More and More Farmers are Standing Up for Clean Energy

Written by Katie Valentine

American farmers aren’t usually seen as champions of climate causes — in fact, they’re often known for their climate change skepticism. But farmers across the country have begun standing up for clean energy mandates in their states because they see them as an opportunity for profit in an increasingly uncertain industry.

This year, at least 14 of the 29 states with renewable energy mandates, which require utility companies to purchase a certain amount of their energy from renewable sources, have considered bills to weaken or repeal the requirements, none of which have passed. That’s due in part to farmers, who have teamed up with environmentalists and other pro-green energy groups to push legislators to keep the mandates. Their voices, along with the voices of some local businesses and the prospect of new clean energy jobs, have made it difficult for local lawmakers to repeal the standards.

“It’s hard to be conservative when it affects your district,” Rep. Mike Hager, the majority whip in the North Carolina House, told the Wall Street Journal.

Farmers’ reasons for supporting the mandates are profit-based: some want to ensure they still have a healthy market for leasing their land to solar and wind companies, and others want to continue to harvest their animals’ waste as fuel. With the help of anaerobic digesters, hog farmers can capture the methane from pig waste and turn it into fuel, which they can use to power their equipment or sell to utility companies. North Carolina’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard requires utilities in the state to purchase .2 percent of their fuel from hog waste by 2018 and 900,000 MWh from poultry waste by 2015 — requirements chicken and hog farmers don’t want to lose.

But regardless of their reasons, supporting renewable energy mandates, and thus ensuring that states uphold that portion of climate mitigation, makes sense for farmers, who are increasingly threatened by the effects of climate change. The 2012 U.S. drought hit the farming industry hard, with ranchers forced to sell their cattle herds and corn, wheat and soybean farmers suffering serious crop losses. Many farmers aren’t doing much better this summer: in the Midwest, the drought that began last year has ended with torrential rains, which, according to the New York Times, have “drowned corn and soybean plants, stunted their growth or prevented them from being planted at all.” Extreme drought and wildfires in New Mexico have helped cut the state’s cattle herd by more than half since 2008, and now threaten traditional, small-scale ranching most of all.

The farmers’ choice to take sides with the renewable energy industry is also another example of the surprising alliances being formed in the fight for clean energy. Earlier this month, members of the Atlanta Tea Party worked with clean energy advocates to help pass a solar requirement for Georgia Power, the state’s utility provider. The Tea Partiers — which have historically been dismissive of climate change — saw the requirement not as an example of undue government regulation but as an expansion of consumer choice. The Georgia Public Service Commission passed the solar requirement last week.

This post was originally published at ClimateProgress.

Photo from Thinkstock


Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener3 years ago

It's the only sensible way...

Penelope Melko
Penelope Melko3 years ago

One comment about the mandates. JP. Morgan manipulating energy prices.
An investigation found improper trading practices were used at the company's Houston-based subsidiary JP Morgan Ventures Energy Corp. Photograph: AP
US energy regulators have hit JP Morgan with $410m in penalties after accusing it of manipulating electricity prices in California and the mid-west.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said the bank used improper bidding strategies to squeeze excessive payments from the agencies that run the power grids in California and the Midwest.

The agency said JP Morgan has agreed to the penalty, although the company disputes the violations. The penalty includes $285m for the federal government, and $125m for ratepayers.

The agency recently levied a $453m penalty on Barclays, Britain's second-largest bank, for manipulating electricity prices in California and other western states. Barclays is disputing the allegations.

FERC's enforcement staff said its investigation had found improper trading practices were used at the company's Houston-based subsidiary, JPMorgan Ventures Energy Corp.

The energy unit used five "manipulative bidding strategies" in California between September 2010 and June 2011, and three in the mid-west from October 2010 to May 2011, FERC said. The agency that runs the mid-western power grid, now called the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, covers all or parts of 15 states and the Canadian province of Manitoba.


Penelope Melko
Penelope Melko3 years ago

Someone commented on how to prevent birds, bats and flying creatures from colliding with propeller blades. The answer is simple. Cover the propellers with grills. The computer each of you are using has a fan in it. It is inaccessible because the blades would cut your fingers or snag your hair if the fan was in the open. House fans have grills for the same reason - safety.

Jim W.
Jim Wiegand3 years ago

The setback distance for these deadly turbines should be 100,000 miles.

Penelope Melko
Penelope Melko3 years ago

The photo of driving right up to the base of the gargantuan towers is absurd and was Photoshopped! There are fences around every single wind farm for safety and liability purposes.

Vestas, for example, the Danish company and world leader in wind turbine manufacturing, had this to say to its own staff in the 2007 Mechanical Operating and Maintenance Manual for its V90 turbine: “Do not stay within a radius of 400 meters (1,300 feet) from the turbine unless it is necessary.”

It also went on to say “Make sure that children do not stay by or play near the turbine” which may place households with children well within that range.)

General Electric, the largest domestic turbine manufacturer, has refused to site towers that do not meet their own minimum published standards (1.5 times hub height + rotor diameter) for ice throw, or about 1,300 feet for a 350-foot turbine with a 300-foot rotor.

Finally, the large German turbine manufacturer RETEXO recommends setbacks of 2 km (6,562 feet) from its turbine hub, citing both safety and noise considerations.

… Setback distances of 2,500 feet or more are increasingly common among such jurisdictions, with some recently adopted ordinances specifying as much as 2 km (3 Australian provinces) to 2 miles (an Oregon County).

Jim W.
Jim Wiegand3 years ago

Unlike other forms of energy production, the mortality footprint from wind farms is unique in that it extends thousands of miles from each turbine. The public has never heard a word about this from developers or the FWS.
I believe that if the public were made aware of the extinction of species coming from turbines and the mountain of bogus studies the industry has produced, they would want nothing to do with these turbines. I also believe the majority of people after hearing the truth would rather conserve energy and would be willing to pay more for other forms of electricity to shut down these deadly turbines. It is called sharing the world , not devouring it.

Jim W.
Jim Wiegand3 years ago

cont'd........The solution starts with the truth about the impacts and that wind energy is not a solution to our energy needs no matter how many are built. They will always be a small supplement to the grid at a horrendous price. There are also bird safe wind turbine designs that the FWS and the wind industry do not want to talk about. They are more concerned with protecting profits.

Jim W.
Jim Wiegand3 years ago

No matter how anyone feels about wind turbines, no one should condone the corruption, the silent fraud and bogus studies supporting this industry. This is the discussion Gov. Peter Shumlin should be having because the selling-out of values has become an epidemic in our society

The fact is that endangered bats, whopping cranes, condors, golden eagles, bald eagles or any other species means very little to this industry. Otherwise they would not have use gag orders to silence people (witnesses) or be rigging studies to cover up mortality and cumulative impacts. We would also have an accurate population count for the declining whooping cranes. But then again this would mean more lies and posturing for the FWS or they would actually have to do something about these damn turbines.

I can not stress this enough to people...........From what I have see from looking at wind industry mortality studies, this industry and our wildlife agencies are so corrupt they might as well all be selling used cars with their odometers turned back at least 90% because this is how bad it really is. A generation ago these were the people we incarcerated and ran out of our neighborhoods. Now these same people have been put on a path of massive industrial blight and extinction of species. This man-made disaster will be the wind turbine legacy we hand our children.

The solution starts with the truth about the impacts and that wind energy is not a solution to our energy needs, no matter how many tu

Bill and Katie D.

Thank You

Lynn Squance
Lynn Squance3 years ago

Somehow, there has to be a way to harness renewable power without obliterating various flying species. If we keep going like we are, there will be no earth for the birds etc. But if too many birds are killed off by the turbines, then earth could be without some species.

What is the solution?