay. Welcome aboard, I think.
Miller-Meeks’ votes against the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act and the Build Back Better Act, both of which address the climate crisis, indicate she is not really on board with federal climate action.
For a Republican to admit they have a problem is the first step toward recovery. Let’s hope Miller-Meeks can resist her addiction to D.C. talking points and do something positive to address carbon pollution.
~ Published in Little Village Magazine Dec. 6, 2021, Iowa City Press Citizen on Dec. 8, 2021, Cedar Rapids Gazette on Dec. 11, 2021.
When we took the land after the 1832 Black Hawk Purchase, it was decimated to make neatly cut rectangles of farmland. People are used to that now. Today Iowa farmland is used mostly as a production landscape for hogs, cattle, corn and beans. For too long, Iowa’s air, water and land have been used like an open sewer to support these operations. Farmers are used to what they know and don’t want to change. That’s true for people besides farmers.
Iowa is not an empty place where someone can do what they want with the land. A utility should not be able to build pipelines and transmission lines, or construct large-scale wind farms and solar arrays with impunity. The current crop of Iowa farmers is possessive of the right to their land and to use it as they see fit. They believe they know better than government what works here and what doesn’t. They don’t want infringement on their rights. The myth of farmers as the original environmentalists persists despite evidence to the contrary.
When solutions to the climate crisis require cooperation between large corporations and Iowa farmers there is resistance.
The new carbon capture and sequestration proposals of Summit Carbon Solutions and Navigator CO2 Ventures will confront these well-established beliefs. Even though a prominent farmer, Bruce Rastetter, is behind Summit, the rollout will follow a path familiar to anyone who knows the history of electricity transmission lines and oil pipelines here. Farmers will push back.
Donnelle Eller of Gannett stated the obvious about Summit in Monday’s Iowa City Press Citizen, “The company, a spinoff of Bruce Rastetter’s Alden-based Summit Agricultural Group, says the project would help ethanol and other energy-intensive ag industries remain viable as the nation seeks to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 to address climate change.” The Iowa governor spoke about a low carbon economy, but failed to mention climate change or how CCS fits in such a framework. This underscores a key problem with CCS. They are just out there and bottom line, it’s backers don’t give a hoot about climate change. It’s another opportunity for capital investment which could yield big profits.
The sides are already lining up for this fight.
Opponents of CO2 pipelines have also been opponents of the Rock Island Clean Line and the Dakota Access Pipeline. Rural Iowans do not speak of one mind on this yet a common theme is big money, not farmers, are behind these transmission schemes. They claim the voices of farmers are not being heard. They also claim climate change is a lie.
What is the purpose of CCS if not to address climate change? That’s the wrong question. These projects are about investing capital to get a return on investment. If the government is a source of start-up capital, more’s the better for investors. The words “climate change” aren’t needed in this transaction.
“The world must reach net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050 in order to achieve the 1.5 degree Celsius global average temperature increase limit,” according to Summit’s website. “A dramatic increase in carbon capture and storage (CCS) is crucial to achieving net-zero CO2 emissions.”
The second sentence is unlikely to be accurate. The problem is Summit and Navigator seek to change nothing about industrial use of fossil fuels. They seek a profit from ethanol plants and other CO2 emitters who keep on doing what they are doing now. CCS has become a gigantic boondoggle instead of a solution to climate change.
“Climate and other environmental and public safety concerns about CO2 pipelines are important,” Ed Fallon wrote in a Nov. 11 email. “But as with Dakota Access Pipeline, in terms of mobilizing the broadest possible coalition of opponents, the strongest argument is the abuse of eminent domain.”
In a filing with the Iowa Utilities Board, Janna Swanson, whose land the Summit pipeline would cross, had this to say about the project and climate change:
There are a whole bunch of plans to mine our tax money for revenue and the excuse is Climate Change. When using that as an excuse then any action against humans is justified.
Summit Carbon Solutions will want the right of eminent domain. They will say that because of Climate Change that their business model is for public use.
When one paints with that wide of a brush then no one’s property is off limits for anything. No one has rights.
Let’s be clear. Summit and Navigator are in the CCS business to make money, as much of it as they can. Comments like Swanson’s are setting up climate change as a talking point instead of the reality of extreme weather it is and that must be dealt with.
It is early in the process yet already many comments have been made to the Iowa Utilities Board regarding the potential CCS proposals of Summit and Navigator. If you’d like to make a comment, here’s the information.
Written comments or objections to the proposed pipeline can be filed electronically using the IUB’s Open Docket Comment Form, by email to email@example.com, or by postal mail to the Iowa Utilities Board, Attn: Docket No. HLP-2021-0003 (Navigator) and/or Docket No. HLP-2021-0001 (Summit) , 1375 E. Court Ave., Des Moines, IA 50319.
The downside of the CCS approval process is it turns rural Iowans against a second science-based phenomenon. Only 56.5 percent of Iowans are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. There is no inoculation against extreme weather made worse by climate change that Iowans already experience.
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.