As we’ve noted several times here at Grist, conservatives are going after state renewable energy standards (RES’s) across the country. They’ve prevented a few new ones from passing, but I don’t think they’ve succeeded in persuading any state to roll back an RES already in effect. Yet.
Now they’re going after the RES in Kansas. Passed in 2009, it instructs utilities to get 10 percent of their power generation capacity from renewables from 2011 to 2015, 15 percent from 2016 to 2019, and 20 percent by 2020.
The RES was passed as part of a compromise bill meant to settle the intense controversy over the planned expansion of the enormous Holcomb coal-fired power plant. (That’s the one Kathleen Sebelius was battling as governor, before Obama plucked her away to make her secretary of health and human services.) Thing is, the legislature’s go-ahead for the coal plant expansion didn’t really stick — it has since been mired in legal challenges, dead in the water.
Republicans, piqued they aren’t getting their coal plant, want to delay the renewable-energy targets or scrap the RES entirely. This story about it from Tim Carpenter at the Topeka Capital-Journal contains some delightful flashes of deadpan humor. Consider this bit:
Rep. Dennis Hedke, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Environmental Policy, said lack of progress on the coal plant prompted lawmakers to consider dumping the RPS or delaying targets two or four years. Some House and Senate members want to extract the state from meddling in oil, gas, nuclear, wind and solar businesses, he said.
“We want to do everything we can to allow market forces to dictate any infrastructure build out. We don’t want to mandate. We are an all-of-the-above state,” said Hedke, a geophysicist consultant for the oil and gas industry.
That last clause! A flick of wrist that throws the preceding paragraphs off balance. Well played.
Or this bit:
[Kimberly Svaty of the Wind Coalition] said compliance with the RPS, according to the Kansas Corporation Commission, raised electricity rates by no more than 1.7 percent.
Rep. Charlotte O’Hara, an Overland Park Republican, said she had anecdotal evidence from her husband the RPS was responsible for increases in energy costs for Kansans.
“Our renewable standards are a failure,” O’Hara said. “Repeal the RPS and be free from these crippling energy mandates.”
This made me laugh out loud. Such a perfect capsule summary of how Republicans treat unwelcome facts these days: “The state agency overseeing electrical rates says the RES hasn’t increased them much? Well my husband knows a guy who said it has! So it’s crippling! A failure!” And so unpleasant information is swept away effortlessly by tribal affiliations.
This is good too:
Sen. Rob Olson, R-Olathe, said he was uneasy with the state committing itself so heavily to wind-driven turbines because they weren’t as reliable as coal, natural gas or nuclear fuels.
“It’s a fact. Wind doesn’t blow all the time. That’s my biggest problem with wind,” Olson said.
Why is it that every single dimwit clean-energy opponent seems to think he discovered this particular property of wind and sun? They all deliver it as though it’s going to blow your mind. “It’s a fact!”
What of the dozens of states and countries around the world that get more power from renewable energy than Kansas does? Has the variability of wind simply not occurred to them? I can just picture a grid operator in Germany … “OK, guys, I’m switching over to 100 percent wind … wait, hang on … you know what … I just had a thought … no! nooooooo!!!” [blackout]
Thing is, if there’s anywhere wind does blow almost all the time, it’s Kansas — it’s got over 950 GW of wind power potential, with only about 1.2 GW of wind power installed. (No state other than Texas has a greater wind resource.) Republican Gov. Sam Brownback fought fiercely to protect the federal wind energy tax credit and boasts that $3 billion was invested in Kansas wind just in 2012, raising it to third in the nation in wind-power production (behind Texas and California). The Dept. of Energy analyzed [PDF] the effects of wind power on the Kansas economy, and they are considerable:
I wonder if Gov. Brownback will weigh on on this fight. He can’t be happy to see a bunch of Tea Party dopes undo one of his state’s big economic success stories. This could become the latest chapter in the story of how clean energy became a wedge issue that divides the GOP.