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How Iowa pioneered the rise of renewable energy

Every day is National Iowa Day in my book. There’s no shortage of things to celebrate in our great state. Iowa farmers feed our nation and countries around the globe. Iowa manufacturing is responsible for nearly one-fifth of the state’s economic output. For decades, the state has harnessed natural resources, built critical infrastructure and put renewable energy on the map in America’s heartland. My work in Congress aims to give voice to Iowans’ priorities and empower their work.

One such example is my bipartisan Wind Energy Incentives Act. Now 30 years since it became law — and complemented by connected efforts along the way – I’m proud of the legislation’s continued outcomes. The law helped catalyze Iowa’s leadership in renewable energy development. There wasn’t a single wind turbine in Iowa until after my wind energy tax credit. Today, clean energy sources account for 60 percent of Iowa’s electricity production. That is proof that tailored, targeted and consensus-driven policies can make sustained impacts.

Iowa farmers are among the best land stewards. Their livelihoods, whether supported by agriculture or energy, depend on protecting the environment for the generations to come. Iowa’s 13,278 megawatts of clean energy generate approximately $73.4 million in land lease payments annually. As a lifelong family farmer, I know firsthand how harsh winters and extreme heat, which have been exacerbated by recent drought conditions, can dramatically affect agricultural operations. Land lease payments offer family farmers some peace of mind and are hedges against financial shocks.

Rural areas also reap labor market benefits by embracing renewable energy. The clean power industry directly employs 5,500 Iowans. It provides for thousands of additional jobs in manufacturing, construction and transportation. These economic advantages, in turn, inspire young Iowans to consider new career training options at community colleges and local universities.

When my colleagues and I penned the Wind Energy Incentives Act, the U.S. was a net energy importer. It’s no surprise Iowans — ever pragmatic and forward-focused — had already begun developing alternative energy solutions. After all, energy security is national security. The U.S. must relentlessly pursue all-the-above solutions that shrink our dependence on foreign producers, particularly our adversaries. From a federal policymaking standpoint, that means cutting red tape and diversifying our clean energy portfolio.

Opportunity abounds in the Hawkeye State. National Iowa Day is an apt time to recognize the progress and potential surrounding renewable energy here at home. Locals and visitors alike are reminded of this each time they pass one of the many wind turbines dotting Iowa’s landscape. If the past 30-plus years are any indication, Iowa will continue to be a pioneer in energy production and take current capabilities to the next level. The federal government’s role will be to help pave pathways for the innovators on the ground, then get out of the way.

U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, a Republican, represents Iowa.

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