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Iowans Want Energy Conservation Before New Coal Plants

DES MOINES, Iowa, December 21, 2007 (ENS) – Four out of five Iowans believe energy conservation and fuel efficiency should be the focus of state efforts to meet electricity demand before new coal-burning power plants are built, according to a new public opinion poll.

Iowa officials are contemplating two coal-fired facilities proposed for construction near Waterloo and Marshalltown.

Commissioned by Iowa Interfaith Power & Light, Iowa Farmers Union and Plains Justice, the survey results are based on telephone interviews conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation December 7 to 11. Respondents were a representative sample of 1,005 adults aged 18 and over living in private households in Iowa. About nine out of 10 said they are registered to vote.

The majority that supports the “conservation/energy efficiency first” approach includes 69 percent of Republicans, 86 percent of Democrats and 79 percent of Independents, the survey found.

More than three out of five Iowans (64 percent) agree with the following statement: ” … the best energy alternative is greater efficiency and conservation to eliminate waste, combined with more wind, solar power and other alternative energy … doing this would ultimately save money in the form of economic benefits to the state, such as cleaner air, healthier children, and fewer public health risks. Therefore, we should not build additional coal-fired power plants in Iowa.”

Those agreeing include 73 percent of Democrats, 54 percent of Republicans and 68 percent of Independents.

Neighboring Kansas in October denied a permit to expand a coal-fired generating plant because of climate change concerns. Kansas Department of Health and Environment Secretary Rod Bremby said, “I believe it would be irresponsible to ignore emerging information about the contribution of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to climate change and the potential harm to our environment and health if we do nothing.”


This power plant at Ames, Iowa
burns coal and refuse derived
fuel. (Photo courtesy Ames
Electric Services)

Graham Hueber, senior researcher with Opinion Research Corporation said, “These findings are bad news for people who want to build coal-fired power plants in Iowa. The survey clearly shows that majorities of Democratic and Republican caucus goers – as well as other Iowa adults – would prefer to see an alternative that does not involve putting new coal-fired power plants in the state.”

“We find strong support here for enhanced energy conservation and a major infusion of state and private investment dollars in clean energy,” Hueber said. “It is also evident that health concerns associated with power plant pollution are seen as a legitimate public health issue, particularly when it comes to children.”

Two thirds of likely Iowa caucus goers and 65 percent of all state residents told interviewers that they favor a “one-year-long statewide dialogue in Iowa involving state officials, citizens, unions and utility company regulators to help shape the energy future of Iowa during which current coal-fired power plant plans would be frozen to allow for the most comprehensive discussion.”

That group includes 58 percent of Republicans, 71 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of Independents.

By a wide majority (88 percent) respondents said they believe that “the state government of Iowa, as a matter of formal policy, encourages more public and private investment in alternative energy to help create new jobs in the state.”

Bishop Alan Scarfe of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa commented on the survey results on behalf of Iowa Interfaith Power & Light, saying, “From the perspective of the religious communities, the recently proposed coal-fired power plants threaten rather than assist our progress towards renewable energy.”

“The intention of placing them in the demographics of our most at-risk individuals, Marshalltown with its large Latino population, and Waterloo with its greater number of African Americans may have the appearance of providing employment, but at great cost to the health of the participants, as well as the families in the proposed areas,” said Bishop Scarfe.

“Iowans have shown in this poll that they want time for discussions at the highest level of public representation,” he said.

Iowa Farmers Union President Chris Petersen said, “In a time of skyrocketing energy costs, Iowa Farmers Union supports legislation that promotes the advancement of renewable energy technology to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels and gives farmers the opportunity to own the means of production.”

Only about two out of five Iowans (42 percent) say they favor “building new coal-fired power plants in the state,” compared to a total of 58 percent who either oppose new plants or have not yet made up their mind.

The survey found fewer than one in three Iowans (31 percent) see “access to affordable electricity” as a sufficient justification for building new coal-fired power plants in the state.

Carrie La Seur, president of Plains Justice based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and a member of the Iowa Power Fund Board said, “At a January Iowa Utilities Board hearing, an impressive slate of national experts will testify that the proposed Marshalltown coal plant would be a costly mistake. Iowa’s renewable energy revolution is the answer for our power needs, not a $1.5 billion investment in 19th century technology.”

“We call on the governor to protect Iowa’s investment by giving our energy and climate planning processes a chance to work before we permit any new coal plants,” she said.

Bishop Scarfe says Iowans are keeping the global picture in mind as they consider how to meet their electricity needs.

“With all our eyes focused on the disappointing response of the United States administration to the conversation and conclusions of the Bali meeting,” the bishop said, “this is an opportunity for our own governor of Iowa to demonstrate that many Iowans are among the people within the United States who nevertheless understand the deeper implications of the crisis upon us.”

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