Iowa Can Be National Model for Next-Generation Biofuels and Renewable Energy Development

The U.S. state of Iowa could realize significant economic and environmental benefits by transitioning to a sustainable, next-generation biofuels economy, according to a new joint report from the Worldwatch Institute and the Sierra Club. The report, Destination Iowa: Getting to a Sustainable Biofuels Future, provides policy recommendations by the Sierra Club that build on Worldwatch research on sustainable biofuels as outlined in the recent global study, Biofuels for Transport: Global Potential and Implications for Sustainable Agriculture in the 21st Century.

“We’re pleased to have this opportunity to translate Worldwatch research into action,” says Christopher Flavin, Worldwatch Institute president. “Together, the Sierra Club’s grassroots influence and Worldwatch’s respected cutting-edge research will spotlight the potential for sustainable energy to revitalize Corn Country on the eve of the 2008 Iowa Caucuses.”

The report launch was covered by local media including the Des Moines Register, The Cedar Rapids Gazette, and The Des Moines Business Record, and on radio and television broadcasts throughout the state. Sierra Club representatives also met with the staff of Iowa governor Chet Culver and with representatives of the Farmers Union and United Steel Workers.

While Iowa has benefited from the present surge in corn prices and rising ethanol production, the rapid increase in production has had far-reaching consequences for the state’s environment and economy. The report lays out an alternate scenario for the bioeconomy of tomorrow—one that could bring sustained benefits to family farmers and communities across Iowa while also providing diverse environmental and health benefits throughout the state and beyond.

Destination Iowa assesses the present state of biofuels in Iowa, charts a course for making the current, corn-based bioeconomy more sustainable, and lays out the policies and practices that can make Iowa a model for the nation in the development of renewable energy and the next generation of biofuels. These policies can provide greater and more sustained economic benefits to family farmers and local communities. They can also protect Iowa’s rich farmlands, conservation lands, and wildlife; enhance Iowa’s environment; and help Iowa provide solutions to climate change.

Some of the report’s suggestions for a sustainable biofuels future include:

  • Putting emphasis on the development of cellulosic biofuel technologies and developing the infrastructure to harvest, transport, and process the new crops.
  • Funding more conservation practices in agriculture, such as low or no-till agriculture, planting cover crops, and creating riparian buffer zones; and supporting farmers who want to invest in sustainable cellulosic fuel crops like switchgrass and mixed prairie grasses.
  • Demanding more local choice in the development of biofuel refineries and demanding better oversight of biofuel refineries’ emissions into the air and water.
  • Encouraging innovative financing to keep the next generation of biorefineries locally owned.
  • Increasing financing and incentives for the use of diverse renewable energy technologies, such as wind and solar power.
  • Destination Iowa is the first report produced through a new partnership between the Worldwatch Institute and the Sierra Club. The report was unveiled by the Sierra Club at an event in Des Moines, Iowa, featuring state legislators and speakers from other organizations that are also interested in moving Iowa toward a more sustainable biofuels future. Future reports and fact sheets from the partnership will examine biofuels at the U.S. national level.