Developing Renewable Energy the Right Way

In the future, rural America will provide an increasing share of America's energy needs. A recent Department of Energy study reports that wind could provide one-fifth of the nation's electricity by 2030, with Midwest and Great Plains states capable of providing the lion's share. Congress and USDA should help rural communities build lasting economic opportunities from the resulting energy boom by developing polices that support local ownership of wind turbines by farmers, ranchers, rural communities and rural workers who maintain wind energy systems.
Throughout the Twentieth Century, owner-operated farms, ranches and rural businesses strengthened rural economies and provided a better rural quality of life. We can take the same approach this century by enabling those involved with the new energy economy to share in the benefits of ownership.

However, boom and bust cycles are good for no one. Communities with wind resources will need help transitioning their economies from the boom to lasting vitality.

Finally, we must find, and government must encourage, the right approach to biofuels. Intensive cropping systems and practices that strip too much crop residue from the land release organic matter that should stay in the soil. If we continue to build the biofuels industry using flawed, unsustainable approaches, all of America will suffer the consequences eventually.

Renewable energy development has reached a watershed moment.  The choices of the new President, Secretary of Agriculture and Congress will help determine whether America's renewable energy future will bring opportunity or economic pain to rural America.

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