Poll says Kansans prefer gas, wind power

The study, commissioned by a gas company, says only 8 percent want energy from coal

? A majority of Kansans oppose the proposed coal-fired plants in western Kansas and would prefer natural gas and wind development, a poll released Thursday said.

But coal plant developers, Sunflower Electric Power Corp., said the poll was biased, noting it was commissioned by Chesapeake Energy, an Oklahoma City-based company that is the country’s largest independent producer of natural gas.

“The more coal plants they kill the better for them,” said Steve Miller, a Sunflower Electric spokesman. “That must be their marketing strategy – work against coal to sell more gas.”

State officials are considering permits for two 700-megawatt coal-burning electric plants near Sunflower’s existing facility near Holcomb. Most of the energy from the plants would be sold to out-of-state customers.

Supporters of the project say it will help the western Kansas economy and burn cleaner and more efficiently than any other coal plant in the nation.

Opponents say the plants’ carbon dioxide emissions and other pollutants will add to global warming and hurt Kansans’ health.

When given the choice between coal and natural gas and wind, 87 percent of Kansans selected natural gas and wind, while 8 percent picked coal, according to the poll of 500 likely Kansas voters surveyed Oct. 2 and 3 by The Tarrance Group, based in Washington, D.C.

The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.

When asked whether they favored or opposed the two proposed plants, 51 percent opposed and 34 percent said they supported it.

“The poll results demonstrate that the majority of Kansans see natural gas and wind power as a clear-cut, attractive alternative to coal,” said Ed Goeas, president of The Tarrance Group.

The company said natural gas and wind were paired together as a possible energy source against coal because wind alone couldn’t generate enough energy to take care of all of Kansas’ power needs.