Office of Energy IndependenceThanks to creation of the Iowa Power Fund and Office of Energy Indepedence two years ago, Iowa is one of the first states in the nation to receive $16 million from President Obama for renewable energy and energy efficiency efforts.  

The U.S. Secretary of Energy came to Iowa to make the announcement on Monday. The $16 million is the first installment of federal recovery funds for energy that will total about $40 million.

The scoop from the AP’s Mike Glover:

Energy secretary announces $16 million for Iowa

Associated Press Writer

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced Monday that Iowa will get $16 million for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, an amount that likely will grow to $40 million as the state ramps up its efforts.

Chu said officials will monitor the initial state spending before allocating the rest of the money, but that the funding – part of the federal stimulus package – needs to be spent quickly.

“I want to shove this money out the door as quickly as possible,” Chu said at a news conference with Gov. Chet Culver and U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell, both Democrats.

Chu said Iowa is among the first states to receive the energy money. He planned to travel to Michigan later Monday to make a similar announcement.

Culver said Iowa has prepared a detailed plan for the projects and that he was confident the state would receive the remaining money from the Energy Department.

“We are well on the way to making Iowa the alternative energy capital of the United States,” the governor said. “We’re trying to be very creative in pushing forward. This money will really help us achieve our very, very ambitious goals.”

Culver made the creation of a $100 million Iowa Power Fund the centerpiece of his 2006 campaign for governor and pushed that measure through the Legislature in 2007. The federal money will feed into that fund, which finances alternative energy and energy efficiency programs ranging from wind power to research into using corn cobs to produce ethanol.

Chu said increasing the use of renewable and alternative energy sources is key to the effort to stave off climate change, which he said would have a devastating effect on states such as Iowa where food production is tied to the climate.

“Energy efficiency is a very big deal,” said Chu, who warned of increased flooding coupled with drought as temperatures increase.

As Culver gears up his campaign for a second term next year, he is renewing his focus on energy projects.

Chu’s visit was the fourth this year from a member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet. Obama himself traveled to Newton on Earth Day to highlight the wind energy industry in Iowa, the nation’s second-largest producer of wind energy behind Texas.

There’s considerable logic to Culver’s attention to alternative energy. Iowa’s ethanol industry is credited with increasing demand for corn and driving up its price. Culver brags that he already has created 2,300 “green-collar” jobs through Power Fund projects, and the federal money will only add momentum to that effort, he said.

“It will also allow us to put people to work,” Culver said. “The positive effects of the Iowa Power Fund will be felt for generations to come.”

Roya Stanley, who leads the Office of Energy Independence, said the money would be approved on a competitive basis and be spread across the state.

“It will be distributed to all sections of the economy,” she said.

Chu noted that global warming and climate change were major problems to tackle, but said he was optimistic that changes in energy policy could help those efforts.

He also said his agency was studying proposals to increase the amount of ethanol in blended fuel to 15 percent, up from the current 10 percent. If studies show the existing fleet of vehicles can operate with that blend, it’s likely to be approved, he said.

For the longer term, he said, automakers should consider making relatively minor modifications in new cars that allow them to operate on 85 percent ethanol.

“It’s beginning to be discussed,” Chu said.

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