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GPACE “Sunflower” Questions Misleading

The website of the Great Plains Alliance for Clean Energy contains a list of ten questions for Sunflower supporters.

(It seems if you’re an environmentalist, the term “Sunflower” is enough to let you know what these questions are about. For normal Kansans, though, they’ll need a little more information. These questions refer to Sunflower Electric Power Corporation and its proposed expansion of the Holcomb Station coal-fired power plant. Or, simply, “the coal plant.”)

When I read these questions, they reminded me of questions used in push polls. These questions — not really questions at all — are designed to produce a change in the views of the respondent. They are often based on a false premise, but sound reasonable or tenable. That’s the case with many of these ten questions.

For example, here’s the first question: “How is the use of our scarce (and hard earned) water resource to produce electricity for Colorado good economic policy for western Kansas?”

Now if you didn’t know much about this issue, you might conclude these things from this question: That the plant will use a lot of additional water that Kansas can’t spare, that western Kansas exists only to serve the selfish interests of Colorado, and that exporting electricity to Colorado isn’t a benefit to Kansas.

Here’s some of the things wrong with this question: First, the premise that the power plant will use a lot of water is false. That’s because the plant has to purchase water rights for the water it will use. If the power plant didn’t use this water, it would likely be used in agriculture, probably irrigating corn to be fed to cattle or turned into ethanol.

Besides, the water usage of the plant is very small compared to the use of water in Kansas agriculture. My post Holcomb, Kansas Coal Plant Water Usage in Perspective explains.

Then, what’s bad about exporting power to Colorado or other states? Don’t we in Kansas spend a lot of effort producing oil, natural gas, wheat, beef, and airplanes just for export to other states? How is electricity different? Has Kansas started a trade war with Colorado?

It’s true that the Wichita Eagle’s Rhonda Holman complained that the plant would export power “while leaving Kansas with 100 percent of the carbon dioxide.” (See Untruths About Carbon and its Regulation at the Wichita Eagle) Her complaint is based on a false premise. I know of no authority — not even Al Gore — that believes that carbon dioxide pollution is a problem in the local vicinity of a power plant. To the extent that carbon emissions are a problem — and that’s a mighty big “if” — it’s a problem on a global scale.

Some of the other questions posed by GPACE have similar problems. This technique of pushing questions based on false premises does nothing to promote reasoned discussion of issues in Kansas.

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2 Comments

  1. Susan January 22, 2009

    It is a sad and long tried trap! Thanks.

  2. Diane January 22, 2009

    The questions are there to make people think, and in the long term as well. Something that is in very short supply in Kansas.

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