Report: Indiana Primed to be a Renewable Energy Hub for America

Major Clean Energy Job Creation Boom Seen for Economically Struggling Hoosier State

CHICAGO (October 7, 2009) - Wind power, biomass, and other sources of renewable energy will bring significant job creation, economic investment and new tax revenues to Indiana’s struggling rural communities, according to a new report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

“Facing an unprecedented set of economic challenges, Indiana stands at a new crossroads and is poised for healthy growth if it can take advantage of the enormous potential for development of its exceptional renewable resources” said report author Martin R. Cohen, an independent energy policy analyst. “With some of the world’s most productive farmland, ample water, and steady winds, Indiana has all the ingredients needed to be at the center of a new energy economy for America. Tapping into this vast reservoir of clean energy would create tens of thousands of high-quality jobs and give a big boost to farm income and rural economies across the state.”

Titled “A Clean Energy Economy for Indiana: Analysis of the Rural Economic Development Potential of Renewable Resources,” the report examines the potential for renewable energy resource development, specifically looking at how the Hoosier state’s considerable wind, biomass and biogas potential will benefit rural communities.

“A national commitment to sustainable energy production would reduce our dependence on foreign oil and improve our energy security, create tens of thousands of new Indiana jobs and revitalize rural communities, support the growth and prosperity of Indiana farms, and create a sustainable environment for future generations,” said Pierre Bull, NRDC Policy Analyst.

“The good news is that Indiana’s prospects for long-term economic recovery are directly tied to its energy future, which looks quite promising,” added Cohen. “Clean energy can bring jobs and income to rural Indiana. Within Indiana’s borders are vast resources of wind, land, and water – all the ingredients needed for Indiana to become a national leader in new energy development, creating tens of thousands of good jobs and substantial new sources of income for farmers.”

People in Indiana spend more than $24 billion per year on gasoline and other petroleum fuels, natural gas, and coal for electricity production, building heat, transportation, and industrial use. That translates to almost $3,800 in fuel costs per person—and 91 percent of those Indiana energy dollars leave the state, never to return.

Indiana’s total fuel production amounts to 6 percent of the nation’s ethanol and 3 percent of U.S. coal annually. Coal is used to produce 95 percent of the state’s electricity. Because Indiana coal is high in pollutants and relatively expensive to mine, however, utilities import most of their coal from other states, with more than one-third of it shipped from Wyoming. As an industrial center and transportation hub, Indiana is a big energy user—ninth in the country in per capita energy consumption—but most of Indianan’s energy dollars are literally going up in smoke. This drag on Indiana’s economy will only get worse if nothing is done to reduce energy consumption and to develop homegrown clean energy resources.

Among the key findings in the report: 

  • Wind Power -- Almost one-third of Indiana has commercially viable wind resources. Although Indiana saw the largest percentage jumpin wind development of any state in 2008, it ranks just 14th in operating capacity. If 30 commercial-scale wind farmswere built in Indiana, the result would be tens of thousands of construction jobs, including 1,260 permanent jobs,$71 million in annual property tax revenue, and $201 million per year in ongoing positive economic impact on localcommunities.
  • Biofuels -- Cellulosic ethanol, made from organic waste materials, crop residue, and nonfood plants is the next generation of smartbiofuels. Existing usable Indiana crop and timber residues are sufficient to produce 770 million gallons of transportation fuelsannually, equivalent to 28 percent of all the gasoline used in Indiana each year. An average corn farm could see potential grossrevenue of $14,500 from harvesting corn stover. Ten cellulosic plants, each with a 50-million-gallon capacity would create1,940 long-term jobs, $207 million in annual economic activity, and $12.4 million in local property taxes.
  • Biopower -- Electricity generation that combines solid biomass with coal at existing power plants would be a relatively low-cost way to ramp up renewable resource development across Indiana and cut back on coal consumption. Biopower is a renewable energy resource that can be stored and converted into electricity whenever it is needed. Farms across most of Indiana are close enough to an existing coal-fired plant to supply biomass feedstock. If 10 percent of Indiana’s coal-fired power capacity were replaced with biopower plants, more than 3,600 new long-term jobs would be created to produce and harvest the biomass fuel.
  • Biogas -- Methane from decomposing manure is a powerful greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbondioxide. But burning methane curbs its harmful effect on the environment and creates valuable energy with manyancillary benefits. In addition to providing a potential source of revenue and energy for livestock operations, anaerobicdigestion systems (biogas) create high-quality fertilizer and other byproducts while reducing odors, water pollution,and emissions. Biogas production is currently feasible at 234 Indiana large-scale swine operations in 34 counties, andpotentially at livestock operations in 67 counties as technology improves.

"Renewable energy is key to sustainable income for agriculture," said Jim Benham, president, Indiana Farmers Union.  "As long as we have offsets for agriculture, it's a dramatic benefit for farmers and I think the offsets will more than make up for any costs associated with climate legislation.  Failing to pass climate change legislation is not an option.  It will help American farmers and ranchers continue to provide consumers with the most affordable and abundant food supply in the world."

Sam Miller, president, Solstice Architecture; Indianapolis, said: "The potential of wind energy in Indiana is staggering. The approximate power output of the entire state is roughly 10,000 megawatts. NOAA wind mapping suggests up to 40,000 megawatts of wind power is available within our boundaries, four times the output of our present day coal based utilities."

With the right policies in place, Indiana can be at the heart of a new energy future for America. The development of homegrown renewable energy is the keystone of such policy. While Indiana has taken important initial steps to implement clean energy policies, those actions must go arm-in-arm with national policies that will move America toward a revitalized energy economy. Fortunately, the House passed this summer a comprehensive climate and energy bill entitled “America’s Clean Energy and Security Act” that is a strong step forward towards building a clean energy economy.   Companion legislation was introduced in late September in the U.S. Senate.

A Clean Energy Economy for Indiana: Analysis of the Rural Economic Development Potential of Renewable Resources was commissioned by NRDC.

A streaming audio replay of the news event will be available on the Web at  as of 5 p.m. EDT on October 7, 2009.