In the race to usher in a clean energy economy, Wisconsin is losing badly… to Iowa

December 23, 2023 5:00 am
electric car charging station

A drive through Iowa shows a state that has far surpassed Wisconsin in its embrace of wind power and also makes it easy to charge your electric vehicle. | Getty Images

When was the last time you drove through Iowa? If it’s been a while, brace yourself. You’ll discover just how far the Hawkeye State has come — and just how much Wisconsin is falling behind. We Wisconsinites have a lot to be proud of, but I must admit I was humbled during a recent road trip when I experienced how much more our neighbor to the southwest is doing to usher in a clean energy economy.

I drove with my husband and two preschoolers from southwest Wisconsin to eastern Nebraska, which meant a five-hour drive across the state of Iowa. We piled into our electric car bracing for a long ride, loaded with snacks and Encanto soundtrack at the ready. But the drive through Iowa was so much more than mile after mile of corn. I saw more wind turbines along Interstate 80 than on any stretch of road I’ve ever traveled. Iowa is one of the top wind-producing states in the country, and it shows. Many Iowa farmers have embraced wind energy because it’s compatible with growing crops, boosts farm income, and helps their state become energy independent. We need to do the same in Wisconsin, which by the way is dead last in the Midwest when it comes to wind energy production. Our neighboring states produce between four and 17 times more wind energy than we do.

I was also impressed with my smooth public charging experience in Iowa. Many drivers hesitate to make the switch to electric vehicles because they’re concerned about being able to conveniently recharge. In our drive across Iowa, charging our electric car was as easy as stopping at a gas station.

In fact, we did stop at a gas station, a Kum & Go — the Iowa equivalent of Kwik Trip. The chain wisely recognizes that incorporating electric chargers at their gas stations is a smart move as electric car sales continue to grow. We stopped, ate lunch at the attached Subway, and were on our way without delay

I also appreciated that in Iowa, we paid to charge our car based on the amount of electricity we used, not by how long it took us to recharge. Wisconsin law forces drivers to pay by the minute instead of by the amount of electricity they put in their cars. Fortunately, there is a bill in the Legislature right now seeking to rectify this and put Wisconsin in the same lane as other states that have figured out how to make charging fair and convenient. It would also open the door to federal funding to pay for a charging network across the Badger State.

As you hit the road for the holidays, chances are you’ll see that clean energy and electric cars are becoming a way of life and not just on the coasts. We can absolutely lead on these clean technologies here in America’s Heartland. Iowa is already doing it. It’s time for Wisconsin to step up.


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Chelsea Chandler
Chelsea Chandler

As director of climate solutions for Clean Wisconsin, Chelsea Chandler draws on her experience in climate science and policy, relationships with decision-makers and diverse stakeholders across the state, and passion for environmental sustainability and justice to advocate for climate action in Wisconsin. Chelsea has worked on climate issues for over a decade in Wisconsin, the West Coast, and Latin America. She extends her advocacy for healthy communities and environment to her organic produce farm in the Driftless Area. With a mom who emigrated from Cuba and a dad from Minnesota, Chelsea grew up understanding and valuing diverse perspectives. Through her own multicultural and interdisciplinary background, she strives to serve as a translator between different people and topics. Chelsea holds a M.E.M. in Global Change Science and Policy from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and a B.A. in Atmospheric Science from the University of California, Berkeley.