Iowa’s biodiesel and wind energy sectors expected to benefit from recently passed tax breaks


Iowa generated 27 percent of its electricity from wind energy last year which ranked highest in the country. (Samir Luther/Flickr)
Iowa generated 27 percent of its electricity from wind energy last year which ranked highest in the country. (Samir Luther/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | December 18, 2014

A $41-billion package of tax breaks passed by the U.S. Senate earlier this week is expected to benefit Iowa’s biodiesel and wind energy industries.

The House passed the legislation (378 to 46) earlier this month with bipartisan support and after the Senate’s approval (76 to 16) it now awaits President Obama’s signature. Congress was unable to agree upon a two-year deal so the Tax Increase Prevention Act will extend 55 different tax credits and extensions through 2015.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) – who also serves as chairman for Senate Finance Committee – was critical of Congress for not passing the legislation sooner citing it does not provide “nearly enough time for the important provisions in this package to catalyze growth among businesses or to support families in a meaningful way. It’s not enough time to put a dent in veterans’ unemployment, to start a clean energy project and hire new workers, or to help a student who’s on the fence about whether to enroll in college next semester.”

Both of Iowa’s senator’s – Chuck Grassley (R) and the retiring Tom Harkin (D) – signed the legislation though Grassley also expressed disapproval with its “last minute approach.” With Republicans taking control of the senate for the upcoming session, Grassley said “My only hope is that in the new Congress we can make strides toward putting some certainty back in the tax code.”

President Obama is expected to sign the legislation later this week.

UI reminds students to “Power Down” over break


A flyer for the University of Iowa’s Power Down campaign. Download here.
KC McGinnis | December 17, 2014

With thousands of students and faculty finishing up the Fall semester, the University of Iowa is reminding the UI community to “Power Down and Unplug Over Break.”

The UI Office of Sustainability has forwarded a checklist to remind students, faculty and staff what electrical items need to be unplugged over winter break in order to reduce the university’s carbon footprint. Appliances like microwaves, LCD screens, printers and small refrigerators can use up substantial energy even when turned off, adding unnecessary expenses and increasing carbon emissions from power plants. The UI recommends these appliances and devices be unplugged, rather than turned off, whenever possible.

The UI also recommends turning down the heat over break, listing tips for cutting down on energy use, like opening south-facing blinds during the day. Doors and windows should remain closed whenever possible, and fume hood sashes in labs should be closed as well. Even power strips should be unplugged, since they can draw energy even when turned off or with nothing plugged into them.

Those who complete the UI’s power down checklist will be entered in a drawing to win LED flashlights.

For a helpful table showing how much energy various appliances use in power save mode, click here.

On the Radio: Agricultural initiative to curb climate change effects


Hay bales along the Maple River near Castana, Iowa (TumblingRun / Flickr)
Hay bales along the Maple River near Castana, Iowa (TumblingRun / Flickr)

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at a new initiate to mitigate the effects of climate change on Iowa farmers. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: Agriculture and Climate Change

A North American farm group is taking proactive steps to reduce the effects of climate change on agriculture.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The group – Solution from the Land – is supporting the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Initiative. The initiative aims to bring together representatives from industry and academia as well as government and non-government organizations in an effort to mitigate the effects of climate change for farmers.

The initiative follows the release of the National Climate Statement which suggests that at its current rate, the effects of climate change will be largely detrimental to crops and livestock over the next 25 years. The initiative aims to help farmers adapt to changes in precipitation and temperature.

The American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Soybean Association, and the National Farmers Union are some of the national organizations which have endorsed the effort.

For more information about the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Initiative, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

source: http://farmfutures.com/story-reducing-climate-change-risk-ag-0-120108; http://www.sfldialogue.net/SFL/press_release_9-23-2014.pdf

On the Radio: New rule to curb agricultural pollution


A tractor sprays liquid manure onto an Iowa field (Mark Evans / Flickr)
A tractor sprays liquid manure onto an Iowa field (Mark Evans / Flickr)

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at a new measure that provide stricter enforcement of rules against manure spills. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for the transcript.

Transcript: New Rule

A new rule to curb agricultural pollution in Iowa waterways is now in effect.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources, as part of a deal with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has developed a new measure which will provide stricter enforcement of rules against manure spills on livestock farms. More than 60 such spills have been reported over the last year, which have caused contamination leading to fish kills and water pollution.

The DNR is poised to inspect farms’ handling of manure more stringently, issuing fines to operations that don’t cooperate. Earlier this year, a dairy farm was ordered to pay over $160,000 for a spill that killed hundreds of thousands of fish in a nearby lake.

Iowa farms produce waste from 60 million chickens, 20 million pigs, 9 million turkeys, and 4 million cows.

For more information about the new environmental measure, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

Iowa City recognized for participation in food waste study


Composting is one way to reduce food waste. (szczel/Flickr)
Composting keeps food waste out of landfills and re-purposes it for fertilizer and other uses. (szczel/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | December 2, 2014

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently recognized Iowa City for its participation in a food waste study.

The 6-week study examined 50 households and asked volunteers to weigh and record their daily food waste. Participants were encouraged to practice four steps to reduce waste: smart shopping, smart storage, smart preparation, and smart saving. The “Food Too Good to Waste” toolkit calculated that when using proper techniques for purchasing, preparing, and storing, the average family could save between $30 and $1,600 on grocery bills each year.

The study diverted roughly 1,000 pounds of food from ending up in the Iowa City Landfill where food accounts for 15 percent of total landfill waste. The study did not separate preventable food waste (such as rotten vegetables) from non-edible organic waste (like coffee grounds).

The Iowa City Landfill has a specific facility for commercial compost. Over the past seven years the facility has diverted more the 850 pounds of waste from the landfill. The compostable material goes through a rigorous process, beginning with a microbial and bacterial breakdown of the organic matter. The material is than heated to more than 132 degrees Fahrenheit for at least two weeks to kill harmful bacteria and weed seeds. Lastly, the material goes through a 30-day curing period. In all this process takes six to eight months and the final product is sold for fertilizer and other uses at $10 per pound.

According to data compiled by the Natural Resource Defense Council, the average person throws away about 20 pounds of food each month which amounts to $28 to $43.

On the Radio: Students push for off-campus recycling


Nicolas Raymond / Flickr
Nicolas Raymond / Flickr

This week’s On the Radio segment looks at recent efforts at one Iowa university to increase recycling options for students living off campus. Listen to the audio below, or continue reading for a transcript.

Transcript: Off-campus recycling

Students at one Iowa university are trying to bring their campus’ culture of recycling to the rest of the city.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

The University of Iowa Student Government is seeking to make recycling easier in area apartments used by students at the UI. While receptacles for recycling cardboard, aluminum and plastic are widely available in UI dormitories and facilities, students are often disappointed to find much more limited options when they move off campus.

The UISG Sustainability Committee is hoping to change that by developing a petition to be signed by students and other residents who wish to see better recycling options in their neighborhoods. These changes would add minimal costs to apartment complexes, while having the potential to drastically increase recycling in Iowa City. Reports show that almost half of Iowa City’s population lacks recycling options in living spaces.

For more information about recycling, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

From the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research, I’m Jerry Schnoor.

http://www.dailyiowan.com/2014/11/13/Metro/40030.html

New ozone emission standards on the horizon


Extreme smog over Los Angeles from a 1995 archive photo. (Metro Library/Flickr)
Extreme smog over Los Angeles, as seen in an archival photo from 1995. (Metro Library and Archive/Flickr)
KC McGinnis | November 26, 2014

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is set today to release a draft proposal that could dramatically reduce ozone emissions from power plants and other sources by 2015.

At the stratospheric level, ozone acts as an important natural filter, blocking out the sun’s ultraviolet rays. At the ground level, however, ozone released from power plants is the main component of smog, a pervasive problem in urban areas that can lead to asthma and other serious pulmonary conditions. The new proposal would lower how much of this ground-level ozone is considered healthy to breathe.

The EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee earlier this year recommended ozone levels be reduced to as low as 60 parts per billion, down from the current standard of 75 ppb set in 2008 under the Bush administration. This would require power plants to implement new strategies and technologies that could accommodate those standards, leading one business group to call it “the most expensive regulation ever imposed.”

The EPA committee, however, argues that the health benefits from the measures would lead to economic benefits that would offset the costs of implementation. These benefits include increased productivity due to reduced morbidity and mortality from pulmonary conditions caused by smog and pollution. The American Lung Association supports the ozone-lowering measures recommended by the EPA, citing the gas as “the most widespread air pollutant,” with effects ranging from coughing and wheezing to low birth weight in newborns.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA must issue a new ozone proposal by next week, which environmental groups hope will be as strong as the one Obama struck down in 2011, just before the 2012 presidential election. A 60 ppb ozone standard, or a more likely standard in the 65-70 ppb range, would be a significant step toward reducing ground-level ozone to what scientists view as a healthier, more sustainable level.