It’s one of those cold, white-bright days of winter. We’ve not had many like it this January. Instead, we’ve been walking around outdoors in our shirt sleeves, sneezing from pollen allergies and having a lot of little conversations about the unusual warm “spell”.
We’re experiencing climate change, of course, and it’s not a spell, but a new norm. Nearly everyone recognizes that something’s going on. Sometimes I feel like a character in Twin Peaks, exchanging knowing glances with the neighbors over these changes we cannot speak of because it’s somehow become radical to openly declare that climate change is happening, even though people in all walks of life can see it plainly. I’m thinking about farmers, landscapers, urban planners, builders, utility managers, insurers, scientists, oceanographers, biologists, botanists, power plant operators….
Republican candidates courting those vitally important Iowa voters may find that some of their rhetoric about peeling back programs sticks. But they’d better be careful about including renewable energy on their theoretical chopping block.
In fact, given how strongly Iowans support wind power, they might want to tamp down the calls for more oil drilling.
During periodic visits to see relatives and friends in the Upper Midwest, I’m always watching for signs of climate change, and movement toward greener living. It’s not idle curiosity. Effective responses to climate change will be critical here where so much of the world’s corn, beans and wheat is grown. I’m also interested because I know that the climate changes predicted for this region may not appear to be connected to global warming. In the Southwest, the U.S. is heating up and drying out, exactly what most people expect to see from global warming.
When the boys and girls of Spirit Lake, Iowa, load their backpacks for classes this fall, each child in grades 5 to 12 will be packing a lap top computer provided by the school district.
This bit of good fortune was funded by a special initiative. But it is not the first time Spirit Lake has stepped up to embrace new technology. In 1993 – when “renewable energy” was not widely discussed — it became the first school district in the nation to install a wind turbine, a move that has saved the district some $200,000 in energy costs.
When that pokey Wind World 250 KW turbine, financed by the state and a federal grant, was paid off, Spirit Lake put up another turbine, this one a hefty 750 KW NEGMicon, in 2001.
Watch out San Francisco, you’re not the only city striving to put electric cars on the road. Today, you’ll be joined by Elk Horn, Iowa, where Coulomb Technologies is installing EV charging stations.
The Danish Windmill in Elk Horn (Photo: DanishWindmill.com)
After a ribbon-cutting today, four ChargePoint stations will be available for public use in the small city between Des Moines and Omaha, thanks to support from Iron Eagle Technologies, the Danish Windmill, AmericInn Motels and the Elk Horn Service Station. Coulomb’s distributor Carbon Day Automotive also joined this group effort to bring clean renewable energy to Elk Horn.
Eight Midwestern states have agreed to work toward the common goal of developing high speed rail in the Midwest, and hope to access $8 billion in earmarked federal dollars to fund the new services.
Governors from those states — Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin — signed an agreement on Monday, saying they support each other in seeking federal dollars to build a high speed rail network. The hub of the network would be in the Windy City, and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley along with five of the governors attended the Midwest High Speed Rail Summit to solidify the agreement.
Chicago already serves as a hub for Amtrak and many freight lines. The new plan would bring high speed rail into the mix, which advocates say could transform and green transportation in the the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes regions.
If you’re looking for the small, family farm, you can find it in history books. Or in Iowa. Amid the oceans of corn and hogs being raised by giant industrial concerns is a small but tenacious under-current of small farmers determined to make it on 60 acres, give or take, on their own terms.
These small business owners (they’re not just in Iowa of course) are gambling that America’s taste for organic and naturally grown vegetables, grains and meats will sustain them as they revive trusted old methods, (like enriching the soil with natural compost), and incorporate technology that fits with their humane, sustainable model.
There’s hope on the horizon for these mavericks: Consumer demand for natural products is soaring. Organic agricultural production, despite more than doubling in the last decade, can barely keep up. Groceries and schools are increasingly looking for local food sources.
Phil and Marjorie Forbes, with part-time help from both their parents, are one farm family trying restore the land to feed this growing market. We talked with Phil during a visit to central Iowa, where he’s been farming outside of Kolona since the 1998.
Wind energy officials, manufacturers and providers have gathered in the Windy City this week for WINDPOWER 2009, a conference expected to draw some 18,000 people.
Kicking it off on Tuesday, four governors from the Midwest along with the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission appeared at a news conference.
The presence of so much executive clout demonstrated just how important wind has become, rising from a small player on the energy scene merely a few years ago to becoming a leader in the movement for low-carbon, job-creating clean energy solutions.
The American Wind Energy Association released its annual rankings of industry leaders today, among manufacturers, producers and states with the greatest wind production capacity.
First the states: Texas leads the nation with the ability to produce 7,118 Megawatts of power, or enough to keep 1.75 million homes in electricity.
It is followed by: Iowa (2,791 Megawatts of wind capacity); California (2,517 Megawatts); Minnesota (1,754 Megawatts); Washington (1,447 Megawatts) and Oregon and Colorado (each with just over 1,000 Megawatts).
A softening economy and a milder-than-usual winter contributed to a decline in carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. power plants in 2008, according to a new report from the Environmental Integrity Project.
EIP officials noted that the decrease is a departure from the recent trends, with power plant carbon dioxide emissions having risen 0.9 percent since 2003, and 4.5 percent since 1998, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.