Behavioral, public policy seminar on solar energy is coming to the University of Iowa


Via the University of Iowa’ Office of the Vice President for Research.

By Eleanor Hildebrandt | October 26, 2021

Five panelists are coming to the University of Iowa on Wednesday to discuss the need for expanded solar energy at an event titled “Decarb 2040.”

The panel is comprised of academic, community, and industry experts who plan to present research on how decisions regarding the adoption of solar power in different locations are made. The presentation will take place on Oct. 27 from noon until 1:30 pm.

Following the presentation, a Q&A will focus on future research and funding opportunities. The panel consists of the following guests:

  • Chris Hoffman, Vice President of Solar PV Sales, Moxie Solar 
  • Ion “Bodi” Vasi, Associate Professor of Sociology and Management and Organizations
  • Charlie Nichols, Linn County Planning and Development 
  • Travis Kraus, Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities 
  • Rachel Kilberg, City of Iowa City Assistant City Manager

The event is held via Zoom. Undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, staff, and faculty are welcome to attend. Individuals can register here.

The University of Iowa’s Office of the Vice President of Research is hosting the event which aims to focus on Iowa as an energy exporter in the coming era of decarbonization. Iowa has abundant resources in solar and wind energy as well as bioenergy. The recent research focuses on how the state could use these resources to become a net exporter of energy by 2040 based on current plans to focus on energy sources that use less carbon.

Wind industry asks Congress for long-term production backing


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | October 22, 2021

Leaders of the offshore wind industry in the U.S. are calling for Congress to invest in ramping up production of wind energy.

The industry called on Congress to invest during a House Energy and Commerce Committee panel on Thursday, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch. The Biden administration is also making a push for wind energy development to meet the president’s climate goals during his term. President Joe Biden set the goal of generating 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030 when he first started his term. Currently, the country generates 42 megawatts of offshore wind power. The plan to increase investment in wind power could reduce carbon and create jobs.

At Thursday’s committee meeting, Republican members of the committee voiced their concerns about discussing offshore wind power when energy prices are rising and colder weather approaches. Democrats argued the significant cost of climate change made the discussion important to the committee.

No commitment to increase investment into offshore wind power was made on Thursday, but industry leaders said the commitment needs to be long term to ensure competition.

Northeast Iowa farm co-op fined thousands for chemical discharge


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | October 20, 2021

A northeastern Iowa farmers’ cooperative agreed to pay a $6,000 fine for a discharge of ammonia.

Last year, the illegal discharge drained into a creek that feeds into the Turkey River, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch. The river is more than 150 miles long and flows into the Mississippi River. The pollution killed fish and other species present in the river. The dead fish tipped off a local fisherman who notified authorities in July 2020.

A state investigation followed that traced the pollution back to a drainage ditch in the region. The anhydrous ammonia drained into a water storage area at the Three Rivers FS Company. The company agreed to pay the fee without denying or admitting they were at fault.

The quantity of the fertilizer contamination is unknown at this time. The fertilizer was highly attracted to water and the Turkey River. According to an Iowa Department of Natural Resources order in September, Three Rivers consistently pumped snow melt and rainwater into the water storage area. Following the pumping, the water flowed into the creek.

Since the original ammonia leakage, Iowa DNR Environmental Specialist Jessica Ragsdale told the Dispatch the company has altered their practices .

Iowa to see PFAS water testing


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | October 19, 2021

Iowans could will soon see testing for “forever chemicals” in their water supply.

State officials are preparing to begin testing specific water sources for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly referred to at PFAS. The chemicals can lead to cancer and other health problems. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources intends to start testing in the next few weeks, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch. The water monitoring will begin in central Iowa.

PFAS regulation has increased in recent months. In mid-June, the Environmental Protection Agency established a council on the chemicals. The council is specifically tasked with reducing the potential risks caused by these chemicals. Before the creation of the council, U.S. Representatives and Senators were pushing to reclassify PFAS.

The risk of PFAS is low, Supervisor of the Department’s Water Quality Program Roger Bruner said. He said a team from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources will go to municipal water sources to sample the drinking water.

Iowa previously tested drinking water for PFAS during a federal monitoring system from 2013 until 2015. The original tests did not show any significant levels of contamination. There is no definitive date for when the results of the 2021 tests will be released to the public.

Iowa Climate Statement 2021 press conference covers in-depth climate issues


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | October 15, 2021

Following the release of the 2021 Iowa Climate Statement, authors and signatories spoke with reporters to answers questions about climate issues in the state on Wednesday.

More than 200 professors and researchers signed the tenth annual statement. Chairman of Environmental Science and Sustainability at Drake University said the groups is “trying to identify the things we need to do to adapt to the climate regime,” at the press conference.

The statement specifically pointed at the summer 2020 derecho, a long-lived wind and rain storm often referred to as an inland hurricane. On the Zoom call, Gene Takle, an Iowa State University agronomy professor, said since Iowans don’t know when, in what form, or where an extreme weather event could occur down the road, there is a strong likelihood of another widespread power outage.

In August, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated the weather event caused more than $11 billion in damages across the Midwest region. In Iowa alone, power was knocked out for more than half a million households across the state. Some Iowans waited two weeks for power outages to end according to Iowa Public Radio. Another weather event like the derecho could cost Iowans even more if the strength of the state’s infrastructure does not improve.

Co-director of the Center for Global and Environmental Research Jerry Schnoor said “people do realize this is a serious issue and that we will need to act.” He said the pushes towards renewable energy and other climate goals in the state are not happening fast enough.


The 2021 statement and the recording of Wednesday’s press conference can be found here.

Revisiting Iowa Climate Statements: Increased frequency of dangerous heat events


Via the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | October 12. 2021

In 2019, Iowa climate activists were concerned about the frequency and severity of dangerous heat events. Through the Iowa Climate Statement two years ago, signatories informed Iowans they would be seeing more extreme weather disasters in coming years.

The statement focused on the Earth’s surface continuing to warm at an unprecedented rate, as recent years continually breaking records for the hottest years on record. Hundreds of Iowans signed the climate statement, agreeing that Midwesterners ware seeing dramatic changes in weather with changing rainfall, higher humidity, and warmer nights. Many homes in lower-income areas across the U.S. were not equipped with air conditioning units, leading to more incidents of heat stroke and potential fatalities.

The 2019 Iowa Climate Statement suggested adaptions to these increasingly severe and frequent heat events would require more preparedness, increased energy usage to cool houses and buildings, changing livestock facilities, and halting outdoor work in extreme heat conditions.

Two years later, heat remains the leading cause of weather-related deaths. Another concern from 2019 that remains is the risk to animals with increasing temperatures. Hogs, cattle, and poultry are essential to Iowa’s agricultural industry and the animals continually are at risk of dying from extreme heat events alongside human beings.

Iowa has seen record-breaking heat waves in the past few months. Heat advisories were administered across the country, including in the Midwest where Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois saw several days where temperatures ranged in the 100s. Concerns regarding dangerous heat waves continue in Iowa as they become more frequent and severe, as predicted by the Iowa Climate Statement in 2019.

Iowa Climate Statement 2021 will be released on Wed. Oct. 13.
The eleventh annual Iowa Climate Statement 2021: Strengthening Iowa’s Electric Infrastructure will be released on Wednesday, October 13, 10:15 am at a Zoom press conference and live on CGRER’s Facebook page. The lead authors of the statement will present the statement and take questions. 

Revisiting Iowa Climate Statements: A Rising Challenge to Iowa Agriculture


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | October 8, 2021

One of the biggest climate issues facing Iowans eight years ago was the rising green house gas emissions according to the 2013 Iowa Climate Statement.

While this is still a major concern, dozens of people signed on to the 2013 Iowa Climate Statement. The statement discussed how green house gas emissions and climate change were disrupting Iowa agriculture. Following two years of massive droughts, Iowa saw the one of the wettest summers in the state in 2013. The constant extreme weather in Iowa threw the agriculture sector for a loop. Climate change also causes an increase in soil erosion alongside intense rain events and droughts in Iowa. This leads to degraded agricultural production across the state.

In 2021, Iowa saw a severe drought across the state throughout the summer months. Extreme weather events continue to cause stress to plants and crops across the board. Both climate change and green house gas emissions still concern Iowans and climate activists across the globe.

Iowa Climate Statement 2021 will be released on Wed. Oct. 13.
The eleventh annual Iowa Climate Statement 2021: Strengthening Iowa’s Electric Infrastructure will be released on Wednesday, October 13, 10:15 am at a Zoom press conference and live on CGRER’s Facebook page. The lead authors of the statement will present the statement and take questions. 

ISU professor becomes MacArthur Fellow for sustainable farming work


Via Iowa State University.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | October 6, 2021

Iowa State University Professor of Natural Resource Ecology and Management Lisa Schulte Moore became the first MacArthur Fellow at the university following because of her sustainable farming research.

Schulte Moore will receive $625,000 from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to continue her work focusing on sustainable farming, climate change, and water quality. According to The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Schulte Moore has a long history of receiving grants for her research, including a $10 million federal grant she won to research turning biomass and manure into fuel.

Alongside researching sustainable farming and climate change, Schulte Moore focuses on the fields of agriculture, ecology, forestry, and human-landscape interactions. She’s been at ISU for 18 years. With more than 100 scientific and educational articles to her name, Schulte Moore co-founded the Prairies STRIPS project which used science-based trials of rowcrops integrated with prairie strips to further the development in prairie conservation. In a statement released by the university, Schulte Moore said her job is putting together a puzzle that requires her to look “for the missing puzzle piece.”

“I’ve found that sometimes you have to build and paint the puzzle piece yourself, and that’s part of the fun of science,” she said.

Wildfire season sets record for days on high alert


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | October 5, 2021

In 2021, the United States Forest Service saw more days on the highest level of wildfire preparedness consecutively than ever before.

Forest Service Chief Randy Moore spoke to the United States House of Representatives subcommittee on Sept. 29 regarding the increasing intensity and of wildfires. Moore said the fires are getting harder to control, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch. Wildfires started in January across the western United States and they continue to burn into October. Millions of acres have burned as fewer firefighters fight the flames, according to Moore.

In June 2021, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources issued air quality alerts due to winds from the West Coast changing the air quality in some Midwestern states. Iowa saw poor air quality on various days throughout the summer because of the wildfires throughout the west. Wildfires are also worsening by scaling mountains and reaching higher elevations than in previous years. According to The New York Times, 50 percent of these fires in 2021 were started by lightning. The other half were traced back to a variety of human-made causes, including power lines and cars.

Moore said these wildfires are milder than in past years based on a couple of metrics, but with fewer firefighters they become tougher to fight. The 2021 season did, however, start earlier than normal.

Iowa farmers to see carbon capture pipeline


Via Flickr.

Eleanor Hildebrandt | September 20, 2021

Some Iowa landowners recently received notification that a new carbon capture pipeline wants to stretch across their land.

Summit Carbon Solutions, a company that looks to decrease greenhouse gas emissions through the permanent storage of carbon dioxide, intends to build a 710-mile pipeline. According to The Des Moines Register, the pipeline would cross 30 counties within Iowa. The company is headquartered in Ames, Iowa. The pipeline intends to capture emitted carbon dioxide in Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, and the Dakotas.

The pipeline would compress the gas into liquid form and would be the longest-ranging carbon sequestration pipeline. The plan would push the liquefied carbon emissions and transport them to North Dakota to permanently sequester them a mile underground. The pipeline would transport these chemicals nearly 2,000 miles.

The process of carbon-capture pipelines has issues, like leaking issues that can cause individuals near the pipeline to get sick. Iowa farmers are also concerned about the impact the pipeline could have on Midwestern soil. Some Iowans are also questioning the effectiveness of a pipeline like Summit’s to capture emissions.