Don't let Kansas sell out on renewable energy
The Kansas City Star
As an Overland Park native, it breaks my heart to hear some Kansas legislators call the state’s renewable-energy law a “failure.” I’m proud to tell everyone I meet that I’m from Kansas, a state that has wisely drawn on its vast reserves of wind to lead the nation on clean energy.
Kansas’ renewable energy standard was adopted in 2009 as a bipartisan compromise between the Republican-led Legislature and then-Democratic Governor Mark Parkinson. The law has made Kansas a hotbed for wind-energy innovation, attracting $3 billion in investments. My home state ranks third in the nation in wind production, trailing only Texas and California.
This place of honor has blessed Kansas not only with those billions in investment but with 12,000 of new cleantech jobs. On top of that is the priceless benefit of reduced pollution – and cleaner air.
More than 117,000 adults and 43,500 children living in Kansas have asthma. Until I recently left the state, I was one of them. I remember as a child in gym class barely being able to catch my breath, and wondering why it was so hard to complete the mile run. And then discovering there’s a name for that – asthma – and earning the privilege of carrying an inhaler in my purse.
Kansas’ far-sighted recent policies mean its future children need not share my experience. By increasing our reliance on renewable energy, we decrease our use of polluting fuels. Curbing pollution is a giant step toward not only reducing asthma attacks, but also toward mitigating other serious conditions that can be triggered by pollution, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart attacks.
When state Rep. Dennis Hedke, one of the leaders of the efforts to ditch the state’s renewable standard, says he wants “market forces,” not government, to determine Kansas’ energy future, he neglects to say he’s part of that market. Hedke is a geophysicist consultant for the oil and gas industry.
The truth is that the renewable energy standard creates a level playing field for clean energy, like wind, to compete with vested oil interests. If we were really going to allow market forces to dictate infrastructure, we would abandon subsidies for oil companies.
After graduating from Kansas State University, I eventually made my way to San Francisco, where I live now. California’s innovative clean- energy industry, strongly supported by landmark laws, has been drawing billions in investment to the state, and cleaning up our polluted air. I’m breathing easier – with fewer asthma attacks – knowing I’m living in a state dedicated to these issues.
I left my heart in Kansas, but fortunately for my health took my lungs to San Francisco. Kansas is on the cutting edge of clean energy innovation, but repealing the renewable energy standard would be a move in the wrong direction. With other countries like China and Germany seizing the edge and future jobs, Kansas needs to maintain its leadership.
For the sake of healthy lungs, prosperity, and for many future new jobs, I urge Governor Brownback to stand strong in his support of the renewable energy standard. Now is the time for my home-state leader to make good on his pledge to make Kansas “known as not only as the Wheat state, but as the Renewable State” and lead my home state toward the clean-energy economy that will benefit us all.
Danielle English is an Overland Park native living in San Francisco. She works for a Bay Area public relations firm focused on supporting clean-energy progress.