Recent editorials published in Iowa newspapers

Published on NewsOK Modified: September 15, 2014 at 9:01 am •  Published: September 15, 2014
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These changes won't rectify past damage, but it's a place to start building toward a better future.

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The Des Moines Register. Sept. 13, 2014.

Iowa's collection of courthouses will remain at 101, at least for now

It appears Lee County will continue to have two county seats and a courthouse in each. After several months of discussion and debate, the Lee County Board of Supervisors this week dropped a proposal to consolidate the county functions in Fort Madison.

As every schoolchild in this state knows, Iowa has 99 counties. But pupils who paid close attention in geography class might recall that it has 100 county seats and 101 courthouses. Here's why: In addition to the 99 seats of government in each county, Lee has county seats and courthouses in both Fort Madison and Keokuk. Pottawattamie County's seat of government is in Council Bluffs in the southwest corner of the large county and a second courthouse is located in Avoca in the northeast corner.

The siting of the county seat in Lee County has been hotly debated almost ever since the county was carved out of the territorial wilderness in 1836. According to LeRoy Pratt's seminal 1977 history of Iowa counties, a special election held in 1845 created "bitter arguments, torchlight parades, 'a few fist fights,' and 'enough flaming jealousy to set the river afire.' "

The Legislature finally stepped in and by a special act in 1848 created dual courthouses and county seats in Fort Madison and Keokuk. The debate still simmered, however, and the question of whether there were really two county seats has been the subject of several Iowa attorney general opinions and decisions of the district court and the Iowa Supreme Court.

County officials again recently brought up the idea of consolidating county offices in Fort Madison, and a citizens committee recommended moving the whole works to Montrose, located between the two cities.

So the supervisors' decision to drop the issue is probably not the end of the discussion. The county officials deserve credit for wanting to eliminate duplication in government, but they will have to make the case to people of southern Lee County that it is in their best interests, too. And avoid the fistfights and torchlight parades.

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Sioux City Journal. Sept. 14, 2014.

Cellulosic ethanol production holds promise for nation

In a ceremony fit for a king (King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands was in fact, in attendance, joining city and state dignitaries), leaders of Poet, a South Dakota-based ethanol company, and Royal DSM, a Dutch biotechnology company, celebrated the start of a new chapter for the ethanol industry in Iowa on Sept. 2.

The event was a grand opening for the state's first commercial cellulosic ethanol plant, a $275 million facility in Emmetsburg. The plant will produce 25 million gallons of ethanol each year from corn plant residue left in the field such as cobs, leaves, stalks and husk.

Last week, Quad County Corn Processors opened a $9 million cellulosic expansion of its ethanol plant in Galva, Iowa. A $225 million DuPont Danisco cellulosic ethanol plant is under construction in Nevada, Iowa.

For the industry, this state and, indeed, the nation, cellulosic ethanol production represents a significant, if not historic advancement and holds substantial future promise.

"This is the very tip of the iceberg," Jeff Broin, Poet founder and chairman, said in Emmetsburg. "What we see today is a symbol of what can be accomplished through the miracle of nature, the work of the farmer and the power of human ingenuity."

The reality of cellulosic ethanol production — in the face, we might add, of skeptics like Patrick Kelly, a policy adviser at the ethanol-foe American Petroleum Institute, who called cellulosic ethanol a "phantom fuel" — provides more evidence of the need for continued federal support (including no reduction in the Renewable Fuel Standard) of what remains a young industry undergoing groundbreaking change through science. To, in effect, pull the rug from under ethanol and its potential at this key moment in its evolution not only would devastate the industry and corn states such as Iowa, but would be short-sighted and counterproductive with respect to national priorities like reduced greenhouse gas emissions and energy independence.

As we have said before, if the federal government wishes to reduce or end support for renewable fuels like ethanol, then it should reduce or end support for all energy producers, including oil. Tax writeoffs for the oil industry amount to billions of dollars each year.

Because we wish to see this nation become energy independent, we in principle are comfortable with the idea of federal support for all forms of domestic energy production.

As the nation's leader in ethanol production and as one of the nation's leaders in the production of wind energy, Iowa stands in a key position as America moves toward energy independence, as do Nebraska and South Dakota, who also rank among America's ethanol leaders.

Regardless of political party or philosophical differences on other issues, it's imperative for state and federal officials in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota to continue staking out common ground in robust support for ethanol and spirited opposition to those, including influential oil interests, who would stop its momentum.