Brownback makes right call on wind tax credit
The Kansas City Star
Kansas is the Saudi Arabia of wind power. Or so the saying goes from those who want to dramatically expand wind farms in the state, including Gov. Sam Brownback.
But could Kansas also be the Saudi Arabia of … oil?
Talk of a new, still-in-its-infancy oil boom is circulating in rural areas in the state. Farmers are getting more money for mineral rights under their land. Companies are bringing in more workers to explore for petroleum. And a few cities are seeing an economic uptick, as restaurants and housing fill up after years of population loss.
For Kansas, renewed efforts to pump more crude out of the ground could lead to the kind of financial windfall that North Dakota has enjoyed in recent years. A real boom could create thousands of good-paying jobs and help repopulate small rural towns in Kansas.
Done properly — and that means tightly following rules to protect the environment, especially underground water supplies — finding more oil could lead to a brighter future for the state.
Add in the potential for the addition of more wind turbines on Kansas farm fields, and it’s easy to see why Brownback is touting the importance of energy to the state’s economy.
Last week the governor spoke at the American Wind Energy Association’s convention in Atlanta, where the latest in wind energy technology was on display.
Brownback makes many decisions that aren’t in the state’s best interests. His recent signing of a huge tax cut bill that could decimate funding for key services such as public schools is a prime example.
However, Brownback deserves much credit for breaking from his ultra-conservative political colleagues who ignore or criticize the potential of wind power and other alternative energies. Brownback boldly has even called for extending the U.S. tax break for wind energy.
At last week’s conference, the governor had excellent reasons for his stand.
“More than 1,200 new, high-paying manufacturing jobs have been announced in Kansas in the last two years directly related to renewable energy,” he said. “Kansas also has more wind energy construction projects under way than any other state, with at least 663 new turbines set to be installed and nearly $3 billion of new investment from 2011 to the end of 2012.”
Extension of the federal tax credit would help the industry expand in Kansas while keeping electricity rates more reasonable for customers.
In the long term, however, the wind power industry must build more efficient turbines and other equipment that can produce market-rate electricity.
As for the potential of more oil production in Kansas, it’s by no means assured. While initial drilling has been successful in limited areas, a lot more dry holes could be found in the future, too.
And petroleum exploration, at least in some people’s minds, doesn’t square with the desire to diversify energy production in Kansas and this nation.
But two powerful realities exist.
Oil is still extremely important in powering the country’s economy. And domestic crude production, including in Kansas, will reduce America’s reliance on imports from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.