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Someone has to say it.
The governor’s “compromise” was not a good one.
State Senator John Vratil (R-Leawood) said (1):
She offered a compromise, which is really a hollow compromise. One of the things she offered was to approve a plant that has about half the capacity that the proposed plant has. Well, that sounds good as a compromise, but she knows as I know that a plant of that size is not economically feasible.
Luckily the “compromise” was not one to be accepted. Things could be much worse. The compromise could have been accepted, leading to either wasted expenditure on new unused coal-fired generation, or in used new coal-fired generation which inevitably leads to significantly increasing carbon dioxide emissions from Kansas–just on a lower scale by about half from the one supported by much of the Kansas Legislature. (Of co urse we are only still having this debate at this level of coverage, and a fighting chance to keep the plants from being built, because Gov. Sebelius was willing to veto the coal legislation!)
Now a gas-fired plant would have a difficulty of higher fuel prices, especially with the near-term peaking of oil and natural gas production. But a gas-fired plant can much more readily be used in concert with wind generation, because gas fired plants can keep up with most of the up and down output generation from wind turbine systems. At least such a facility would have both reduced carbon dioxide emissions that gas provides over coal, and the potential for future use as a fill-in system in a large wind generated system. But the Governor’s compromise allowed a coal-fired plant.
Unless Kansas (and other states, other nations around the world) move in the direction of significant cuts in carbon dioxide emissions (many states are aiming for 80% reductions), the impact will be so slight as to be virtually meaningless. Small steps are only meaningful in a context of the larger journey–they must not become the journey.
Any scenario in which Kansas emissions from electric generation is significantly reduced (with numbers like 60 to 85 percent reduction targets) will significantly reduce the usage of coal-fired plants electrc output. The new Holcomb plant’s output will only be needed in the context of increasing electric generation using coal-fired technology.
Even if the extremely unlikely mitigation proposals proposed as a research project alongside the Holcomb plant were to achieve the advertised 40% reductions in emissions from the new plant, this is not a reduction of Kansas emissions. It is only a decrease in the amount by which Kansas carbon dioxide emissions increase. It does not even begin to head in the direction of 60 to 85 percent reduction–not even in the same direction!
Now the chances of success of the proposed emissions sequestration technology are another story–which we will report on shortly. The point here is that even with such measures, a coal-fired plant is a step in the wrong direction.
However a combination of consumer energy efficiency measures and wind generation facilities can cost effectively provide for the needs of Kansan’s into the future. Steps will need to be taken to accommodate differences from how things have been done for decades. Kansas can step into the future as a leader, rather than following kicking and screaming with future rate payers paying the price.