Environmentalists expect Biden’s win to boost Iowa’s renewable energy industries

Iowa is one of the nation's top producers of wind energy. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)
Wind turbines in the Storm Lake area are part of Iowa's renewable energy industry. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Iowa environmental advocates on Monday said the election of Joe Biden as president could have far-reaching implications for Iowa’s renewable energy industry, environmental protection and efforts to fight climate change. 

One of the state’s largest environmental organizations, the Iowa Environment Council, saw plenty of promise in the outcome of an election, even as President Donald Trump and allies have launched court challenges to try to overturn the results.

“We expect the new administration to reverse years of unraveling environmental regulations and put the nation and Iowa on a path to a cleaner, healthier planet,” said Angelisa Belden, environmental council spokeswoman. 

“We hope to see expanded federal opportunities that will encourage the expansion of clean energy, including solar and wind development and energy efficiency; the expansion of transmission lines to deliver Iowa’s clean energy to the rest of the U.S.; and farm policies that encourage sustainable practices,” Belden said. “We’re also interested in policies that will encourage the adoption of resilient infrastructure as we continue to see increased impacts from severe weather and flooding as a result of climate change.”

Iowa is one of the top U.S. producers of wind energy and leads the nation in ethanol production. The state has endured floods, drought and a devastating derecho in the past few years.

Like many in the environmental, industrial and agricultural arenas, the council is watching closely to see who Biden appoints as administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The current head of EPA, Andrew Wheeler, has close ties to the coal and oil industries and has faced calls to resign over approving exemptions to a federal law requiring oil refineries to blend a certain amount of ethanol with gasoline. 

“Our hope is that the agency moves away from its unhealthy support of the fossil fuel industry and overturns the relaxation of policies on dangerous fertilizers, chemicals, and other damaging pollutants,” Belden said. 

The council also welcomes Biden’s plan to have the United States pursue the recommendations of the Paris Agreement after President Trump moved to pull the country out of the agreement. 

Mandelbaum: Biden election buoys climate change work

Josh Mandelbaum, a Des Moines City Council member and senior attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center’s Des Moines office, was planting trees on the south side of Des Moines shortly before he heard news organizations report that Biden was projected to win. 

Josh Mandelbaum is a Des Moines City Council member and senior attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center’s Des Moines office. (Photo courtesy of city of Des Moines)

“From an environmental perspective, the Trump presidency has been as bad a presidency as we’ve seen,” Mandelbaum said. “From that perspective alone, it’s a very welcome change.

He said the Biden-Harris campaign “really placed an emphasis on addressing climate change” and it already has a prominent place on Biden’s transition website.

“I think there are going to be significant opportunities to make progress on climate change, and more importantly for Iowa clean energy solutions,” Mandelbaum said. “We will see opportunities for wind, solar, integration technologies, and energy efficiency solutions that are as simple as creating better infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists and in transit systems.” 

The Iowa Chapter of Sierra Club endorsed Biden in the presidential race. The national president of Sierra Club, Michael Brune, sent a letter to supporters urging them to make sure Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris stay true to their campaign promises to address climate change and protect the environment. 

“After four years of attacks on our natural treasures and environmental safeguards from the Trump administration, we have to ensure Biden is laser-focused on the environment and human health from the moment he takes his seat in the Oval Office,” Brune wrote. 

The national nonprofit Environmental Working Group, which often analyzed trends in Iowa and has a Midwest office in Ames, put out a statement endorsing Biden’s platform for environmental issues. 

“During the campaign, the Biden-Harris team laid out a bold agenda to get the pandemic under control, address systemic racism, tackle the climate crisis, protect the environmental health of Americans from toxic chemicals like PFAS, and aggressively transition the country to clean energy,” wrote Ken Cook, co-founder and president of the group. Environmental Working Group will work to help Biden achieve those goals, he added. 

“The voices of science, facts and reason must again be heard and heeded as the Biden-Harris administration fights to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals in our food, water, air and everyday products,” Cook wrote. 

Should the election projections stand, Biden and Harris will take office at noon Jan. 20