Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Iowa vs. Kansas

Another gem from the Omaha World-Herald (Omaha is just across the river from Iowa so they often report on Iowa news as well)...

As you know, there's been a fierce debate over the proposed construction of two coal-fired power plants in SW Kansas. Republicans in the Kansas legislature have been obsessed with trying to get these polluting monstrosities built (so that the energy can then be sent to Colorado and Texas) while the Democratic Governor has wisely vetoed the measure and twice defeated veto override votes in the legislature. The Orwellian-named Sunflower Electric Power Corp has spent nearly $1 million on lobbying to get the plants approved while local newspapers bemoaned the fact that the legislature failed to attend to much needed business (including health care proposals) because they were so fixated on the coal fight.

Meanwhile, not far away in Iowa, a completely different picture is emerging. MidAmerican Energy, since 2003, has focused on increasing its production of wind energy. The differences between Iowa and Kansas couldn't be more stark. From the article, Wind Energy Project Proposed:

A "green" project may be popping up out of the green fields of northeastern Pottawattamie County this summer.

MidAmerican Energy is looking at the area as a site to build 64 wind turbines, a project that county officials said could be worth more than $120 million and generate about 96 megawatts of electricity.

The Pottawattamie County Board of Supervisors will schedule a public hearing on tax incentives for the project in the next few weeks. If the proposal is approved, construction could begin sometime this summer.

County board member Delbert King said he thought the project would be worth more than $120 million, with each tower costing about $2 million. The area being considered, King said, is outside Walnut. It would be leased from landowners....

MidAmerican Energy has been increasing the amount of electricity it generates from wind since 2003. By the end of this year, MidAmerican expects to have more than 780 wind turbines operating in the state, including the proposed turbines in Pottawattamie County.

In January, 142 wind turbines went into service, most in north-central Iowa. Another 260 wind turbines are being built near Carroll, Pomeroy and Adair, said Tom Budler, general manager of wind development for MidAmerican. They are expected to be running by the end of the year.

MidAmerican Energy expects to generate about 18 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by the end of this year...

Budler said wind energy is part of the company's portfolio and helps mitigate the rising cost of fuel and the amount of emissions. Wind energy projects are part of the reason MidAmerican has not raised rates since 1995, he said.

Important to note:

Iowa generates more wind energy than all but three other states despite being 10th in the nation in the amount of wind resource available.

By contrast Kansas is the 3rd windiest state in the nation, but it's like pulling teeth to get neanderthal Kansas legislators like Bill Otto to even consider investing in wind projects.

A few final thoughts on this:

1.) Comparing energy policy in Iowa verses Kansas shows that doing the right thing (investing in wind or other alternative energy sources) is often EASIER than doing the wrong thing.

2. ) What's fascinating about the debate in Kansas is that Republicans in the state have made coal synonymous with masculinity, Republicanism, patriotism, and nationalism. It's almost like they see the harm caused by coal as a virtue because it's macho and reminds them of an earlier industrial age of American economic might. Increasingly, voters are way ahead of politicians in understanding smart energy policy.

3.) Better politics in Iowa results in better energy solutions, less political discord, and better outcomes for residents (think about this -- farmers in Iowa are being paid to lease their land for wind turbines while Kansas farmers would get all of the pollution and none of the benefit from coal-fired plants in their state).

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