Wind power, biomass, and other sources of renewable energy will bring economic investment, new tax revenues, and job creation to Missouri’s struggling rural communities, according to a report written by Martin Cohen and released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
“In this time of global economic adversity the state of Missouri is facing an unprecedented set of economic and energy challenges. Its unemployment rate is in the bottom third of all states, and rural communities, which have the state’s highest poverty levels, are especially hard hit,” said Martin R. Cohen, an independent energy policy analyst who authored the report.
The report, “A Clean Energy Economy for Missouri: Analysis of the Rural Economic Development Potential of Renewable Resources,” examines the potential for renewable energy resource development, specifically looking at how Missouri’s wind, biomass and biogas potential will benefit rural communities.
“The good news is that Missouri’s economic future is directly tied to its energy future,” added Cohen. “Clean energy can bring jobs and income to rural Missouri. Within Missouri’s borders are vast resources of wind, land, and water – all the ingredients needed for Missouri to become a national leader in new energy development, creating tens of thousands of good jobs and substantial new sources of income for farmers.”
In the context of the current economic crisis, the report notes that Missourians spend more than $18 billion every year on natural gas for heating, fuel for cars and trucks, and electricity to power homes and businesses. With a population of nearly 6 million people, that comes to $3,000 in energy costs for every person in Missouri – and most of those dollars leave the state, never to return due to the fact that eighty-four percent of Missouri electricity is generated using coal, almost all of which is shipped in from Wyoming.
Among the key findings in the report:
- Wind power –the operation of 25 moderate-scale wind farms would provide thousands of construction jobs, 550 permanent construction jobs, $15 million in property tax revenues, and $75 million in ongoing positive local economic impact in Missouri.
- Biofuels – Cellulosic ethanol, which is made from crop waste and nonfood plants, is the future of smart biofuels, and Missouri is perfectly situated to become a center of its production. Biofuel produced from existing waste biomass alone could create thousands of jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars of economic activity, and $13,000 in annual gross income for the average Missouri corn farmer.
- Solid Biomass (Biopower) – Electric power that combines solid biomass (from dedicated non-food energy crops and crop residues) with coal at existing plants would be a relatively low-cost way to ramp up renewable resource usage across the state, as it avoids a massive investment in new facilities. Replacing 20 percent of Missouri’s coal usage with locally grown biomass would create an estimated 11,000 jobs.
- Biogas – Methane from decomposing manure is a powerful greenhouse gas and also a relatively clean and efficient fuel when burned for energy. Biogas production from cattle waste would be profitable at more than 200 large-scale livestock operations in 60 Missouri counties.
“Energy derived from renewable resources is the way of the future. Investing in renewable energy resources like biomass, wind, and biofuels supports the foundation of the United States by drawing the economy back to agriculture and by revitalizing rural communities,” said Steve Flick, Board President of the Show Me Energy Cooperative (www.goshowmeenergy.com), a non-profit, producer-owned cooperative founded to support the development of renewable biomass energy sources in West Central Missouri. “But in order for rural Missouri communities to start seeing real, lasting impacts from renewable energy development, Congress needs to enact policies like cap and trade that will spur investment in clean energy and create a marketplace for development.”
With the right policies in place, Missouri can be at the heart of a new energy future for America. The development of homegrown renewable energy is the keystone of such policy. While Missouri has taken important initial steps to implement clean energy policies, those actions must go arm-in-arm with national policies that will move America toward a revitalized energy economy. Fortunately, the House just passed a comprehensive climate and energy bill entitled “America’s Clean Energy and Security Act” that is a strong step forward toward building a clean energy economy.
“A national commitment to sustainable energy production would reduce our dependence on foreign oil and improve our energy security, create tens of thousands of new Missouri jobs and revitalize rural communities, support the growth and prosperity of Missouri farms, and create a sustainable environment for future generations,” said Pierre Bull, NRDC Policy Analyst.