Tale of two states: one green, the other coal black


December 21, 2010 - 12:00 AM

One day apart, two states took diametrically opposed paths in regards to the production of energy.
On Thursday, California legislators recognized global warming and took positive steps to enforce the reduction of carbon emissions on utilities.
Kansas, meanwhile, approved the construction of a $2.8 billion coal-fired plant on Friday.
California’s push is two-fold: To help rid the air of pollutants and to reduce its dependence on foreign oil by creating re-newable energies.
Kansas, it seems, remains convinced the emissions from burning coal are inconsequential to its benefits of being cheap. Coal long has been cast as the cheapest electric power option, but it also is the most emissions intensive.
The decision to build a 895-megawatt coal-fired plant in southwest Kansas was made just in time, skirting the Jan. 2 federal deadline requiring stricter regulations regarding greenhouse gas emissions. The rule is designed to employ the Clean Air Act to control heat-trapping gases from large emitters that are new or undergo significant modifications.
The new plant will be the second Sunflower Electric Power Corp. will have at Holcomb. It currently has a 362-megawatt plant that provides electricity for the region. Sunflower representatives say the new plant will boost generation by 895 megawatts, 200 of which will serve Kansas and the bulk going to customers in Texas and Colorado.
Opponents question whether the added capacity is needed, if the cash-strapped utility can afford it, and of course, whether it’s conscientious to invest in coal when the rest of the world is moving away in recognition of its damaging effects.
California’s ruling works to benefit those who are going green in a cap-and-trade system, rewarding those who reduce their emissions.
The Golden State, which has the world’s eighth largest economy, sees the program also as an incentive to create new jobs in the clean technology industry, which have increased 10-fold in the past year alone.
The expected billions that the state will take in from those who pollute will go to help fund clean air programs and offset any increases in utility rates.

KANSAS is blessed with strong winds, sunny skies and wide open spaces. That we can’t harness these attributes for wind, solar and nuclear energy is negligent, if not greedy, in our continued homage to big business.
Friday’s decision was a setback for the state.

— Susan Lynn