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East vs. West — The shot over the bow



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Time and again your author has heard legislators mention a divide of sorts between the populous East, and the Western counties of the state of Kansas. We in the East have our coal-fired power plants now, so we can afford to suggest that Western Kansas not build another.

Now consider another perspective–that the realization is sinking in that global climate disruption is serious business, highly worth a great deal of effort. Where to start? Don’t go in the wrong direction and build more greenhouse gas emitting power stations. Luck has put the next power station proposal in someone else’s backyard where we in the East can more easily ignore the pain of high electric rates and potential for brown outs if steps are not taken to mitigate.

Another unspoken fear exists for legislators who are not ready for the dramatic. This is the opening shot of a long and difficult period of change. The Governor of Kansas recently signed the Midwestern Regional Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord (1), which is an agreement (not exactly in these words but in equivalent language) to reduce carbon emissions 60 to 80 percent. That is in the range of four out of every five units of present energy expenditure being replaced with some other method by which we and our technolgy functions. And that balanced across almost every sector of our lives. People should study and understand why so many Governors around the United States are making such agreements, they should study what scientists are telling us about future consequences of not acting.

We are not going to reduce or change four out of every five units of carbon dioxide emitting sources of energy in the next fifty years, and do it only in Western Kansas, even if the East had a club big enough to demand that. No, most of the energy related changes must take place in the populous and energy consuming East!

Your author has watched governments spend 10, 20 years on simple improvements. The steps needed here are much more involving of people’s lives. If we don’t get the discussion started, the world wide climate disruption “experiment” will already be over before we actually decide to do anything about it, and our children may very likely look back at our generation’s failures and their suffering because of it. That is not reasonable when we are in a position to make such significant progress because of our own special resources: wind, ingenuity, and sun. The long history of the Midwest is one of overcoming difficult situations to make for proud and vigorous communities.

The East must start making the very same changes we may ask of the Western part of the state. Start with conservation and efficiency changes that can by themselves (if vigorously sought) make much more of a difference than a new power plant.

One “threat” from the West was that if they could not get the power plant they wanted, they would build power lines to the East and use our coal fired plants to get it (2). Actually that is not a bad idea. Building a superior power transport grid across the state will help the West in the short term, and help bring wind-generated power when available back to the East in the longer term. That is an idea worth exploring.

More important is the realization that this is not a problem for the West–it is a problem mainly for the Eastern populated portions of the state.

If we build a new coal-fired power plant and then go home, the discussion will languish. Let’s solve the problem in a way that moves Kansas into the future.

Reference (1): Midwestern Regional Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord

Governors Sign Energy Security and Climate Stewardship Platform and Greenhouse Gas Accord

Washington, D.C. – Ten Midwestern leaders – Governor Jim Doyle of Wisconsin, Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Governor Chester J. Culver of Iowa, Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan, Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio, Governor M. Michael Rounds of South Dakota, and Premier Gary Doer of Manitoba – today signed the Midwestern Regional Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord.

Reference (2): New York Times Citing Global Warming, Kansas Denies Plant Permit

At the Sunflower Electric Power Corporation, which would be the operator and part-owner of the plant, a spokesman, Stephen J. Miller, said the court decision merely permitted regulations on carbon dioxide but did not create them. “There are no carbon dioxide regulations in the federal rules or in Kansas,” Mr. Miller said.

A spokesman for the environment and health department, Joe Blubaugh, said, “What it really boils down to is the secretary is authorized by Kansas statute to affirm, modify or reverse a decision on an air permit to protect health and the environment of Kansas.”

Mr. Miller said that if the plant cannot be built, the cooperatives would try to build a power line to import electricity from a coal-fired plant planned in Missouri.

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