Midwestern farmers, facing drought, see a future in wind farms

The worst drought in recent history is making life uncomfortable for many farmers across America’s grain belt. While the diminishing supply of corn has sent the prices of corn skyward, livestock farmers and those farmers not lucky enough to have a crop at all this year have really suffered. Some progressive farmers have already diversified, taking advantage of a wind energy tax credit to create clean, domestic, renewable energy at their farms, as an additional source of revenue, and a hedge against the uncertainties of farming.

The tax credit was set to expire at the end of the year, but has recently been revived in the Senate. It’s got its share of detractors. Exelon, a midwestern energy utility with operations across several states, opposes the tax credit due to competition with its nuclear capacity.

Exelon has found a champion in Mitt Romney, who has vowed to squash the renewable energy tax credit if elected president. This may win Romney huge campaign checks, but Romney’s cuddling up to dirty energy companies has its backlash among voters. In Iowa, according to a report by the LA Times, 7,000 jobs have been created in wind energy. In Ohio, the number is at 5,000, and growing rapidly.

In addition, wind power across the midwest has largely been a subsidy for Republican districts: 81% of all tax credits have been given to districts currently represented by a Republican in the House of Representatives, according to the U.S. Wind Industry Annual Report.

We’ve already seen how green jobs have transformed the political landscape in Virginia, from a solidly red state to a state that is increasingly tending Democratic. The loss of those 13 electoral college votes in the heart of the confederacy is particularly damaging for Republicans. As the LA Times reported, wind energy benefits rural America, and Romney’s opposition to such a common sense job-creation and energy independence policy has hurt him in Ohio and Iowa, two key swing states in the upcoming 2012 election.

In the end, it is a window into the stark choice we have as a nation in the 2012 election. We can cling on to fossil fuels (while subsidizing them directly and indirectly), or we can really turn our attention to creating jobs in the clean economy, putting power back into peoples’ hands, and support renewables.

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Photo courtesy of Shutterstock


Written by Scott Cooney

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride.


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