American Politics of Renewable Energy

Renewable Energy in America must have a core philosophy of doing business and a real debate of working within a representative republic, the American Way.

I have been in and out of renewable energy since the 70’s and nearly full time since the late 90’s, developing the first of its kind non farmer only (LLC) dry mill ethanol plant in the US based on free market principals rather than state funded and those of a cooperative structure.

In the United States, the concept of one party driving the industry is misguided. Representatives on state level and federal are tasked with representing constituents; and indeed this principal, although to a degree in the past thirty years reflecting corruption is reality in governing.

Of my own experience of developing renewable energy systems I have fought and lobbied politicians on both sides of the isle and frankly found that the truth and facts will find its way. Sometimes it takes a boot. (Try that elsewhere in the world.)

Being a founder and pioneer of an industry I know competing interests must be drawn to the table in a true free market. In the start of ethanol and biodiesel we had not only oil, big and small, fighting us early on but even more so, small and large global ag interests – and the local farm cooperative down the road.

If you research large ag you will find their core management very active in lobby and support of the Democratic Party. As a matter of fact, in Iowa our Tom Harkin (D) along with other Democrats inhibited efforts to produce federal policy in favor of rural (start up) renewable energy companies when we were struggling to get out of the gate. Why? Please research Tom Harkin’s largest contributors. At the same time we had Republicans and Democrats in oil producing states framing policy that would restrict small renewable energy, especially biofuels, from market entry.

The made up food versus fuel debate began not with big oil but with a very large global ag company and associated food retailers. It moved onto the floor of policy debate through politicians who in my mind are confused about whom they represent, or who were just plain corrupted. Aren’t taxpaying people who elect representatives to manage government affairs, and not tax evasive monopolies, those who politicians are responsible to represent in governing?

The fact is we would not have had the biofuels lead the renewable thrust without leadership on both sides, truly representing the interests of their people and small business enterprises that are crucial in how Americans stay on top economically. And here is a fact: without George Bush, Iowa’s Grassley and Latham on the federal side and prior local leadership such as Iowa’s Terry Branstad or Minnesota’s Carlson; we would never have the biofuel industry beginning at that time in late 90’s which has escalated towards other renewable energy solutions presently in play today.

Driving forward Renewable Energy in America must contain a winning fundamental philosophy.

Some have said it is Democrat driven. If we consort with the type of market structure many Democrats prefer in their platform – that is centralized and regulated, then perhaps that is true. But how’s that working out? There are those in the renewables who favor this approach and I won’t name them here but please have a look at their political persuasion.

On the other hand renewable energy person: how will renewable energy really be utilized in the United States, or anywhere in the world as a true working alternative to fossil? Isn’t it by decoupling of infrastructure where energy is produced and used locally or regionally? How else can it be done?

Would someone please tell me how we can produce wind energy in Iowa and ship it to the coasts, or should I say how much it will cost to improve the grid (I’ve heard $ 1.3 T). And why would we want to do that with wind running 30% of the time?

Core renewable energy, which include both fuels and generation/therms, demands decentralization and making decisions on a local basis. There is no one solution to fit all. 

It also requires limitations of control by large entities and limitations of politicians not locally suited, or persuaded. This is true Republican political philosophy which is platform limited government and small business. Those Republicans not following this principal are called RINOS (Republican in name only). It is also old school Democrat, or as some call them Blue Dog which also strays into limited government and small business.

Frankly, I do not own stock in ADM, DuPont, BASF, BP, Koch or Velaro and am not trying to offend anyone within their company or you as a shareholder. I desperately want renewables and the whole carbohydrate economy to move forward in workable solutions that include economic and ecological that will be here, not just for a couple years like a bubble that may burst at any time, but set into the fabric of producers and users.

Going large is not going to get there for the long run. And putting our limited capital resources of government in the hands of large players will not solve what we all want in the renewable energy industry – success and distribution.

If we are to decouple monopolies from control over energy; why aren’t we going to decouple politicians from control over local interests and lead efforts to vote out of office those who’s policy making discriminates in favor of those seeking centralization?

Politicians must renew their commitment to a political ideal or platform philosophy of governing that we can count on. Renewable Energy in America must find its way also along those lines of effective commerce within the American Way and support leadership that adheres to principals that reduce risks of doing business due to changing, drifting or flipping policy.



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Mr. Matthew Crouse has extensive experience in start up business and project development. Utilizing his background in construction engineering, land development and construction management he applies those fundamentals to lead projects with a “can do” approach.Projects include the development of ethanol, biogas and other generation/co-generation.Matt is a founding Board of Director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association.

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