Archive for March 6, 2010
Iowa House Kills Flood Prevention Bill
While our legislators in the Iowa House were busy giving $15 million to Warren Buffet and MidAmerican Energy, (see Paul Deaton's post below) they have oddly decided that there is no money in the budget for better managing Iowa's flood plains to prevent future flooding to our farms and communities, something that is very likely to occur, given the reality of global climate change, increasing weather extremes, and urbanization of the natural environment.
I can imagine a future scenario where the nay sayers to this important legislation will be one day quoted as saying, “Nobody could have predicted….” Sound familiar?
From Senator Joe Bolkcom's newsletter, The Networker:
Last week, I reported that the Senate passed SF 2316, a bill to prevent future flood damage to communities and farms by better managing our flood plains. The very modest bill squeaked by on a vote of 26-20. Senator Rob Hogg (D-Cedar Rapids) has championed this effort in response to the 2008 Iowa floods.
This week the bill was pronounced dead in the Iowa House. See who opposed the bill. As we continue to struggle with 2008 flood recovery and with spring flooding predicted throughout Iowa, this is an amazingly short-sighted defeat.
HF 2399: A Gift From Iowans to Warren Buffet
by Paul Deaton
is a real need to reduce Iowa's carbon footprint and nuclear energy may play a role. Rather than ask MidAmerican Energy to repeat the
past, the legislature should look north to Canada and invest in
Should Iowa rate payers provide Warrant Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway and MidAmerican Energy Holdings $15 million to check out nuclear power for Iowa? The Iowa House said we should, approving HF 2399 in a 91-7 vote on March 2. In fact, HF 2399 would require “certain rate regulated public utilities to undertake analyses of and preparation for the possible construction of low carbon emitting nuclear generating facilities in this state…” I can imagine MidAmerican President William Fehrman saying something like, “sure, we could do that, but it will cost you.”
Why would Iowans want to spend money to do this study, when MidAmerican recently did a similar study and found that nuclear energy was not financially viable?
In December 2007, Berkshire Hathaway, turned its back on nuclear power. According to the Institute of Science in Society, “MidAmerican Nuclear Energy Company scrapped plans to build a plant in Payette, Idaho, because no matter how many times the managers ran the numbers, and they have already spent $13 million doing so, they found they could not balance the books.” So if MidAmerican Energy Holdings, in which Berkshire Hathaway holds an 89.5% interest, found nuclear energy to be untenable in Idaho then, why would it be tenable in Iowa today? If the sage of Omaha found nuclear power to be a bad investment, then why does the Iowa legislature persist in advancing this bill? I don’t agree with a lot of things Warren Buffet says and does, but on this one, he seems smarter than many Iowa legislators.
The Iowa legislature may be reacting to the need to decrease carbon emissions in Iowa. This is a real need, and nuclear energy may play a role in reducing Iowa’s carbon footprint. Rather than ask MidAmerican Energy to repeat the untenable past, the legislature should look north to Canada and invest in the future.
The province of Ontario, Canada understands what needs to be done to protect the environment and protect human health from the deleterious effects of burning coal. The government of Ontario had the political will to recognize the negative effects of coal on humans and to legislate the elimination of coal-fired power generating plants by the year 2014. Ontario is on track to be one of the first jurisdictions in the world to eliminate coal-fired electricity generation. They will be accomplishing this by using a mix of energy sources, including renewables. Ontario’s Green Energy and Green Economy Act also addresses the transmission grid that delivers electricity from the generation points to customers.
If a person hangs out with electricians, what we learn is that Iowa’s initial investment in wind energy took place in what T. Boone Pickens called the “wind corridor” in central and western Iowa. What we are seeing now is that wind turbines are being built in locations where the wind is not optimal for power generation. Why? To avoid additional transmission expense by locating the turbines closer to the grid. More important than nuclear power is updating the electrical grid.
What the Iowa legislature has done in HF 2399 is concoct a way for rate payers to spend $15 million on a study, the end result of which might be to replace what electricians call the “baseload” of coal power with a “baseload” of nuclear power. Even though we already know that nuclear power is very expensive, too expensive, according to Warren Buffet. HF 2399 ignores one of the most important aspects of making Iowa energy independent, investing in expanding our electricity grid to make it “smart.” The “smart grid” is another post for another time.
As the bill rushes through the shortened legislative session and hits the Senate next week, we should urge our Senators to vote no on HF 2399. Instead, the legislature should take real steps to move Iowa towards energy independence and reduce our carbon footprint. A dalliance with nuclear power studies and a company that has been around the block before may sound like romance, but when we think about it, one wonders about the relationship.
Deaton is a native Iowan living in rural Johnson County and weekend
editor of Blog for Iowa. He is also a member of Iowa Physicians for
Social Responsibility and Veterans for Peace. E-mail Paul Deaton