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News Analysis: November 12, 2007

posted on November 14, 2007 at 6:01 PM

Right now we're turning to one of our news analysts, David Pitt to provide us with some insight behind the headlines. A couple of stories I wanted to talk about. The first I think was just out today, and that is a couple of coal fired plants have been announced for Iowa and it's causing a range of reaction.

Pitt: There's been some discussion about construction of these two plants, one in Marshalltown and one near Waterloo. I think they've come at a time when people are talking about global warming, about the impact of burning coal to produce electricity. And so it's generated a lot of interest among people that are concerned about the environment, and also those who are concerned about generating enough power for our state to, you know, maintain growth basically.

Mundt: You're talking about trying to increase manufacturing jobs in Iowa. That's a significant burden on the state's infrastructure as far as supplying energy.

Pitt: Exactly. And I think that's the concern here. I mean we need to obviously generate electricity to maintain the growth in the state, and the technology right now is that coal -- burning coal in these plants is one of the best ways to do that. Of course, the people in the industry would believe that. People who are environmentalists and who really want to take care of the health of Iowans and look to the future, take care of the planet, you know, those that are concerned about global warming would say that this might not be the best, most efficient way to produce energy.

Mundt: Well, let's explore that for a bit. We've got the larger issue of CO2 emissions. We've also got the fact that these plants are going to be located near communities. So I mean what are they saying about those two kinds of impacts? Those are important to be considered.

Pitt: Well, there are a number of groups that have become involved, and they will be involved in testifying before the State Utilities Board, that will be considering whether or not these plants should go forward in Iowa. The reality is in Iowa 78 percent of our electricity is generated by burning coal through coal powered plants.

We have about 10 percent of our energy in the state that's now generated by our nuclear power plants, and we have one nuclear power plant in the state. And it's 6 percent from natural gas and 6 percent from renewable sources, the wind power that the Governor and other folks in the state government have been promoting.

I think there is an effort in the future to try to generate more power from renewable resources. But again, now, with 78 percent of our energy created through burning coal, it's going to be difficult to, in any quick way, switch the way we generate electricity.

Mundt: It's going to be an interesting debate, though, going before these committees and, you know, getting that layer of state approval. Something certainly to watch.

Pitt: Right. And I think, you know, there are a number of states who have banned new coal facilities in their states. And Iowa has not done that, and it looks like there's not a lot of interest in the legislature to take that up. There will be probably some discussion in the legislature, however, to try to increase the incentives and the methodology to get into more of that are renewable energy. So I think that's probably what we're going to see in the upcoming legislative session anyway.

Mundt: I want to spend just about a minute on a recent vote in Iowa City having to do with underage admittance into bars. I was going to call it underage drinking, which is what the opponents allege is happening.

Pitt: Right. This was a vote that occurred, you know, on Tuesday as part of the municipal election process. And it obviously showed that young people will get out and vote if it's something this affects them personally, and that's what happened in Iowa City.

A large percentage of the vote occurred early. They were early voters. And it actually turned out that about 57 percent of the people in Iowa City opposed this proposed ordinance that would have banned anyone under 21 from entering bars. So it looks like there was a lot of interest.

It was a record municipal election turnout, and it looks like a lot of those people, again, were university students who want the right, I guess, want the privilege, want the ability to go into these bars, indeed, if they're under 21.

Mundt: It's still going to be hard, though, to probably perfectly police this kind of situation with whatever, you know, the stamps or whatever they use to try to protect -- could the City Council come in and say, you know, we're going to pass an ordinance and just try to, you know, take care of this once and for all?

Pitt: There was some discussion of that. And I think -- I think the mayor said, you know, the City Council probably will not override, obviously, the vote of the people, but it will be discussed. There will probably be some proposals coming up before the City Council on how to control binge drinking or underage drinking in Iowa City.

Tags: Iowa news