What Iowans Really Think About Renewable Energy


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A line in a recent op-ed from an Iowan farmer, Seth Watkins, in the Clarinda Herald-Journal caught my attention: “Our future depends on a renewable, resilient, and reliable energy grid.” A statement like this might surprise you, especially coming from a state where 93 of 99 counties voted for President Trump in the 2020 election. It didn’t take much digging, however, to find deep-rooted support for renewable energy across Iowa.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which provides independent energy statistics and analysis, Iowa’s energy-intensive industrial sector makes it a top 5 energy-consuming state on a per capita basis. So how has Iowa created the energy it needs? By allowing the state’s energy market to grow and innovate. 

Iowa boasts an expansive and diverse energy portfolio that consists of large amounts of coal, natural gas, and nuclear. In 2020, however, Iowa was the nation’s largest producer of fuel ethanol, biodiesel, and wind energy. So perhaps it isn’t all that surprising that landowners in this deeply conservative state strongly support an all-of-the-above energy strategy that welcomes renewable energy.

In an article published in July, Iowa farmer Judy Neal expressed her desire to bring wind energy to her farm. The Madison County resident said, “It’s guaranteed income. Now, farmers aren’t guaranteed an income. We have our farm ground to earn income off of.” 

Renewable energy doesn’t only benefit landowners – it lifts entire communities by significantly contributing to the local economy and tax base. Areas that have welcomed renewable development have used this additional revenue to invest in police and fire services, they’ve put more money into their schools, and they’ve built entirely new roads. Instead of relying on government handouts, these landowners and communities have benefited from the free market.

Iowa’s state motto proclaims “our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.” Unfortunately, there are people in communities across Iowa (and the country) who wish to trample the rights of landowners by dictating how they can and cannot use their land. In this recent op-ed from Iowa farmer Dave Johnson, he talks about how a small pocket of NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) opposition to renewable energy has worked to restrict his liberties on his farm land. As Mr. Johnson eloquently puts it:

“This ordinance is threatening the freedoms of farmers to build wind energy. Tomorrow, I fear the same tactics can be used to threaten the freedoms of farmers to build our agriculture and livestock facilities. Iowa farmers – not the government – must remain in the driver’s seat when it comes to the future of our land.

The Conservative Energy Network believes in the rights of individuals to freely use their property as they desire. It’s pretty simple – property rights are fundamental to our American way of life. That’s why the Land & Liberty Coalition was formed in 2018 to provide a forum for those communities that have an eye toward renewable energy development. Now in 10 states, the goal of the Land & Liberty Coalition is to give local citizens a voice on their energy future.

Unfortunately, well-known conservative voices occasionally decry clean energy in response to highly-idealized, mandate-heavy proposals from the Left. It’s time for the conservative movement to have a family conversation about energy. Energy isn’t a zero sum game – all technologies are needed and should be welcomed in forging America’s energy future. Wind and solar development is a choice made by individual families and landowners on their private property. It funds local police departments and first responders. It funds schools and new roads. It’s pro-capitalist, efficient power that’s American-made – it doesn’t get more conservative than that.

If you are as passionate about protecting the property rights given to us by our Founding Fathers as we are, we invite you to take action – get involved with the Land & Liberty Coalition and sign the Energy Freedom Compact. Together, we can send a message that renewable energy development is welcome not only in Iowa, but across the United States. After all, it’s our land, our rules.