Governor Kristi Noem saved South Dakota from inflation and the green agenda to save the planet by refusing to apply for a $3-million grant to study responses to climate change. But now she has to convince South Dakota’s rural electric cooperatives not to apply for a piece of the $10.7 billion that the USDA is offering to promote green energy:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture will begin to administer two loan and grant programs worth nearly $11 billion to boost clean energy systems in rural areas, administration officials said Tuesday.
Congress approved the federal spending — $9.7 billion for a grant and loan program the department is calling the New Empowering Rural America program, or New ERA, and $1 billion for a Powering Affordable Clean Energy program that will provide partly forgivable loans — in the energy, health and taxes law Democrats passed last summer.
The funding “continues an ongoing effort to ensure that rural America is a full participant in this clean energy economy,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters on a teleconference in advance of the announcement.
Rural areas can have more difficulty than more urban ones in attracting private sector investment, White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi said. The programs are intended to allow those rural areas to take advantage of an industry-wide trend to invest in clean energy production.
“There’s a favorable wind blowing here,” he said. “This allows rural communities to put up a sail” [Jacob Fischler, “Rural Electric Co-Ops to Get $10.7B in USDA Funds for Clean Energy Grants, Loans,” South Dakota Searchlight, 2023.05.16].
If co-ops take that money, would they trigger inflation… or just more of the economic development we’ve already enjoyed from greening the grid?
The money is meant not only to address the climate impacts of fossil fuel energy and reduce home energy costs, but to act as an economic engine for rural areas, Zaidi said.
Zaidi cited a Stateline analysis that showed seven of the top 10 largest gross domestic product growth increases between 2019 and 2021 had significant wind farm production.
“This is a proven driver of economic growth on the ground,” Zaidi said. “We want more folks to be able to tap into that opportunity. We’re seeing this not only translates into lower energy costs, but, to places that had been shut down, turning back on as sources of economic opportunity” [Fischler, 2023.05.16].
The fear of inflation usually hasn’t stopped South Dakota from welcoming federal subsidies. We should let a far more reality-based fear of climate catastrophe motivate our rural electric cooperatives to take all the help they can get to deploy more clean energy systems.