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The Right Course Creates New Opportunities

September 22, 2016
Emmetsburg News

To the editor:

I am not now seeking a public office nor do I have any intention of doing so. That gives me more freedom to express my personal opinions about how the State of Iowa is sacrificing its longer term economic potential in favor of short term gain.

We can start with ethanol. I think it can be accurately described as nothing more than a corn disposal program. It has done very well in that regard. Corn is not food, but feed for livestock and poultry. Our potential to produce it far exceeds the needs of those primary consumers. Ethanol has been effective in soaking up the surplus. We also have to concede that anyone seeking a political office in our state would forfeit any chance of winning by speaking against ethanol. As a solution to any energy challenge, however, it is a long term loser in my opinion. Iowa State University should be aggressively researching alternative crops that will meet the needs of a rapidly growing world population. One possible avenue is to alter the corn plant so the grain provides a more complete diet for human consumption. If the corn plant can be altered to resist a chemical invasion that kills every other growing plant, this should not be an insurmountable obstacle. It might be crucial to the longer term food needs of the planet.

Now, we come to wind energy. I think it has considerable potential, but to me the question is, "Who is going to control it?" Ideally, I think it should be controlled locally. Perhaps corporate interests have already made that objective unlikely to be achieved. I am no expert, but I think it likely that the most efficient use of wind energy would be its use close to the point of production. Battery technology is rapidly improving. Perhaps this locally produced wind energy could be used to recharge batteries for use in vehicles, plus providing electricity to the community. I think we can best achieve energy independence if we do it one community at a time.

Next, there's solar. In 1980, I bought some stock in a company that was producing the first photovoltaic cells. At that time, these cells could produce about enough energy to power a wristwatch. The ability to purify silicon has improved the efficiency of solar to a point where some alleged experts believe it will be our primary energy source in the future.

Longer term thinking is seldom a part of political discourse, but I think with the traditional good sense of the Iowa population, a course can be set that will make the future of our state very bright. The right course will create new opportunities that will renew our rural communities and reverse the decline in rural population that has persisted for decades.

(signed) Alan Oppedal

Ruthven, IA



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