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Climate is at stake in presidential race

PIERRE -- The buffer strips proposal coming from Gov. Dennis Daugaard began with Sen. Jim Peterson of Revillo in the 2016 legislative session. The Republican governor vetoed the bill the Democratic lawmaker had passed. Now with a variety of techn...

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PIERRE - The buffer strips proposal coming from Gov. Dennis Daugaard began with Sen. Jim Peterson of Revillo in the 2016 legislative session.

The Republican governor vetoed the bill the Democratic lawmaker had passed. Now with a variety of technical and legal revisions the governor too wants to reward helping our environment.

It offers a property tax reduction for landowners who plant strips of grass 50 to 120 feet wide between private farm ground and public water bodies.

The grass strip reduces soil erosion and slows run-off that contains agricultural pollution.

The intent is to protect water quality. There could be other benefits such as wildlife habitat.

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It is the latest piece of tax subsidy that shapes environmental behavior in South Dakota.

For decades state government's official policy has offered motorists a tax break of two cents per gallon on motor fuel using 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline.

Another official state policy for many years was to provide direct payments from the government to ethanol producers who turned corn into fuel in South Dakota.

These cost our highway program millions of dollars per year.

State policy also offers tax breaks for production of electricity from wind. Federal policy likewise offers tax breaks for wind power.

During the town meeting at Avon, an opponent of the Prevailing Winds project said tax policy led to the controversial proposal to put up to 100 turbine towers.

It is commonly stated that wind power relies on the tax subsidies. We have at least two major manufacturers of wind-turbine components in South Dakota now.

During the 2016 legislative session, lawmakers offered similar tax subsidies for solar power.

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This week, the city of Pierre will mark start-up of a solar-panel field at its airport. A utility district is behind the project.

Basin Electric, a major generator of power for rural electric cooperatives across the Dakotas, has made renewables - aka wind, primarily - a growing piece of its supply.

Basin has its own wind fields and buys electricity produced by others. Basin might add more wind power by 2019.

Meanwhile, the coal industry was decimated during the past seven-plus years of President Barack Obama's industry. If you believe in climate change, this was a major step.

A big railroad project to haul more Wyoming coal through South Dakota died as a result.

The Dakota Access pipeline, its construction now at a standstill over tribal people's protests in North Dakota, is intended to bring more oil to market.

So was the Keystone XL pipeline, which didn't get a permit from the Obama administration to pierce the Canada-U.S. border. Both pipelines would run through South Dakota.

The presidential election will shape the future of carbon fuels such as coal and oil and renewables such as wind and solar.

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Republican Donald Trump probably grants the Keystone permit. Democrat Hillary Clinton probably wouldn't.

Clinton wants to reach the Paris-agreement targets for U.S. carbon reduction by 2025 and 2050 that President Obama embraced.

She wants a half-billion solar panels installed by 2020 for a seven-fold increase.

For many voters, the future of our planet's climate is at stake this presidential election.

Related Topics: ENVIRONMENT
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