Tag Archives: Environment

Holcomb, Kansas Coal Plant Water Usage in Perspective

An argument opponents of the proposed Holcomb Station coal-fired electricity generation plant make is that its water usage is excessive and will lead to, depending on who is speaking, little water left for other uses. Even drinking water, according to some critics, could be threatened.

Together, the proposed plants will use 16,000 acre-feet of water — about 5.2 billion gallons – annually. While that seems like a tremendous amount of water, especially in dry western Kansas, we should put that water usage in context before making judgments.

According to the Kansas Water Office, in 2006, 3,496,586 acre-feet of water was used to irrigate 3,066,602 acres, a rate of 1.14 acre-feet of water per acre. In Finney county, where the Holcomb plant is located, water use for irrigation is a little higher. The average usage for 2002 to 2006 was 1.31 acre-feet per acre.

Using the Finney county rates, we find that the 16,000 acre-feet of water usage by the proposed power plants is enough to irrigate 12,215 acres of crops.

While 12,215 acres of crops may seem like a lot, Finney county alone had 227,297 acres under irrigation in 2006. So the water usage by the proposed plants amounts to 5.4% of just Finney county’s water use for irrigation. For the entire state of Kansas, it’s less than one-half of one percent of the water used for irrigation.

So while 5.2 billion gallons of water seems like a lot, it’s not much more than a few drops in the bucket, figuratively speaking, of water use for irrigation in Kansas. The economic value of the electricity the Holcomb plant expansion will generate, however, is large.

Regulatory uncertainty weakens Kansas’ economy

In this article, Karl Peterjohn states that the professional staff at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment approved the permit for a new coal-burning electricity plant in Kansas, but the agency’s Secretary, Rod Bremby, overruled that staff. It seems as though he and Governor Kathleen Sebelius were trying to stake new political ground in America. Why they would want to do this is not clear to me and many other Kansans. China builds a new plant like the one proposed for Kansas every seven to ten days. India builds many, and so do some other countries. Since it’s not called global warming for nothing, it doesn’t matter where these plants are built. They all affect the global atmosphere, as far as carbon dioxide is concerned, in precisely the same way. So two Kansas politicians, cheered on by a few newspaper editorial writers, place the Kansas economy at great risk for what benefit? Perhaps in a few years, on a hot summer day when little wind is blowing, the chillers at the Wichita Eagle building on East Douglas will slow to a crawl, the editorialists’ computers switch to battery back up power with only a few minutes left to finish the day’s work, and no electricity is available to run the printing presses or the servers hosting the Eagle’s web site. But at least we in Kansas spewed only 0.01% as much carbon into the atmosphere as did the new Chinese coal plants.

Regulatory Uncertainty Weakens Kansas’ Economy
By Karl Peterjohn, Kansas Taxpayers Network, www.kansastaxpayers.com

The regulatory uncertainty created by Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) Secretary Ron Bremby’s decision to deny a permit to Sunflower Electric’s proposed power plant places the Kansas economy at risk and should be obvious to everyone. Sadly, this everyone does not include the Wichita Eagle’s editorial board’s February 27th editorial.

Electric utilities are already highly regulated by the state as well as federal rules and edicts. Sunflower Electric’s proposed coal fired electrical power plant expansion had been through numerous permits and regulatory requirements. The professional staff at KDHE had recommended approval based upon the criteria elected officials had placed in Kansas law.

Secretary Bremby decided that he would add new criteria that no federal or state elected officials had approved. Kansas became the first state to declare that carbon dioxide emissions are pollutants. That became his basis for denying a construction permit.

The Wichita Eagle was correct in pointing out that Bremby’s ruling was a first. Bremby’s edict was not only a first in Kansas, it was a first for the entire nation. Bremby’s decision became national news as Kansas became the only state where carbon dioxide emissions became a pollutant. Elected officials did not make this decision but a single bureaucrat, who last year filed for bankruptcy, and who ignored his professional staff in making his ruling. The rule of law has been replaced in Kansas in this important case by the rule of a bureaucrat.

Carbon dioxide is emitted by people, our cars, our machines, and even in our fireplaces. Since Mr. Bremby decided to make carbon dioxide a pollutant by regulatory edict, any and all other firms that emit carbon dioxide are now at regulatory risk. If carbon dioxide is a “pollutant,” let’s have our elected officials be the ones who change the law.

Will the Sunflower precedent be extended to non-utilities, like new or existing ethanol plants, that also emit CO2? Will this edict be placed on existing coal-fired power plants? Will this occur quickly or slowly? To large and small firms equally, or not? This is regulatory uncertainty. This is obvious to everyone who has run a business and met a payroll.

This also demonstrates how far we have moved in Kansas away from a free market system to one where the state controls the economy. When Mr. Bremby’s boss, Governor Sebelius, outlined her support for a smaller expansion of Sunflower, the state control of this economic decision making process was clear. This is state control that economists have warned against.

Nobel Laureate economist Milton Friedman warned over a quarter century ago, “Wherever the state undertakes to control in detail the economic activities of its citizens, wherever, that is, detailed central economic planning reigns, there ordinary citizens are in political fetters, have a low standard of living, and have little power to control their own destiny.” This type of government control is an excellent reason why the average income of Kansans lags well below the national average as well as our state’s overall economic growth.

This is a reason why the risk, uncertainty, and the probability of a lack of profits drives business expansions and entrepreneurs away from locating in a state where the rule of law has been replaced by unpredictable and delayed edicts from arbitrary bureaucrats.

Are you polluting Kansas?

Lost in the debate over the building of a coal-fired electricity plant in Kansas is the fact that China builds a plant like this every week to ten days, according to the New York Times. Nonetheless, newspaper editorial writers like Randy Scholfield of The Wichita Eagle want to saddle Kansans with higher utility bills and a stifling regulatory structure. There is no doubt that other forms of producing electricity are more expensive than coal. Mr. Scholfield’s newspaper is full of stories of woe about how people can’t pay their bills when the price of natural gas or gasoline goes up. Yet, he is willing to ask them to pay more for something of dubious value. At the same time, his position holds the real possibility of reducing economic growth in Kansas, which should lead to more tales of woe for the Wichita Eagle to report.

Even the New York Times recognizes that wind power can’t be our sole, or even major, source of power. As it reported on February 23, 2008: “Despite the attraction of wind as a nearly pollution-free power source, it does have limitations. Though the gap is closing, electricity from wind remains costlier than that generated from fossil fuels. Moreover, wind power is intermittent and unpredictable, and the hottest days, when electricity is needed most, are usually not windy.”

Thank you to Karl Peterjohn of the Kansas Taxpayers Network for the following explanation.

Are You Polluting Kansas?
By Karl Peterjohn, Kansas Taxpayers Network

It is a biological fact that every time Governor Sebelius breathes, she exhales carbon dioxide. Every editorial writer at the carbon dioxide phobic Wichita Eagle also exhales carbon dioxide with every breath.

Are they polluting? All mammals exhale carbon dioxide and the plants that inhale carbon dioxide (CO2) need this compound to grow. This is part of the photosynthesis that is the foundation for life on earth. This is basic biology. CO2 has never been made a pollutant by the action of either the state or federal elected officials. Now the advocates of man-made global warming claim that it is. That is now Governor Sebelius’ and her staff’s official position.

Governor Sebelius’ Secretary of Health and Environment, Rod Bremby, took the arbitrary and capricious action last year of declaring CO2 a pollutant. Bremby’s decision stopped the permit, that his professional and technical KDHE staff had approved. That would have allowed a major 1.4 megawatt expansion by Sunflower Electric in Holcomb, Kansas of the existing coal fired power plant that operates there. Bremby based his denial solely upon CO2 emissions.

Bremby’s highly controversial decision made the front page of major newspapers across the United States and will have a major negative economic impact on Kansas if it stands. Bremby’s decision dramatically raised the risk for anyone planning to put a new or expanded industrial business in Kansas.

Kansas consumers are at increased risk from higher electrical costs and less reliable service. Brian Moline, a former state utility regulator and Democratic legislator, warned the Wichita Pachyderm Club February 22 that Bremby’s ruling, “…will ultimately filter down to rate payers,” in the form of higher electrical bills.

Moline also warned that this issue goes well beyond Sunflower Electric’s permit and puts the entire due process and rule of law in Kansas at risk. Moline credited state senator Carolyn McGinn with the most vivid description of this bureaucratic mugging. McGinn compared it to a driver going through an intersection and then being stopped by a police officer for not stopping for the traffic light at the intersection.

The driver complains that there was no traffic light at the intersection and the police officer says, “Well there should be one there so I’m arresting you anyway.” Sunflower Electric is the woebegone driver being arrested by Officer Bremby. All Kansans are going to be financially hurt if Bremby’s CO2 edict stands.

By declaring CO2 to be a pollutant a variety of other plants that use carbon based energy are now at legal risk. These include existing chemical, industrial, as well as the new ethanol plants that are being built or have just been built here. Airplane and auto manufacturers in Kansas as well as oil refiners and chemical plants have to renew permits to emit CO2. These are now in increased jeopardy as are all of the other coal fired power plants. Bremby’s questionable judgment in this matter is certainly amplified by his bankruptcy filing last year.

If Bremby’s CO2 edict is allowed to stand other sources of CO2 are also at risk. CO2 emissions occur well beyond industrial activities. Much of the CO2 occurs naturally. Your gas or propane furnace also emits CO2. Wood burned in fireplaces emits CO2 as do automobiles. If Governor Sebelius and her administration’s CO2 edict stands we all become polluters. New restrictions, charges, and limits on everyone using carbon based energy will soon appear under this edict.

Global warming: the real threat

Those sounding the alarm over global warming are full of evidence of rising temperatures and man’s contribution to them. Rarely, however, do I read of what these advocates proscribe as the cure for global warming, and if one is given, we don’t often hear of the grave damage the cure would do to our economy and standard of living.

The following article by George Resiman explains what caps on carbon dioxide emissions mean in terms of our economy. I wish that Roderick L. Bremby, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, had read this article before making his recent decision denying the applications to build two coal-fired plants in Kansas. His reasoning for the denial: “it would be irresponsible to ignore emerging information about the contribution of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to climate change and the potential harm to our environment and health if we do nothing.”

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Professor Reisman this summer, and I attended several of his lectures at Mises University in Auburn, Alabama. I am reading, slowly but surely, his monumental book Capitalism, which he inscribed for me. His website at www.capitalism.net and blog at www.georgereisman.com are valuable resources. You can read the full version of this article at Global Warming Is Not a Threat but the Environmentalist Response to It Is.

Global Warming Is Not a Threat But the Environmentalist Response to It Is

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently released the summary of its latest, forthcoming report on global warming. Its most trumpeted finding is that the existence of global warming is now “unequivocal.”

Although such anecdotal evidence as January’s snowfall in Tucson, Arizona and freezing weather in Southern California and February’s more than 100-inch snowfall in upstate New York might suggest otherwise, global warming may indeed be a fact. It may also be a fact that it is a by-product of industrial civilization (despite, according to The New York Times of November 7, 2006, two ice ages having apparently occurred in the face of carbon levels in the atmosphere 16 times greater than that of today, millions of years before mankind’s appearance on earth).

If global warming and mankind’s responsibility for it really are facts, does anything automatically follow from them? Does it follow that there is a need to limit and/or reduce carbon emissions and the use of the fossil fuels—oil, coal, and natural gas—that gives rise to the emissions? The need for such limitation and/or rollback is the usual assumption.

Nevertheless, the truth is that nothing whatever follows from these facts. Before any implication for action can be present, additional information is required.

One essential piece of information is the comparative valuation attached to retaining industrial civilization versus avoiding global warming. If one values the benefits provided by industrial civilization above the avoidance of the losses alleged to result from global warming, it follows that nothing should be done to stop global warming that destroys or undermines industrial civilization. That is, it follows that global warming should simply be accepted as a byproduct of economic progress and that life should go on as normal in the face of it.

Modern, industrial civilization and its further development are values that we dare not sacrifice if we value our material well-being, our health, and our very lives. It is what has enabled billions more people to survive and to live longer and better. Here in the United States it has enabled the average person to live at a level far surpassing that of kings and emperors of a few generations ago.

The foundation of this civilization has been, and for the foreseeable future will continue to be, the use of fossil fuels.

Of course, there are projections of unlikely but nevertheless possible extreme global warming in the face of which conditions would be intolerable. To deal with such a possibility, it is necessary merely to find a different method of cooling the earth than that of curtailing the use of fossil fuels. Such methods are already at hand, as I will explain in an article that will appear shortly.

In fact, if it comes, global warming, in the projected likely range, will bring major benefits to much of the world. Central Canada and large portions of Siberia will become similar in climate to New England today. So too, perhaps, will portions of Greenland. The disappearance of Arctic ice in summer time, will shorten important shipping routes by thousands of miles. Growing seasons in the North Temperate Zone will be longer. Plant life in general will flourish because of the presence of more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Strangely, these facts are rarely mentioned. Instead, attention is devoted almost exclusively to the negatives associated with global warming, above all to the prospect of rising sea levels, which the report projects to be between 7 and 23 inches by the year 2100, a range, incidentally, that by itself does not entail major coastal flooding. (There are, however, projections of a rise in sea levels of 20 feet or more over the course of the remainder of the present millennium.)

Yes, rising sea levels may cause some islands and coastal areas to become submerged under water and require that large numbers of people settle in other areas. Surely, however, the course of a century, let alone a millennium, should provide ample opportunity for this to occur without any necessary loss of life.

Indeed, a very useful project for the UN’s panel to undertake in preparation for its next report would be a plan by which the portion of the world not threatened with rising sea levels would accept the people who are so threatened. In other words, instead of responding to global warming with government controls, in the form of limitations on the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, an alternative response would be devised that would be a solution in terms of greater freedom of migration.

In addition, the process of adaptation here in the United States would be helped by making all areas determined to be likely victims of coastal flooding in the years ahead ineligible for any form of governmental aid, insurance, or disaster relief that is not already in force. Existing government guarantees should be phased out after a reasonable grace period. Such measures would spur relocation to safer areas in advance of any future flooding.

Emissions Caps Mean Impoverishment

The environmental movement does not value industrial civilization. It fears and hates it. Indeed, it does not value human life, which it regards merely as one of earth’s “biota,” of no greater value than any other life form, such as spotted owls or snail darters. To it, the loss of industrial civilization is of no great consequence. It is a boon.

But to everyone else, it would be an immeasurable catastrophe: the end of further economic progress and the onset of economic retrogression, with no necessary stopping point. Today’s already widespread economic stagnation is the faintest harbinger of the conditions that would follow.

A regime of limitations on the emission of greenhouse gases means that all technological advances requiring an increase in the total consumption of man-made power would be impossible to implement. At the same time, any increase in population would mean a reduction in the amount of man-made power available per capita. (Greater production of atomic power, which produces no emissions of any kind, would be an exception. But it is opposed by the environmentalists even more fiercely than is additional power derived from fossil fuels.)

To gauge the consequences, simply imagine such limits having been imposed a generation or two ago. If that had happened, where would the power have come from to produce and operate all of the new and additional products we take for granted that have appeared over these years? Products such as color television sets and commercial jets, computers and cell phones, CDs and DVDs, lasers and MRIs, satellites and space ships? Indeed, the increase in population that has taken place over this period would have sharply reduced the standard of living, because the latter would have been forced to rest on the foundation of the much lower per capita man-made power of an earlier generation.

Now add to this the effects of successive reductions in the production of man-made power compelled by the imposition of progressively lower ceilings on greenhouse-gas emissions, ceilings as low as 75 or even 40 percent of today’s levels. (These ceilings have been advocated by Britain’s Stern Report and by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel, respectively.) Inasmuch as these ceilings would be global ceilings, any increase in greenhouse-gas emissions taking place in countries such as China and India would be possible only at the expense of even further reductions in the United States, whose energy consumption is the envy of the world.

All of the rising clamor for energy caps is an invitation to the American people to put themselves in chains. It is an attempt to lure them along a path thousands of times more deadly than any military misadventure, and one from which escape might be impossible.

Already, led by French President Jacques Chirac, forces are gathering to make non-compliance with emissions caps an international crime. Given such developments, it is absolutely vital that the United States never enter into any international treaty in which it agrees to caps on greenhouse-gas emissions.

if the economic progress of the last two hundred years or more is to continue, if its existing benefits are to be maintained and enlarged, the people of the United States, and hopefully of the rest of the world as well, must turn their backs on environmentalism. They must recognize it for the profoundly destructive, misanthropic philosophy that it is. They must solve any possible problem of global warming on the foundation of industrial civilization, not on a foundation of its ruins.

This article is copyright © 2007, by George Reisman.

Recycling in Wichita: Be Careful What You Wish For

The Wichita Eagle editorial board, particularly Randy Scholfield, has been pressing for mandatory recycling. Here’s an example of the type of legislation we might see if reason fails us:

AN ACT concerning newspapers, and the recycling thereof, in observance of our state’s relationship to Nature, and general lack of trees within this State.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Kansas:

Sec. 1. As used is this act:
(a) “Newspaper” means a publication printed primarily on newsprint, usually daily.
(b) “Recyclable newspaper” means a newspaper upon which a deposit of at least 10 cents has been paid, or is required to be paid upon the removal of the newspaper from the sale or reading area.
(c) “Dealer” means a person who sells or offers for sale to consumers within this state a newspaper, including an operator of a vending machine containing a newspaper, and including a person operating a delivery route.
(d) “Distributor” means a person who sells newspaper to a dealer within this state, and includes a manufacturer who engages in such sales.
(e) “Manufacturer” means a person who prints newspapers for sale to distributors, dealers, or consumers, with a daily circulation of 75,000 or more.
(f) “Sale or consumption area” means the premises within the property of the dealer where the sale is made, within which newspapers may be read without payment of a deposit, and, upon removing a newspaper from which, the customer is required by the dealer to pay the deposit.

Sec. 2.
(1) A dealer shall not, within this state, sell, offer for sale, or give to consumers a nonrecyclable newspaper.
(2) A dealer who regularly sells newspapers for reading off the dealer’s premises shall provide on the premises, or within 100 yards of the premises on which the dealer sells or offers for sale a returnable newspaper, a convenient means whereby the newspaper of any kind, size, and brand sold or offered for sale by the dealer may be returned by, and the deposit refunded in cash to, a person whether or not the person is the original customer of that dealer, and whether or not the newspaper was sold by that dealer.
(3) A dealer shall not refuse to accept from a person a read recyclable newspaper of any kind, size, and brand sold by that dealer, nor refuse to pay to the person its full refund value in cash.
(4) A dealer who does not require a deposit on a recyclable newspaper when the contents are read in the dealer’s sale or reading area shall not be required to pay a refund for accepting that read newspaper.
(5) A distributor shall not refuse to accept from a dealer a read recyclable newspaper of any kind, size, and brand sold by that distributor, nor refuse to pay to the dealer its full refund value in cash.
(6) Every newspaper sold or offered for sale by a dealer within this state shall clearly indicate by embossing or by a stamp, a label, or other method securely affixed to the front page, the refund value of the newspaper and the name of this state. A dealer or distributor may, but is not required to, refuse to accept from a person a read recyclable newspaper which does not state on the front page the refund value of the newspaper and the name of this state.
(7) A dealer within this state shall not sell, offer for sale, or give to consumers a plastic newspaper wrapper, any part of which becomes detached when the newspaper is removed.

Recycle, if you wish

Should we in Wichita or Sedgwick County be forced to recycle?

Prices for commodities and goods represent the best available information about the worth of them — that is, unless the government is manipulating prices. The prices people are willing to pay for recycled goods, therefore, tell us everything we need to know about their worth. These prices tell us that there isn’t much worth in most recycled goods.

It’s not that there aren’t markets for recycled goods. About 75% of automobiles are recycled, and used cardboard is often recycled in commercial settings. That’s because the price paid for these recycled items is high enough that, in the proper context, recycling can be profitable.

A household setting is different. Recycling of household goods, mostly newsprint, plastics, and glass, (aluminum cans being a possible exception) doesn’t pay very well. In fact, it costs households to recycle. The prices that recyclers can get for these recycled goods doesn’t even cover the cost of collecting them from households, as evidenced by the fact that in Wichita households must pay someone to pick up recyclables. People can deliver these items to recycling centers, but that involves significant cost to the household.

How much does recycling cost? Orange County in Florida spends roughly $3 million per year to collect recyclables, but sells them for only $56,000.

What about saving the environment through recycling? The contribution of household recycling towards this goal is not certain, once you look beyond the usual recycling propaganda and realize the role that prices play.

Running out of landfill space? If landfill space were truly scarce, landfill operators could charge high prices for trash disposal. But evidently, they don’t.

Running out of raw materials? That’s not happening. If raw materials were scarce, the price of recycled alternatives would increase. Instead, prices for most recycled goods are low and not increasing. We should be happy that raw materials are inexpensive and that manufacturing processes are efficient.

What this means is that household recycling doesn’t pay. Instead, it costs, and costs a lot.

If recycling is voluntary, each person can exercise their own judgment as to the value of recycling versus other activities. With forced recycling, people have to give up activities that they value more than recycling to comply with the mandate. Additionally, we have to pay recycling fees or additional taxes to cover the costs of money-losing recycling efforts.

Then there’s the recycling police. We have violent crimes that actually hurt people being committed daily. I think most people would rather have police focusing their attention on those crimes rather than inspecting our trash looking for the wayward aluminum can or newspaper.