3rd District candidates split on Paris Agreement, other environmental issues

By: - October 24, 2020 5:02 pm
Iowa is one of the nation's top producers of wind energy. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Wind turbines frame an Iowa sunset. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

The candidates for Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District seat are divided over how to address climate change and other environmental issues.

Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne supports the Paris Agreement on climate that President Obama endorsed but President Trump moved to withdraw from.

Republican challenger David Young, whom Axne unseated in a close election in 2018, opposes the agreement. He argues that other major countries haven’t committed to needed greenhouse gas emissions reductions. He also fears the cost to businesses expected to address the agreement.

Young said Iowa has a big role in fighting climate change with the emphasis on wind energy and growing interest in solar, both of which can replace fossil fuels tied to climate issues. 

“The climate is changing. I believe it. How do we get ahead of it?” said Young. 

Axne wants to see new legislation.

“We need to put a bill in place to support moving towards net zero emissions and lowering greenhouse gases,” Axne said. “And that’s where there’s an opportunity, certainly for us in Iowa to be a key part of that on carbon-capturing on our farms and allowing us to reap some benefits. I see this as a huge opportunity for Iowa.”

Young defended Trump’s rollback of regulations, in cases where the rules have outlived their usefulness. “Do regulations from 100 years ago still make sense when our economy and technology are changing? I think there needs to be more transparency on regulations, always based on sound science.”

Both candidates endorse ethanol, nearly a political requirement in Iowa, the top producer of both corn and the ethanol made of the grain. 

Young said he has been disappointed to see Democratic and Republican administrations consider waivers to allow refineries to sidestep required purchases of ethanol. He added that he was glad to see EPA deny some waiver requests recently.

“It seems that some of these refineries that have received some of these waivers (after claiming economic stress) have been making some pretty darn good profit, into the billions (of dollars). I don’t think they’re hurting,” Young said. 

Axne said the ethanol issue is another one that pits the interests of the wealthy against middle-income families. 

“I’m tired of seeing hardworking Iowa farmers be put on the back burner so that we can fill the pockets of rich shareholders of you know, big fossil fuel companies like Chevron, for gosh sake,” Axne said in an interview.

Axne noted she started an investigation into the waiver’s the Trump administration has considered to allow small oil refineries to sidestep requirements to blend ethanol. 

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.