The gap between rural and urban Iowans

There has been a steady stream of talk in recent years among Iowa’s political leaders and news media about a supposed polarization between rural and urban Iowans.

What’s missing from this mainstream punditry, of course, is any analysis of issues where the vast majority of Iowans find common ground. And right now, there’s nothing more popular among regular Iowans than opposition to proposed corporate CO2 pipelines.

Three CO2 pipelines are currently being proposed through Iowa. Navigator, a Texas-based developer, is proposing to build a pipeline to pass through dozens of Iowa counties linking ethanol and fertilizer factories to an underground storage site in southwest Illinois. Summit Carbon Solutions has already applied for permits to build a 2,000-mile pipeline through Iowa to North Dakota’s oil share region. The third pipeline proposal, a joint venture between ADM and Wolf Carbon Solutions, would pipe CO2 from ethanol facilities in Cedar Rapids and Clinton to ADM’s existing Decatur, Illinois, storage facility.

Rural Iowans all over the state are standing up to these proposed pipelines and calling for our elected officials to take action to protect our land and property rights. Whether Democrat, Republican, or Independent, we don’t want our state using eminent domain authority to back these massive corporate projects that pose serious public health risks to people and wildlife. The public benefits are minimal, if any, accruing only to pipeline investors and those attempting to garner public relations benefits for the ethanol industry. Further, we don’t want to set a dangerous precedent for the next big company that wants to use other peoples’ land using eminent domain to make their big bucks.

As a recent example, rural Iowans in Poweshiek and Linn Counties have been meeting with their county supervisors and city council members to support hazardous pipeline ordinances that would protect local people from potential pipeline damages. While the local officials are still considering the ordinances, Navigator has already decided to move their proposed route to other areas where they no doubt hope local opposition will be less vocal. And Iowans from all over the state are demanding that their county and municipal governments pass the same local protections.

Pushback against CO2 pipelines is coming from grassroots groups like Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and other members of the Iowa Carbon Pipeline Resistance Coalition, and also through Iowa’s political parties. A large group of pipeline opponents involved with the Iowa Democratic Party is currently questioning why the party is minimizing this critical issue during the 2022 election cycle. These rural Democrats recently fought hard to successfully change the party’s platform to include CO2 pipeline opposition.

Part of the reason Iowa Democratic Party leaders could be ignoring their grassroots base is because of corporate financial support from POET, the largest ethanol producer in the country. POET recently sponsored the state Democratic convention. POET is also a key partner involved with the proposed Navigator CO2 pipeline.

This is the exact kind of insider, big-money politics that alienates voters in rural Iowa. Polling conducted in March showed that 80% of Iowa voters no matter their political affiliations were opposed to carbon pipelines. 73% of Iowans in the poll said that they would be less likely to vote for a candidate that supported these pipelines.

It’s beyond frustrating to see the Iowa Democratic Party decide to hit the mute button on an issue with so much potential. How are statewide candidates without much rural experience, like Democratic Governor candidate Deidre DeJear, going to differentiate themselves from Republicans on rural issues this November? It seems like too many party leaders are more interested in collecting corporate donations from POET rather than delivering on the issues that matter to the vast majority of rural Iowans.

Barb Kalbach is a 4th generation family farmer in Adair County, Registered Nurse, and board member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. Barb can be reached at

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