This July 4, let’s declare energy independence and embrace homegrown renewable energy all across Iowa.
I am a Navy veteran who served at the time of the first Gulf War. Looking at what’s happening in Iraq now, and seeing energy prices spike once again, it feels like deja vu all over again. And it has me thinking about the links between our continued dependence on fossil fuels and the way our military forces are used to defend oil.
In the Navy, one of our key jobs was to keep sea lanes open in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean for oil tankers. You talk to the average sailor, soldier, airman or Marine, and they know our involvement in the whole Mideast region is tied in part to energy.
Historically, we have spent a lot of money and resources -- and sacrificed American lives — because of our energy posture. If the price of gas included the entire cost of making sure the oil gets here — including the military operations that guarantee the worldwide flow of oil — you’d be astonished at the price at the pump.
We must do things differently.
The patriotic alternative is to shift America toward a more energy-independent stance. In the face of future conflicts, such a move would help our nation be smarter and safer about when and where to use our military. It would send fewer of our men and women in uniform into harm’s way. It would keep us from sending so much money to regimes and factions that do not always have our country’s best interests at heart.
For Iowa, a more energy-independent stance means embracing renewable, sustainable, homegrown energy and encouraging clean power generated locally. We have already done this with wind, which has been a bipartisan success story at a time when many other states are engaging in political battles over energy. We are a national leader, generating more than 27 percent of our state’s electricity with wind power, according to the American Wind Energy Association. This has brought with it thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investment into our state’s economy.
Now solar energy is coming on strong. And we grow the raw material for ethanol. Companies in our state are exploring energy sources like switchgrass and biogas as well. These are all home-grown energy sources that together with efficiency can help us stand on our own two feet, energy-wise.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers took a step in the right direction recently when they boosted the solar-energy tax credit. And the Iowa Utilities Board has heard from people all across Iowa — from farmers to corporate giants like Facebook and Microsoft, which have data centers in our state -- who embrace clean, local power, often called distributed generation.
It makes business sense. Right now, we are sending hundreds of millions of dollars out of state every year to buy coal to generate energy. When I sat on the Iowa Transportation Commission I learned our number-one import by rail is coal. What an investment it would be in our state’s future to burn less out-of-state coal and to use the money we save to generate energy and create jobs right here in Iowa.
By embracing alternative energy on a larger scale we would ensure American leadership in a strong worldwide economic sector. Global investment in clean energy was more than $47 billion in the first quarter of this year alone, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Iowa can be clean, green and growing all at the same time. Embracing efficiency while investing in renewable energy will be good for our state and our nation — and for those in uniform who defend us all.
Many of my fellow politicians don’t like to link our Mideast involvement to our energy needs, but everyday military folks know this factors into our involvement. They will do what’s asked of them, because that’s what men and women in uniform do.
But if we can put fewer of our fellow Americans in harm’s way by broadening our energy base and including renewable, sustainable energy in the mix, we should do it — and lead the world to a more secure and more sustainable future. That would be a fitting way to celebrate Independence Day.