Eisenhower’s granddaughter brings renewable energy message to KU

Ike’s highways endeavor seen as model for future of energy

Susan Eisenhower, the granddaughter of Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, made her third stop on a cross country speaking and listening tour Thursday at the Dole Institute. She addressed the need to create a national energy-transmission superhighway.

During a visit to Kansas University Thursday, Susan Eisenhower said that the United States needs to upgrade its electrical infrastructure to take advantage of renewable energy forms.

Eisenhower, the granddaughter of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, is president of the Eisenhower Group Inc., which provides counseling on business and public affairs projects.

Lawrence was her third stop on a six-city cross-country listening and speaking tour. She spoke at Dole Institute of Politics to a group of energy industry and economic development officials from across the state.

The event was organized by the Kansas University Energy Council, a group of researchers and other stakeholders on the KU campus focused on collaboration on energy issues.

Eisenhower said the nation needs to focus more on a strategic, larger scale model of thinking, rather than its current tactical, short-term approach to some energy problems.

“We have to be thinking in the logic of 20 years, not in the logic of tomorrow or the next day,” she said.

She said the nation couldn’t afford to discriminate among forms of energy as it struggles to meet an increasing demand, including coal, nuclear, oil and gas, in addition to renewable sources like solar, wind and geothermal energy.

“We’re going to need everything,” she said. “All of these come with problems of one sort or another.”

The problem arises when new sources of energy have to be placed into an antiquated system of distribution that isn’t put together using the most modern technologies.

“The bad news is that, technologically, things have been pieced together a little like a patchwork quilt,” Eisenhower said.

She called for a national approach similar to her grandfather’s interstate highway network, only, she said, this electrical upgrade would not need to be funded with taxpayer dollars.

She said private industry is ready to pay millions of dollars to make the necessary upgrades, like adding higher-voltage capacity cables, but regulatory hurdles need to be cleared.

Eisenhower also took questions and comments from the assembled audience, to “take back to Washington” with her.

The assembled group expressed a variety of concerns. One person suggested that Kansas would not benefit from a one-size-fits-all approach to energy policy. Other suggestions ranged from an educational campaign on nuclear safety and other issues to a suggested increase in the target for new hybrid cars from manufacturers.