We Need More Rural Clean Energy, But…

Outreach and engagement are not synonyms; they are two different things. Having a public meeting telling communities a bunch of information and then giving them 10 minutes for a ‘public comment period’ is outreach, not engagement … Addressing communities’ concerns and engaging them in solution making to address climate change, energy security, and food security is essential. I’m not sure that’s what’s happening now.”

Flaxen Conway, Oregon State University Professor

One of the patterns we track here at Keep It Rural is the interconnected feedback loop of rural economies, climate change, the imperative for increased clean energy production, and the potential for creating rural sacrifice zones due to the unfolding energy transition. The questions are many, including:

  • Where are the minerals, raw materials, and industrial components going to come from for future non-fossil fuel energy production?
  • What will the local economic and environmental impact of that sourcing look like on the ground?
  • Can rural communities harvest any of the jobs and economic development potential from the likely boom in corresponding advanced manufacturing?
  • Are fossil fuel dependent rural people and places going to benefit from that transition?
  • What role is local, state, and federal policy going to play in determining the siting, regulatory environment, subsidies, and incentives that allow or disallow renewable production in rural?
  • How will this complicated set of issues play out with rural voters in different parts of the country?

Right now, the rubber is hitting the road on these issues in many places. Natural gas production is increasing and coastal regions are seeing expansion in proposals for liquified natural gas export terminals. Electric car factories are being proposed all over the map. CO2 pipelines are being proposed to pump gases into geological formations in the Great Plains and Southern Illinois. New large-scale mining projects are being proposed for needed lithium, cobalt, copper, and other minerals. Many rural people are pushing back against large-scale solar plants. The list could go on.

The Daily Yonder published some critical reporting on a proposed wind energy complex and potential impacts to the fishing industry off the coast of rural Oregon that I’d urge everyone to read. The package includes some great reporting, deep analysis, and local photography. The team pulled together an impressive package you don’t want to miss.

Why, oh why, can’t the state and project developers just expedite the understanding of who answers-to who and who pays for what when it comes to large developments like these offshore wind energy proposals? I know these are complicated situations, but there’s too much at stake to not take the time (and expense) to figure it out.

Oh, and don’t forget, it’s primary election day in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Texas, and (part of) Minnesota. Hope you got out there to vote if that applies to you.

Rural Reading List

We’ve got a good reading list this week, including some reporting from yours truly and three important commentaries I thought you’d enjoy.

New Bill Creates an Economic Pathway for Fossil-Dependent Communities

This bill would create a fund to help solve some of the energy transition challenges discussed above. Let’s see some action, Congress.

Commentary: Republican Opposition to Family-Friendly Policies Makes Them Anything but Pro-Life

Skylar Baker-Jordan writes about the impacts of the pending Supreme Court elimination of abortion rights for the Daily Yonder.

We’re finally making progress supporting rural tech — we can do much more

One my favorite sources for information and data on rural tech, the Center on Rural Innovation’s Matt Dunne, writes about the need for more public funding and investment focused on rural initiatives and projects.

The political math of school choice in rural Texas

Jay Leeson writes about the popularity of public schools in rural Texas for The Dallas Morning News, as the state’s GOP majority pushes an unpopular “school choice” program.

One More Thing: Guaranteed Income for Rural Black Women

Long-time readers know I’ve got a soft spot for rural-focused policies that impact poor and working-class people. On that front, you’ve got to check out the latest report from the Daily Yonder’s Xandr Brown.

Guaranteed Income Initiative to Focus on Rural Black Women in Georgia

The largest guaranteed-income project in the South will provide $850 a month to 210 low-income women in economically troubled rural counties in southwest Georgia.

It’s a much-needed “experiment” in rural places that tests the outcomes of guaranteed income on a specific population. Xandr writes that the “program will serve three counties—Clay, Terrell, and Randolph—in the most economically-troubled part of the state. Combined, the counties are predominantly Black, and the median household income range is $29,000 to $35,000 a year – about half the national figure.”

There’s a lot of evidence for positive outcomes of guaranteed-income programs in rural areas, including the short-lived expansion of the child tax credits passed during the early days of the Biden Administration as part of the American Rescue Plan Act.

We’ll watch this one closely and let you know about the results. I’m guessing that the benefits will be very positive, as these 210 women have additional regular income to pay their regular (and increasingly costly) bills.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.