The bicoastal view does not match rural reality

Storm Lake is 150 miles from the Iowa Capitol and 240 miles from the major leagues, and we have two electric vehicles. So this headline in The New York Times caught our attention: “You want an electric car with a 300-mile range? When was the last time you drove 300 miles?”

Clearly, the headline writer does not know the Midwest or Great Plains.

We love our Ford E-Transit van. It has a range of 150 miles in perfect weather. To get to Iowa City, you would have to stop in Fort Dodge and charge for at a half-hour and again in Waterloo for a half-hour. Nobody is going to do that when you can burn gas and go like heck.

Range matters out in the sticks. There are no fast-charge stations between here and Mankato that I see.

And we’re not even talking Nebraska or Wyoming.

It’s just one example of a bicoastal view of things that doesn’t account for rural reality.

Why don’t you hay-balers live on a plant-based diet? Okay, maybe, but recognize that about half of Iowa’s pork goes to Asia. And, cattle not only are tasty on the grill but they can play a critical role in healthy prairie ecosystems if you are interested in such things.

That is not to say that cramming hogs in a building nine stories high is a sustainable idea (they do that in China). Neither is it realistic to expect that you can ban feeding livestock in confinement — even in California, the debate is over square footage for porkers, not the industrial model itself.

It is simply to illustrate that our narratives are shaped by people who have no clue what an Eritrean is doing in Storm Lake, or what becomes of her if you break up the Big Four meatpackers. On Fox News, she might be called an invader if they paid her any attention at all. If you don’t appreciate the facts on the ground, it’s hard to derive answers that work.

Of course, that is the real problem in America: an informed democracy, and keeping authoritarians at bay in Mar-A-Lago. Let’s say we can do that: hold democracy intact, and survive Trump’s assault on the Constitution — the vital mission du jour. Then, the policy makers have to deliver if we are going to save America amid a climate emergency.

They have to deliver affordable electric vehicles that can run you to Des Moines and back in the dead of winter. They have to be able to do it without destroying the Land of Sky Blue Waters mining nickel. They have to do it fast and cheap. The survival of the species is at stake. We can do it.

It begins by shaping policies that take into account the vast interior of the nation where so few of us live. We are so sparse outside of Chicago that our concerns can be disregarded as data noise.

That is not a governing strategy.

If you cannot conceive that Storm Lake exists distant from anyplace important, or what we do for a living and how we get our work done, you have a hard time understanding why there would be resentment among isolated Whites whose prospects and relative position in society are eroding — told by the noise machine 24/7 that that they have a certain birthright denied by the Brown interloper.

When the well-intentioned talk about rural broadband, they call a conference for Des Moines. It’s rural. There’s corn all around it. Where is Storm Lake?

We’re here. We’re part of the problem, and could be part of the solution. Cover crops? I don’t see hardly any. Help to get a geo-thermal pump at my house? It must be in the rules promulgation stage. They say the bridge will get fixed soon, and I hope before it falls into the Little Sioux River with me on it. Is the federal government helping Storm Lake secure its water supply and safety? Not really. But why don’t you people out there eat your vegetables?

Someone someday will explain to Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden that the Senate is controlled by the vast interior where Sinclair Broadcasting owns the airwaves and the New York Times is not in the media diet.

Fortunately, Chevy is headquartered in Detroit and apparently has its bearings. It will roll out an Equinox next year with an electric range greater than 300 miles at a cost of around $30,000 (net $22,500 after an EV tax credit). I bet they sell like hotcakes.

Art Cullen is editor of the Storm Lake Times Pilot, where this column first appeared, as well as Art Cullen’s Notebook on Substack. This column is republished from Iowa Capital Dispatch under a Creative Commons license.