Iowa’s renewable energy boom: Headed for a bust?

By Dave DeWitte

The Gazette (Cedar Rapids)

A  renewable energy boom that’s been a pillar of Iowa’s recession-resistant economy seems to be running out of fuel in shark-infested waters.

Ethanol producers have scaled back production in recent months, and wind energy machinery manufacturers have been forced to lay off hundreds of workers across the state as production stalled.

On any scale, Iowa’s renewable energy boom was one of biggest economic development success stories of any state in the past decade. Iowa’s ethanol production increased 733 percent from 2000 to 2011, to 3.6 billion gallons per year. The industry supports about 83,000 jobs, according to the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.

The emerging wind industry created close to 7,000 jobs in the state, according to the American Wind Energy Association. The state’s wind power capacity of 4,322 megawatts allows it to produce 23 percent of all the power generated in the state, ranking second among the states.

These mainstays of the renewable energy industry are all facing headwinds.


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