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Out of Kansas: A Path to Clean Energy

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View Trip Van Noppen's blog posts
19 June 2008, 8:00 AM

There was more hope than lamentation in a New York Times editorial when it concluded this about the Senate's recent failure to address climate change:

The country needs a new occupant in the White House.

We agree—Congress is not likely to take the necessary actions on climate change without strong White House leadership.

Fortunately, neither McCain nor Obama will take seven years to admit global warming even exists—as the current president did. Both of them pledge to aggressively take action on climate change.

But, we wonder, as does the Times, whether any candidate appreciates how urgent the situation is, and how much political will is needed to transform this country into being the environmental leader of a world in ecological crisis.

For guidance, the candidates should come to Denver on June 26 and listen to the gutsy governor of Kansas, Kathleen Sebelius. At the invitation of Earthjustice, Gov. Sebelius will tell how her 9-month battle with powerful political and economic interests made Kansas the first state to reject a coal-fired power plant because of its global warming emissions.

But, more importantly, Gov. Sebelius will describe the elements of a national clean energy agenda, building on initiatives that her state and others have developed in the absence of national leadership.

Earthjustice played a key role in supporting Gov. Sebelius during her epic fight with coal interests, and we came to admire her principled, practical, courageous stance on energy issues. She believes, as we do, that the nation must take dramatic steps to break our addiction to coal and oil, and that we can strengthen our economy by doing so.

The governor will be joined by a panel of three prominent experts who will discuss key elements of a national clean energy agenda, especially sustainable energy alternatives such as wind and solar; energy efficiency opportunities; the economics of clean energy; and how we can transition from our dependence on coal and other carbon energy sources. The panelists are:

  • Ronald L. Lehr: former Chairman of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, who now practices law and consults about energy and telecommunications regulation and business matters. He worked for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on the DOE program, "Wind Powering America."
  • Randy Udall: Director of the Community Office for Efficiency (CORE), a nonprofit organization that promotes energy efficiency and renewable energy. CORE Director Udall also serves on the Board of Directors of Solar Energy International and Colorado Renewable Energy Society.
  • Tom Plant: Director of the Colorado Governor's Energy Office. Before that, he served as executive director of the Center for ReSource Conservation. The non-profit implements a variety of programs focused on energy efficiency, renewable energy, water conservation, green building and construction waste reduction. From 1998 to 2006, Plant represented District 13 in the Colorado House of Representatives. He also worked in the Climate Change department of the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, DC.

Please join us at this important energy program: Out of Kansas—A National Clean Energy Agenda.

Even since September 2001, we have not cured our oil addiction. This is more than foolish national policy. It is dangerous to have our energy needs supplied by people who dislike us. It is also dangerous and foolish to ignore the realities of climate change and the serious challenges of protecting our planet, which is more than ever under great stress. We must learn to live in a sustainable way across the globe. Both these goals, of energy independence and environmental sustainability, must be of the highest priority. We must achieve them as quickly as possible.
When voters in this area elected me to the state Legislature, they told me to make a difference. I have been working hard to do just that. Recently, I was faced with one of the toughest choices I have made in my political career so far: Whether to delegate the authority to the governor and Cabinet to review bids for oil and gas drilling off the coast of Florida. HB1219 was being pushed by Dean Cannon, the next man in line to be House Speaker. Given his horsepower, it was pretty clear that the bill was going to pass the House.
(2 of 2)
I had two choices. I could sit in the back row and vote "no" with 42 of my fellow Democrats, or I could try to make a difference and make the bill better. I chose the latter. I was determined that, if this bill was going to pass, it would have to move our state forward with renewable energy.
I turned my focus to adding amendments that provided a bridge to the future by putting significant dollars into:
# The Solar Energy System Incentives Program.
# Research for renewable energy at Florida's State University System.
# Energy training academies in K-12 and higher education.
# Protection of environmentally sensitive lands.
# The care and rehabilitation of Florida's veterans.
# Florida Renewable Energy Production Credit.
My amendments were the only attempt this session in the House to do anything toward truly clean and renewable energy. Unfortunately, and to my severe disappointment, the House Energy Committee has no renewable energy bill. HB1219 was the only bill to which we could attach renewable energy initiatives.
We will need to re-make our energy, environmental, educational and economic paradigm. We must also work quickly to secure our nation from the addiction to foreign oil and domination. We can no longer be in denial about the true cost of oil. That strategy, I suspect, will move us closer to a truly renewable, truly clean energy portfolio much more quickly. We have tall political mountains to climb and much work to do. I hope you join me in this effort.
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In my perfect world, there would be solar hot water heaters in every home and business, solar panels on every rooftop and solar fields all across our state. Biofuels and wave and wind energy would be running strong. If I could flip a switch, we would use only truly renewable energy and no oil.I have deeply felt and long-held beliefs about energy independence and the use of renewable energy sources. America must become energy independent and rely only on true renewable energy. Florida could lead the nation to that goal.
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Lot's of questions - but I'll try a couple. Wind turbines are really expensive to put up. The big ones cost more than a million dollars a piece. They're expensive for lots of reasons - shortage, most come from Europe currently, new technology - not a lot of people know how to install and work on them right now. (Turbine maintenance workers in some areas starting out at 80,000 yr). As they become a more accepted form of energy and utilized more often, the cost will come down. You do lose an acre of ground for each wind turbine you put up, so if they were everywhere, we couldn't farm the ground. The wind speed is better in some areas of Kansas than others - categories from 1-7. We are mostly 4 & 5 in Reno County. In order for the development to make money you look for three things: wind speed, access to transmission lines and public support. There are still many people who think they're ugly and don't want them in their back yard. Wind proponents want wind as a part of our energy mix - not to provide it all. If wind was your only source of electricity when the wind wasn't blowing you might actually risk the lights going out in Kansas. The new wind turbines are more efficient than the old ones and so they can generate electricity more efficiently. The thing I like is that they don't pollute the air or jack up the water. I think some opponents of wind believe support for wind means less support for coal. I also think there are some legislators holding wind for ransom - vote coal and we'll support wind. Just my opinion.
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In February 2007, a working group organized by committees of the American Bar Association’s. Section of Environment, Energy and Resources,2 the
Environmental Markets Association, and the American
Council On Renewable Energy, released version 1.0 of
a standard form master trading agreement for trading
Renewable Energy Certificates RECs, or Green Tags.
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The MOST important actions on prevention of global warming are NOT being done:
1. Research into TIDAL POWER stations: America's Eastern and Western seaboards offer almost unlimited tidal power.
The only such station in the Western Hemisphere is in Nova Scotia and that province already produces 12% of its electric power from renewable sources. While a little research has now been done on a few models for harnessing tidal power, there is nothing like the massive effort needed to tackle global warming which is truly here and now and not 42 years away!
2.Research into low cost electric cars and high speed rechargeable batteries. Tesla has already an excellent vehicle, but at too high a cost. More recently a few less expensive electric cars are available, but, again there is nothing like effort needed on the part of governmental stimulation and funding.
Global warming, energy independence, national security, and a thriving economy supported by new laws all go hand in hand.
So far the effort has been sluggish
at best, and fiercely resisted by greed driven and short sighted vested interests.
America did not wake up to the danger of fascist attack until a large part of her navy was destroyed in a single raid. She remains asleep in the face of global warming, impending massive water shortages, manipulation of oil prices combined with specious excuses for soaring costs, and snail paced research, and desperately needed legislation.
3.Prepare for recharge stations at service stations and consider an electric pickup through a groove in the main streets of cities. (Like the old trams).
4.Put an immediate ban on all new coal powered power stations, and phase out all of the old ones. Put an immediate ban on all mountain top blast mining for coal and on all industrial river pollution.
5.Put an immediate ban on any new nuclear power stations, and nuclear weapons. Start to research better ways of disposing of nuclear waste. (Let no-one under estimate the danger of nuclear power accidents: One Chernobyl and one Three Mile Island are more than enough!)
6.Start the construction of large wind farms and solar farms. (The latter are best located in the southern desert states).
Denmark has shown the feasibility of building wind farms over the sea with turbines supported by pylons driven into the seabed, and has provided enough power for an entire town with this.
7. Careful construction of dams for hydro power without having a harmful impact on wildlife and drinkable water supply. (Techniques are available for protecting marine life in the presence of dams). Recent floods have emphasized the, as yet ignored need, for secure dams and piping diversion of excess water to needy states. (Little Holland
has reacted to the threat of rising tides with very secure dams,
yet the American giant has not).
8. Speeding up the date for increased mileage rules for gas powered vehicles.
9.Planting new forests and cutting back on lumber industry deforestation.
10.Aid to foreign nations in need to achieve the above goals.
How think you?
Ian Campbell Cree, MB(Hons.), MS, FRCS(Eng. & C.), FACS, LRCP.

Randy Udall is not on the Board of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society.

There needs be an environmental lobby that's as strong and as determined as the oil, nuclear, and coal lobbies, then things will really start to change.

OK, then, Obama and McCain need to be VERY publicly invited to this event. Tell them their attendance will be an indication of how serious they are on energy and global warming. And hold their feet to the fire.

The declining fish stocks is apparently from a practice called trauling where they pull giant nets through the ocean and take everything.

The scientists said (on CSPAN), almost two years ago that ethanol takes too much energy to make. Also scientists need to come on the record on two other green house threats, volcanic ash and methane from cows. Are they really equally as harmful as CO2 and hundreds of times more prevalent? If so what is the proper way to think of them as threats in relation to CO2? Thank you.

Many of our problems, such as environmental degradation, soaring energy costs, over crowded highways, declining fish stocks & pollution are the results of the demands of so many people.
The U.S.A. needs to adopt a one child policy like China has.

It perhaps ought to be self-evidently a century and far more past that time when our so-called leaders--honest or incurious, scientific minds of merely pinionated--have needed to begin considering what Theodore Roosevelt and others knew was necessary before 1900. The name of this necessity I assert is "rational priorities". Realism toward space-time's universe, not toward some fantasyland after death annunciated by mystical power-seekers, unarguably epresents 'realism".
So too does learning from good and bad results of human actions, from work done upon Nature. The equation is simple enough, I argue: "If it works, it's good; if it fails, it's immoral to continue doing it and not to admit fault for having done a flawed hypothesis and having turned it into a flawed action and failed results." Governor Sebelius is
therefore doing the categorical opposite of what postmodernist neocons are doing: she is dealing with reality realistically. She is saying we must change now to cleaner, renewable and varied energy sources; that declaring an 11th hour oil crisis in an election year is tyrannous nonesense.
We as a planetary species must cut back on dangerous emissions, pay a little more money and attention for energy and transportation sources; and we have to let scientists tell us what is real, not paid pseudo-scientific liars for corporate-govenment linked conglomerates of gas-guzzling, money skimming, salary stealing mental misfits-- who want to be handed billions while the race and the rights of individuals are swept aside by a tide of imperial presidential malarkey...

Great post. Hopefully energy management are more debated in the months to come.

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