An ill wind blows in Kansas: The politics of renewable energy

Kansas Representative Charlotte O’Hara, who represents Kansas House District 27 in southern Johnson County, offers a look at the politics surrounding wind power in Kansas. Besides O’Neal, other prominent supporters of renewable energy in Kansas include Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, who has been vocal in his support of wind power. So too has been Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer, who has been busy promoting Wichita as a site for wind energy-related industry. Contrast this with U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo of Wichita, who has introduced legislation to end all tax credits related to energy production.

An ill wind blows in Kansas: The politics of renewable energy

By Kansas Representative Charlotte O’Hara

The world of Topeka politics continue to amaze, frustrate, entertain and humor me in my second year of representing the 27th District. Case in point:

On Tuesday of this week during the Republican Caucus discussion of HB 2446 (concerning the expansion of definition of alternative energy to include storage facilities/devices) this fact came to light: The Kansas Legislature, in 2009, passed the Renewable Energy Standards Act (KSA 66-1258), which requires 10 percent of our power companies’ capacity to be from renewable energy sources by 2011, 15 percent in 2016 and 20 percent in 2020.

So, being the conservative that I am, I suggested an amendment that would freeze renewable energy standards to the current 10 percent. Rep. Dennis Hedke carried the amendment on the floor. The amendment received 43 votes.

Only 43 out of 125 representatives voted to stop strangling the Kansas economy and burdening consumers with high energy costs of these draconian requirements. According to the Heritage Foundation, just a 15% renewable energy mandate would increase electricity prices for consumers by as much as 11.3 percent!

After the defeat of the amendment, Rep. Forrest Knox introduced an amendment that would tie the freeze to licensing of the Holcomb Power Plant, which currently has been stopped by federal court and another environmental impact study has been ordered. The Knox amendment received 65 votes, a majority. However Speaker of the House Mike O’Neal (who voted against both amendments) interceded and referred the amended bill, HB 2446, back to committee (with the approval of the House members) and removing it from final action.

So, why would Speaker O’Neal oppose a freeze at the current 10% on the Kansas Renewable Standard Act? Well, let’s see. Could it possibly be that these required increased standards in Kansas law is why Siemens chose Hutchinson (O’Neal’s district) in 2009 to locate a $35 million wind turbine plant? Is this the type of crony capitalism we want to build our economic future on in Kansas?

Another wrinkle in the future of renewable energy is that extension of federal tax credits is in doubt. Those credits currently subsidize renewables by 2.1 cents per kw. Without the federal, state and local tax incentives, abatements and exemptions, the economics of renewable energy collapses.

Here is a link to Heritage Foundation on this issue of renewable energy subsidies: No More Energy Subsidies: Prevent the New, Repeal the Old.

It always puzzles me why after the fall of the Soviet Union, government mandated / subsidized / incentivized industries continue to flourish in the U.S. and, in particular, here in our own Kansas backyard.

So, if you would like to register your concerns about the Speaker’s action to circumvent final action on HB 2446, which as amended would freeze Kansas Renewable Energy Act requirement at 10 percent and stop it from going to 20 percent, call his office: 785-296-2302 or e-mail at Mike.ONeal@house.ks.gov


10 thoughts on “An ill wind blows in Kansas: The politics of renewable energy”

  1. It’s called preparing for what’s next,. aka planning for the future.

    Much like spending on education instead of prisons or improving infrastructure instead of assuming it will always be there for future needs.

    Government subsidies of green energy might not be capital efficient now, but when the price of natural gas goes back up or there is a supply disruption on the grid .. having a diverse energy supply that includes wind will reap benefits for the state,. not to mention the fact that all of these jobs would otherwise have gone to China .. which would be another growth industry not made in America.

  2. Claiming that providing incentives to do the right thing is somehow inappropriate, while oil, gas, nuclear, and coal subsidies overwhelm subsidies for renewable energy is just laughable. Especially when these other industries have been subsidized for decades:
    http://c1cleantechnicacom.wpengine.netdna-cdn.com/files/2011/09/historical-energy-subsidies.png

    http://stephenleahy.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/energy-subsidies-chart.jpg

    And then there are the agriculture subsidies, of which Kansas receives a sizeable share:
    http://www.foodpolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/farm-web-g.jpg

    I don’t understand how these idiots get elected, let alone stay in office once they open their mouths (or their pens) and provide overwhelming evidence of their ignorance. It is an embarassment to educated Kansans.

  3. Bob Weeks is bought and paid for by fossil fuel interests. How is this propaganda piece in any way surprising?

  4. It is good to see all of the wateremelon enviros posting on Bob’s web site in opposition to reliable energy. All they need now is some facts and logic.

    Rep. O’Hara and Hedke along with 41 of their house colleagues deserve our praise in this time of rising electrical costs caused by the watermelon enviros. Here are points that are overlooked.

    Sadly, the windmills are great predator free zones for a variety of rodent vermin since the blades regularly kill thousands of birds yearly.

    As these giant “vegamatics” of the plains begin to dissect whooping and sandhill cranes crossing their normal migratory routes, it will be interesting to see if any sensible response occurs from the politically correct environmentalists. I doubt it. The rats and mice will love these windmills.

    If we want reliable and low cost energy, we need to build Holcomb. If Holcomb and other clean coal facilities were built we could shut down some of the older and less efficient and facilities that do generate some pollution. 75% of the electric power in KS comes from coal (the US is the Saudi Arabia of coal in terms of world reserves and we are relatively close to Wyoming’s Powder River basin which is a large site and source for low sulfur coal) and moving to the politically correct, unreliable (whenever the wind stops blowing) electricity is going to mean summertime brownouts/blackouts along with soaring electrical costs.

    I’d prefer reliable, low cost electricity that does not destroy migratory and predatory birds. The blather about government subsidies for carbon based energy is a much smaller fraction than the massive subsidies for politically correct watermelon (green on the outside/red on the inside) power.

  5. Glad to see your concern about Kansas wildlife. Puhleeze. Because all wind farms will “dissect” all wildlife. Please tell me which science teacher was unable to get through your skull and I’ll know which school not to send my kid to. Can you just come out and say you work for Koch or whichever fuel interest you may represent?

    BTW–What is “clean coal”? Never heard of such a thing.

  6. I’ve actually heard people complain about stopping the wind entirely because of wind turbines. As should be obvious to anyone watching these things, the damage to wildlife is, at best, grossly overstated.

    And yeah, clean coal is a contradiction in terms. You’ll get carbon dioxide and sulfur every time. Tout carbon sequestering and sulfur removal all you want .. it kinda destroys those needs if you aren’t actually burning anything.

    Again, it’s a diverse energy portfolio that is the goal. There will always be natural gas, coal and nuclear power in the grid, the question is how much we depend on them.

    As far as recent decreases in natural gas prices ,. some of this gas we really don’t want to access. At least, if given the choice between lower prices on heating my home or living over a drained or tainted water table ,. I’d take the higher prices.

  7. It’s too bad that anonymous can’t own up to his left leaning liberal views here. Solar and wind are far too expensive, especially for us senior citizens on limited income. Natural gas, coal and nuclear are the best bets for low cost electricity in Kansas.

  8. FC: didn’t bother to read the other posts, did you?

    You must not have any grandkids, because if you assume current coal and natural gas prices will stay the same through your and their lifetimes, than you’d be mistaken.

    Also, the role of government in all this is to keep the jobs here. You can find articles all over about wind turbine factory jobs in China instead of here. The rest of the world is going towards clean energy .. not so much for environmental reasons, but for economic ones.

    Another function you are forgetting is that wind and solar generation capacities grow at linear rates .. the more wind turbines and solar farms are built, the more it offsets the need for coal and natural gas.

    Only other point is .. you want to cut government subsidies? — look at oil and gas (including ethanol) subsidies for more savings than wind and solar.

    On other — my political positions are irrelevant on the facts of the matter that renewables being the long term solution to our energy needs.

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