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Above all, do no harm–Hippocratic oath.
Imagine: a scientific doctor tells the patient that he must loose 80 pounds, or he will suffer very destructive health consequences. The patient then goes to his nutritionist to get help with his health concerns.
The nutritionist says “Here is your diet plan. Keep eating more until you gain 15 more pounds, though you should eat 10% vegetables. Then you have to stop, and we’ll talk again.”
This is the essence of energy bills as they stand in the Kansas House and Senate, as they strip regulator’s ability to deny the permits on the Holcomb coal-fired power plants. This would mean an approximately 15% increase in carbon emissions for Kansas while scientists’ recommendations and common targets by other states are for around 80% reduction in carbon emissions.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step–Lao Tzu.
The problem here is that we start the journey in the wrong direction.
Carbon emission reduction mandates will be imposed at the federal level as the country comes to grip with the global warming consequences of doing otherwise. The Pew Center on Global Climate Change points out “Building another round of conventional pulverized coal plants that comply with new pollution control requirements for SO2, NOX, particulate matter, mercury, and other toxic emissions, but that later need to be scrapped, or retrofitted with costly and inefficient CO2 scrubbers, would likely be the most costly path.”
Kansas prides itself upon conservative principles. Kansas is a state in which expresses great concern for unborn infants. So why the seeming lack of concern for the future of Kansas children? Your author thinks the problem lies in a number of directions–including lack of recognition or denial of the problem itself, lack of respect for the value of science in helping us plan, and a great deal of misunderstanding of what the proposed legislation will actually accomplish. Misunderstanding helped along with almost 1/2 million dollars of lobbying and advertising on behalf of builders of power plants.
The KNRC seems to be tracking individual legislation for 2009.
Details of the Legislation
Legislaors clearly think that they are doing something positive. There was overwelming support for the 2008 Kansas Senate session bill SB2066 and House bill HB327 [note–repair for “substitute” notation], much of it bipartisan. Representative Deena Horst, R-Salina said “It’s kind of like that saying, ‘Sometimes to dance with the angels you have to play with the devil a little bit.’.” There are some beneficial aspects to this legislation. But the provisions are clear, it overturns the rejection of the permit and allows construction of the new coal-fired plant at Holcomb.
2009 is seeing a new crop of legislation to overturn the Governor’s departmental rejection of coal-fired plant permits. Various organizations keep up on the legislation, including Gpace.org, KNRC, the Sierra Club, and Climate and Energy Project.
Consider that a power plant lasts for 50 or 60 years. If one is to build a plant to be used for only 10 years, then the costs paid by the rate payers would be five times as high as normal for new construction. No, the only reason to build a new plant is if one is to use a large part of its generating capacity for decades. If we implement conservation measures and alternate energy sources to lower our carbon emissions in decades to come, then we will not use the coal generating capacity. The only way that building this plant is meaningful and cost effective for Kansas electric consumers is to keep generating electricity for decades using coal-fired power plants, and to do so at the increased output capacity represented by this plant.
Carbon emissions mitigation by capturing part of the CO2 from this plant in the future will be very expensive. If Western Kansas consumers think that their electricity rates are high now, wait until they have to pay for these expensive measures! But even then, keeping the grid powered from coal-fired plants at the level requiring the new plant will mean that carbon emissions have increased by the fraction not captured. This is not a plan that works in the direction of reducing carbon emissions, it is a plan that significantly increases emissions.