Renewable forms of energy are nothing new. They are certainly nothing new in Iowa. When you look across the Iowa landscape, you will be treated to vistas of grain fields, barns, and wind generators. According to American Wind Energy Association, Iowa is second only to Texas in the number of installed wind turbine capacity. Iowa now generates the highest percentage of its electricity using wind. That figure surpassed 40% last fall. In fact, we generate the largest percentage of wind energy of any state.
Certainly, wind is not the only method of renewable energy generation. We would be remiss if we left out solar, hydro, and biomass sources. However, these later sources only contribute about two percent of the state’s energy generation. This is according to figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)
It stands to reason with the costs of energy being what they are and farm margins being tighter, that putting in your own renewable energy system is a choice to consider. However, there has not been as rapid of growth in on-farm systems as some would have hoped. Now, lawmakers are beginning to ask why?
The Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Ag Committee, Congressman Collin Peterson (D-MN 7th) and Congressman Mike Conaway (R-TX 11th) respectively, recently discussed the trend of on-farm energy sources in a recent subcommittee hearing. It isn’t the technology, but the money that at the heart of on-farm energy expansion. Both sides of the aisle agree that technology is saving money for producers. However, funding is the stumbling block, and Chairman Peterson says that the government cannot subsidize this forever.
Ranking Member Conaway agreed with Peterson asking who is going to keep footing the bill for this? Right now, it is the American taxpayers.
However, there were other ideas from witnesses testifying at the meeting. Mike McCloskey is the Chairman of Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana. He said that Renewable Identification Numbers (RINS) could be used for more than just ethanol. They are just as viable for farm-generated electricity.
However, the stumbling block there is with the Environmental Protection Agency’s wholesale granting of waivers to oil refineries, while the costs of advancing private renewable energy programs are passed on to the American taxpayers.