Renewable energy will almost certainly be at the top of the agenda now that Congress has returned from its July 4 recess. The question is whether its action will be sufficient to address the challenges confronting America.
The legislation that has heretofore advanced from the Energy Committee would require that just 11 – 12 percent of the nation's electricity come from wind and other renewable sources by 2020. Congress could just as well stay out on vacation. We’ll reach 11-12 percent without the legislation, according to Department of Energy analysis. America and Iowa deserves better.
The US Department of Energy study 20 Percent Wind by 2020 concluded that ramping up wind generation to 20 percent of the nation's electricity would create over 9,000 permanent jobs in Iowa – many in rural Iowa. Seven times that many year-long jobs would be created during wind turbine construction.
Payments to Iowa farmers with turbines on their land and property tax payments to Iowa schools and local governments on wind turbines together would total over $140 million every year.
Thus, Iowa has much to gain from a strong standard for renewable energy production. Much as the renewable fuel standard boosted Iowa’s economy by growing the market for ethanol, a renewable electric standard could boost the entire state economy by prompting growth of wind farms, jobs and income across Iowa.
The future of wind energy is bright. It has made dramatic gains in efficiency over the last two decades. And it is poised to become a major economic force. But just like railroads and other major industries needed public backing at their formative states, the wind industry needs the assurance of a market to justify large critical investments in transmission lines. A strong renewable electric standard provides that market.
All of American would benefit. Renewable energy is a critical strategic industry. China and other economic competitors are making major investments in wind. We cannot sit back and allow them to take the lead and capture the manufacturing jobs and economic growth that come with innovation in the technologies of the future. Recent events in the Gulf are further evidence of the wisdom and cost effectiveness of investing in renewable and clean energy sources.
Furthermore, renewable domestic sources of energy like Iowa wind make America more secure by reducing our vulnerability to foreign nations and energy price increases.
Wind energy is practical. The Department of Energy study, published by the Bush Administration, concluded that building a strong national transmission system would minimize problems from variability in wind and wind generation. And wind electricity is affordable. The study found we could pay the cost of the new turbines and transmission lines with savings in fuel costs, plus about 50 cents per U.S. household per month. The cost is much less than attempting to maintain our reliance on foreign sources of energy and providing security for those sources.
That's a small price to pay for revitalizing rural Iowa, creating jobs, and strengthening America’s competitiveness and ensuring our energy security.
Mark Leonard is President of Leo-Land, Inc., a diversified Iowa corporation with interests in real estate, cattle, renewable energy, banking and insurance via the wholly owned subsidiaries AgCom Financial Services and AgCom Insurance Agency. Mark has been in the Purebred Limousin cattle business since 1969, merchandising live animals and frozen semen and embryos to customers in 20 countries and on 5 continents. Leonard Limousin, Inc. is one of the oldest Limousin cattle breeding firms in the United States.
AgCom Financial Services provides underwriting, analysis, consulting and loan servicing programs for financial institutions in Iowa and South Dakota. AgCom was formed in 2004 by Mark Leonard as a way to provide services to financial institutions and Agriculture and Commercial loan customers.
Mark spent nearly 20 years serving on the board and several years as Chairman of the Iowa Agricultural Development Authority, a position appointed by the Governor of Iowa. IADA administers the Beginning Farmer Loan program. Mark was instrumental in developing the Loan Participation Program which enabled the use of IADA funds for direct loans to qualifying farm operations.
Mark has also served on the board of National Association of Rural Rehabilitation Corporation, an organization that serves as liaison among state governments and the USDA to develop programs to serve the financial needs of rural America. Those programs include loan guarantee programs, rural housing loans, student loans, value-added manufacturing facilities, direct loans to farmers, and aid for market development.
For many years Mark has been active in Republican Party activities, serving as County Chair for the local GOP, and as an advisor on numerous campaigns, including the National Policy Advisory Council for President George H.W. Bush.
Mark has earned numerous awards and honors over the years. He was named as the youngest Eagle Scout in the state of Iowa in 1969 and eventually earned the Bronze, Silver, and Gold Eagle Palms. Mark was honored in 1986 by the Iowa Farm Bureau as the winner of the Iowa Discussion Meet and represented Iowa at the American Farm Bureau Convention. He was also named as the Outstanding Young Farmer of Northwest Iowa by Farm Bureau the same year. He is listed in Who’s Who Among Business Professionals and has been named a member of Outstanding Young Men of America.