Two environmental groups have released a report advocating changes they say will keep Iowa at the forefront of the biofuels industry. Josh Dorner of the Sierra Club says Iowa made a big investment in corn-based ethanol — but not without some environmental costs. Dorner says the state now needs to look to the next step.
“If Iowa makes the right investments now, and put some sound policy in place, Iowa can be a leader in the biofuels economy of tomorrow,” Dorner says. He says that future economy will mean more sustained and sustainable economic prosperity for farmers, and communities all across Iowa “without a lot of the environmental problems we’ve had with corn-based ethanol.” The Sierra Club produced the report along with the Worldwatch Institute, and Dorner says it calls for more government input.
Dorner says the DNR and federal government should come up with some criteria for defining sustainability for biofuels, they should do more to monitor and regulate emissions and water use from biorefineries, and there should be incentives for using biomass instead of coal to fuel the plants. Dorner says this will require a shift in support for biofuels. He says we should take some of the subsidies that now go to corn ethanol and give them to small farmers and projects for “more efficient and sustainable biofuels technologies” and for developing the second generation cellulosic ethanol.
Dorner says there needs to be a big change in how federal money is spent for biofuels. Dorner says to protect Iowa’s valuable farmland, there should be a big increase in payments for land that’s kept in the conservation security and conservation reserve program. Dorner says they also want to start a new program that would pay farmers that value of what they would get from farming corn to voluntarily transition to switchgrass or woody trees that could be used instead of corn for biofuels.
Dorner says they also looked at the economic development potential for the biofuels industry. He says their study, done in conjunction with the United Steelworkers, found there could be 9,580 new manufacturing jobs created in Iowa for making things like making solar panels and wind turbines. For more on their report, surf to: www.sierraclub.org .