J500 Media and the Environment

Coal is good for Kansas? by jseverin

I have never attended a city council meeting. I have never participated in a protest (although I’ve signed a few online petitions in my time). And until recently, I have never written my state senator or representative. You could say I am apolitical. I guess I’ve always chosen education over activism to address the issues that are most important to me.

But as the battle to build coal fired plants in Holcomb, KS, raged on this spring, I felt it my civic duty to write my legislators. I knew their minds were already made up to vote for a veto override (even though they both sat through our local “Focus the Nation” event just three months ago listening to arguments against the legislation), but I fired away my messages anyway.

I was pleased to get a detailed response from my state representative, Tom Sloan. But it left more questions than answers. Here’s just a snippet of his reasoning for supporting new coal, and the queries left in its trail:

“Simply saying no to coal-fired electric generation does not result in the construction of renewable generation units.”

Maybe not, but doesn’t saying yes squelch the need for any other source of energy in our state for the time being, and put an end to opportunities for renewable development?

“The coal-fired plants would serve as anchors and financial supporters of the high voltage electric transmission lines necessary to move wind energy west to the California market and south and east to urban centers.”

When did Kansas get in the business of exporting power to the rest of the nation anyway? I thought we were an agricultural state.

“Emission standards for carbon releases from power plants, other commercial enterprises (e.g., ethanol plants), motor vehicles, etc. should be established. Currently no standards exist at the federal or state levels because scientists and policy-makers have not yet reached consensus on what levels are relevant and attainable.

Now you’re talking. So shouldn’t we give current debates at the national level time to work themselves out before we jump headfirst into increasing carbon emissions that will soon be regulated?

“Wind energy will and should be part of the energy mix serving Kansas and the nation/world. The proposed Holcomb plants will be the lowest emitting plants in the nation and will be the first plants to have carbon capture and mitigation investments as part of their business plan”.

This one totally lost me. If wind should and will be part of the mix, why do we need to add more coal? In a state where 75% of the energy produced is from coal, and most of the remainder comes from nuclear power, I’d say we have a long way to go to make wind even part of the mix. Cleaner or not, coal definitely needs to make room for it’s renewable cousins.

I could go on, but I think you get the point. I don’t doubt Representative Sloan’s sincere interest and appreciate his effort to education himself on the issue, but for me the logic just doesn’t add up. It looks more like new coal would limit our opportunities, not broaden our horizons, and make shooting for the stars even more difficult than it already is.

“Ad Astra” statue atop of the Kansas capitol. Source: flickr.com



1 Comment so far
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Jeff – this post is now up on lawrence.com at our Fresh Green Beans blog. If you don’t already have a user ID you should set one up so you can respond to comments made on your post.


Comment by vincemeserko

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