By Howard A. Learner
The election campaigns are bringing hypercharged political sound bites about environmental values even though there’s strong public support for cleaner air and water, and fewer dangerous toxics in our communities.
Some SuperPACs and defensive polluters are hauling out the old myth and false dichotomy that we must choose between job creation and environmental progress. That wasn’t true 40 years ago, when the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act passed, and it isn’t true today. Let’s look at how innovative clean technologies are growing Iowa’s economy.
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 in Des Moines, Michaels Energy in Cedar Rapids and Energy Solutions-OTB in Ames are among the many businesses employing skilled workers designing and retrofitting commercial, agricultural and governmental buildings, schools and homes to be more energy efficient.
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 and solar power development are driving many new 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 state’s wind energy supply chain shows 2,300 wind-related manufacturing jobs in Iowa (www.elpc.org/iowawind).
Iowa manufacturers have much at stake in the debate over extension of the federal protection tax credit for wind power, which expires Dec. 31. Uncertainty has stalled wind power investment. 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.
Cleaner, more efficient cars and trucks save us money at the gas pump, cut back air pollution and improve our national security by reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil.
High-speed rail development improves mobility, creates jobs, spurs economic growth, and reduces pollution. Midwest supply chain businesses will soon be manufacturing equipment for new railcars and locomotives.
Modern, fast, comfortable and convenient trains connecting Des Moines, Iowa City and the Quad Cities to Chicago and Omaha, and the other Midwestern cities is an important transportation option.
Let’s separate sound solutions from the TV sound bites. We are achieving job creation, economic growth and better environmental quality together. That’s what the public wants and it’s happening.
l Howard A. Learner is the executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, a Midwest-based environmental and economic development advocacy organization with offices in Chicago and Des Moines. Comments: HowardALearner@elpc.org