Heartland is Ready for Clean Energy Transition

August 10, 2022

Economic Development expert Connie Neininger presenting to leaders in Clinton, Indiana, in support of solar energy

All is not well in the Heart of America.
I’ve been criss crossing the upper midwest this summer in support of renewable energy, and can confirm what a lot of people already know – things have not been going well in small town America, nor have they for a long time.
Economies have been hollowed out over the last 30 years, communities are hurting, young people are leaving.

And yet these are some of the most beautiful, fruitful, abundant landscapes in the world. What’s the disconnect?

Mostly tax base. Manufacturing has been drawn overseas in recent decades, and nothing has replaced it to supply the economic underpinning for local infrastructure – schools, roads, fire-rescue, law enforcement, senior services, libraries.

The solution, of course, is renewable energy – providing tax base for communities, payments to farmers in good years and bad, keeping farmers on the land, and keeping the agricultural character of local communities.

Wind turbines, solar panels, bring in revenue, without bringing in more demands on services. They don’t require more firemen or police, more demand for water or sewer, more kids for local schools to serve. They just pay steady taxes and generate energy. I’ve heard this over and over from local leaders.
As Pine River (Michigan) Township Supervisor Kevin Beeson told me a few years ago, “I don’t need extra police because I’ve now got 90 million dollars worth of turbines. I don’t need extra fire department. I don’t have ambulance calls. I don’t have to build schools, ..they just provide a benefit of life, and a quality of life for everyone else.”

And keeping farmers on the land also keeps costs down. According to experts at Purdue University (more on this later) the cost to provide services for residential communities is triple the cost of agricultural communities.
And that kind of sprawl is, by far, the leading cause of lost farmland across the country.

The Inflation Reduction Act is a big step, but it’s just the first one. Next on the agenda is a major pushback on the disinformation poison that has held up renewable energy across the heartland. I believe we’ll win this, because every new facility that goes up just proves that all the negative stories are nonsense, and people are noticing – but it’s going to take a major effort.

I’ll be doing what I can.

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