Kansas may be decades behind other states when it comes to making the most of its energy use, but the state is on track toward moving closer to the forefront, a national efficiency proponent said Thursday.
Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, told about 120 attendees of the Kansas Economic Policy Conference that Kansas should be lauded for creating an energy plan and working toward alternative-energy goals outlined by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.
Now, she said, it's time to follow through with other initiatives that could help Kansans use less electricity, natural gas and other fuels. Among the possibilities: establish a statewide residential building code, to promote energy-saving materials and design components; and offer tax incentives to spur conservation efforts.
Even helping the public understand the benefits of switching from incandescent to compact fluorescent light bulbs - for an energy savings of $55 per bulb, even when the higher purchase price is included - would go a long way toward making the Sunflower State a leader in efficiency efforts.
"We believe that you all are on a very good path toward making energy efficiency the state's greatest resource," Callahan said, addressing a luncheon crowd at the Kansas Union and, through video, attendees in Ulysses and Norton.
But Callahan acknowledged that the state continues to have a major barrier to efficiency. Energy is relatively cheap in Kansas, as the state ranks 38th among the 50 states in terms of power costs.
"Low prices allow waste to go on," she said. "Price matters."
Liz Brosius, director of the Kansas Energy Council, is familiar with the conundrum.
"In order for people to use less energy, the price of energy has to go up," she said. "The good news is, that's going to happen, for a lot of reasons."
Not everyone, of course, is looking forward to higher energy prices, said Don Johnston, regional executive vice president for Intrust Bank, who attended the conference. But he's sure that people will be better off as more people start talking about energy options and their anticipated effects on the economy and environment.
"The answer is, 'Wake up, America,' " he said. "We need to try to get together and understand the problem, and quit pretending there is one, simple solution."