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Letters to the Editor

Unrealistic plan

March 19, 2012

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To the editor:

Gerald Mikkelson’s energy prescriptions are blatantly unrealistic (Public Forum, March 14). The first problem he misses is that change is difficult and requires thoughtful transition implementation. There is no politically or economically feasible way to transition to lowered carbon utopia of hydro-, solar- and wind-powered energy production. It is more likely leprechauns descended from Quantrill will pedal human-powered turbines 24/7 in atonement for their historical transgression than Kansas’ economy can adopt his proposals.

Second, because technology exists does not mean technology is sufficient or cost-effective for economic needs. For example, wind power technology has unresolved shortcomings such as dependence on foreign-sourced neodymium rare earth in generator magnets; it poses hazards to avian wildlife, creates acoustic pollution, and insufficient energy storage capacity exists to meet demands when the wind blows gently or not at all.

The carbon in Canadian shale oil will be released into earth’s biosphere whether the pipeline crosses Kansas or not. The real effect of the no-pipeline policy is to forgo any of the benefits of the exploitation of the Canadian oil shale while still suffering the atmospheric carbon release from the eventual consumption of the oil.

Finally, shutting down useful energy generation capacity at Wolf Creek because it is aging is ludicrous. We’re all aging. Every element of our energy infrastructure is aging, including the sun. Should we shut it all down and drink a collective cup of hemlock as Mikkelson’s criterion suggests? Of course not! To take his delusional approach would create self-inflicted economic dislocations that would make the Dust Bowl era seem like good times.

Comments

tbaker 2 years, 1 month ago

A lower or no-carbon energy source will prove viable in the next 30 years or less. In the meantime, we need a bridge fuel to fill the gap between “dirty” petroleum-based fuels and the many nascent technologies currently under development. The realistic choice for transportation fuel is compressed natural gas. The vast majority of air pollution in the US is produced by the transportation sector. CNG is an order of magnitude cleaner to use for transportation fuel than petroleum-based fuels. It is half the cost (or less) per unit of energy, and it is abundant in North America. Replacing gasoline with CNG would result in the US no longer importing crude oil from hostile countries. People who oppose CNG and claim to care about the environment are either ideologues out of touch with reality, or they are simple hypocrites. They obviously have other motives that have nothing to do with whats best for the planet and the environment we all have to live in.

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pace 2 years, 1 month ago

One thing I don't feel sentimental about or comfortable with, is aging nuclear power plants. I have always supported nuclear power. But not to the point I don't think it needs intelligent attention. Nuts to think one should not be very careful about it, and we should err on the side of caution. Yeah we are all getting old, but with that, what happens to the body as it ages? At some point it just doesn't work right. The reasoning is not rational about how it all doesn't matter or nothing but what is paying now, will pay in the future. The reasoning in the letter is not sound.

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thuja 2 years, 1 month ago

No cars or electrical grid existed before 1880 or so= 130 years.

In that time the population has multiplied sixfold, and we are scrambling to keep the pace of this non-renewable energy that we "need".

Modern humans have been on Earth 50000 years or so.

130/50000= In one quarter of one percent of the time modern humans have been around, our energy "needs" have made a big mess.

Age of Earth = 4.6 Billion years
50000/4.6B= Humans on Earth for one Thousandth of one percent of its history. 130/4.6B= Too small to even consider. Give it up. Its over.

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parrothead8 2 years, 1 month ago

It's funny how you use the word "exploitation" like it's a good thing.

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 1 month ago

While reading Mr. Michael K. Kelly's letter to the editor, I could not help but feel that my work in responding to Mr. Gerald Mikkelson’s letter to the editor had been plagiarized, although Mr. Michael K. Kelly used a whole lot more words that I did, but he certainly did leave out about 250,000 of the words that I thought of. My comment was the very first one, and I will repeat my plagiarized work in its entirety here:

"With federal and state authorities acting in tandem with the energy producing experts to implement this conversion, the cost of power will come down,"

That statement is so wildly factually incorrect that it is not possible to address all of the ways it is incorrect in anything less than a rather lengthy book. In fact, I don't think it would be possible to print it in only one volume.

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kernal 2 years, 1 month ago

The feasible solution is for every person to conserve energy.

Like that's going to happen.

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George Lippencott 2 years, 1 month ago

Such simplistic notions. We haven’t put into the field all the “new” energy solutions because corporations (specifically oil companies) are blocking it. Perhaps people like me are blocking it because we will have to pay for all of this. Perhaps we do not agree we live too well and must sacrifice more than we already are.

There is nothing that is more ruinous than absolutely unproven and essentially un-provable arguments that the transition will save us money. So far it has not – it has cost a pretty penny. Maybe in the dim distant future it will but not in my lifetime.

Almost as bad is the untested and unproven notion that nobody is trying to improve the conditions. A significant percentage of the population is changing their thermostats, incorporating energy efficiency actions and purchasing products with a lower carbon contribution. It must be devastating to some of you that you cannot stand there and flog the masses to do your bidding at your schedule regardless of the consequence to them.

You really are not an environmental “hero” until you actually have resources and choose not to use them. Yelping from a condition of near poverty that others should sacrifice is very unbecoming.

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George Lippencott 2 years, 1 month ago

Natural Gas

Selective Coal

Dare I say - domestic oil

Theses are transition fuels while we bring on at a measured and affordable pace the alternatives listed

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Flap Doodle 2 years, 1 month ago

The linkbot has woken. Fear his mad copy/paste skillz!

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 1 month ago

There are several ways to to cleaner energy therefore it is not realistic to focus on one source or two sources. Combining sources eliminates any possible "no electric" phases. There are plenty of sources on the table and willing. Not to mention long term new employment and new economic growth = icing on the cake.

Union of Concerned Scientists off this information:

Rebuilding economies:

The Plan: http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/renewable_energy_basics/renewing-americas-economy.html

Wind http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/renewable_energy_basics/how-wind-energy-works.html

Solar http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/renewable_energy_basics/how-solar-energy-works.html

Bio Mass http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/renewable_energy_basics/offmen-how-biomass-energy-works.html

Geo Thermal http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/renewable_energy_basics/offmen-how-geothermal-energy-works.html

Hydro Power http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/renewable_energy_basics/how-hydroelectric-energy-works.html

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Patrick Freeland 2 years, 1 month ago

Costa Rica sure is nice this time of year...

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George Lippencott 2 years, 1 month ago

Lots of liberal c and conservative c*. All looks the same. None of it helps. What seems to be overlooked is the reality that some solutions are not either or!!!

If we continue to add wind energy we must have a back-up for when the 60% unavailability happens. That or we broil in our homes in August.

Energy efficiency is great but the average homeowner cannot afford but so much of it over a given time. It also is not an either or solution. Yes, we should do it but we will probably need to develop other energy sources in the short term to avoid that broiling.

Where is the seriousness? If this is so, bad then we need to limit population, now!! We could also reduce the size and numbers of truck to make small cars more survivable and switch to rail and local products (where rational). We should limit future home sizes. We should incentivize multi-family living. We should mandate living and working hubs and move away from monster cities. We should kill murderers and more than one time losers to reduce carbon. I can go on with all kinds of unattractive options that offend various ideologies.

If not, just maybe the right is correct in that this is all a ploy for more control of other people’s lives using other people’s money!

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none2 2 years, 1 month ago

Some of the points in this letter are just silly:

"...wind power technology has unresolved shortcomings such as dependence on foreign-sourced neodymium rare earth in generator magnets; it poses hazards to avian wildlife, creates acoustic pollution, ..."

You don't need a mechanical engineering degree to understand electrical generation: mechanical energy is converted using magnets. As a turbin spins, the magnets cause an electrical current to flow. Neodymium magnets are strong for their size and weight. It is NOT a requirement to use them. Neodymium is also used in in microphones, some loudspeakers, in-ear headphones, guitar and bass guitar pick-ups and computer hard disks. Will you give up your audio equipment and computer to help lower our dependence on neodymium? Not all neodymium is foreign sourced. The United States mines it too (as does friendly Australia).

As to avian wildlife kill, Where are all the dead birds? I guess there must be night crews that pick the dead birds up during the night in SW Kansas. Perhaps some farms are on migratory paths such as in California.

You say "acoustic pollution". Do you have any idea what you are even talking about? Have you ever even been to a wind farm? I have ancestors buried not more than 1/4 mile from one of the generators in the Montezuma farm. I've been there numerous times as well as walked up to some of these generators to take photos. I was not the least bit bothered by the sound. In fact I was surprised that there wasn't more sound. I should also add that I did not get migraines, nor did I loose my equilibrium. Now I supposed if for hours on hours I stared at the blades while they turned, that I might eventually get dizzy, but I'm not that bored to do such a thing.

Now while I do not think alternative energy is going to save the world, neither do I think continuing down our same path is going to work indefinitely either. There are no simple solutions. The most logical future state of energy production & consumption involves multiple choices -- not some one technology that magically provides for all of our needs and has no downsides.

Now as to the pipeline, who says it should never be built? The real issue is where. If you knew anything about the issue you would know that there is already a pipeline. They want to build a second, shorter one by going through parts of the Sandhills of Nebraska where it isn't very far down before you reach the Ogallala Aquifer. Do you have any idea just how important that aquifer is to the midwest? If that aquifer ever became contaminated there would be major consequences for agriculture that far exceed your arguments for cheap energy. The pipeline company was also very rude to many property owners. Most farmers are patriots, but that doesn't mean a Canadian company can treat them like @#$ and expect them to roll over.

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camper 2 years, 1 month ago

I am surprised that conservatives are in favor of the Canadian Pipeline. I would have thought that they would be the group least willing to let Canada push us around. Times have changed.

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Jimo 2 years, 1 month ago

While i agree in general with the criticism of Mikkelson's piece, Mr. Kelly is just a mirror of the same absurdism.

Among the list of shortsighted comments: 1. "wind power technology has unresolved shortcomings such as dependence on foreign-sourced neodymium rare earth...."

Neodymium is a rare earth mineral, but despite the name, it is no more rare than copper. While it is mined mostly in foreign locations (read: China) that's not because it isn't found in some abundance in the U.S. Rather, China doesn't give a damn about their environment and mining neodymium is a very messy business. Besides that, "dependence" on "foreign-sourced" minerals is the current dinosaur-based model. (The only way to be "independent" of foreign oil is to be independent of oil altogether.) Don't hold your breath for Mr. Kelly to denounce that other "foreign-sourced" system anytime soon!

  1. "The carbon in Canadian shale oil will be released into earth’s biosphere whether the pipeline crosses Kansas or not."

Mr. Kelly assumes that Canadian shale oil will be developed regardless of whether American cooperation is lacking. Despite some brave words from Canadians about building a technologically difficult and economically unfeasible pipeline over the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific, that's not going to happen. Taking what's already a remarkably inefficient, and thereby costly, energy source and making it even more costly isn't a rational strategy. Besides, while renewable energy sources remain more costly than their dinosaur equivalents, they aren't more costly than Canadian shale oil!

  1. "shutting down useful energy generation capacity at Wolf Creek because it is aging is ludicrous. We’re all aging. Every element of our energy infrastructure is aging, including the sun."

A third grader couldn't have said it better. Maybe this wins Mr. Kelly points with his brother in law, Doofus, at the annual family picnic but I doubt a single person of even average intelligence was persuaded by Mr. Kelly's lame attempt at logical thinking.

  1. "There is no politically or economically feasible way to transition to lowered carbon utopia of hydro-, solar- and wind-powered energy production."

Really? Several counties are currently choosing on a goal year to have this transition completed. The U.S. military itself has embarked on a long transition away from sole reliance on undependable carbon. The fact is there is no political or economical means to remain tethered to the nightmarish suicide pact of continued reliance on jellied dinosaurs. We can't afford the unreliability of supply, we can't afford the cumulative pollution, we can't afford the hyper-military behemoth necessary to police the world. Mikkelson's utopia will never arrive but a world powered by renewable energy sources in one with far fewer longterm problems than the existing one Mr. Kelly is in denial about now.

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George Lippencott 2 years, 1 month ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (anonymous) replies…

"Mr. Kelly is right on in responding to the earlier letter."

No, he wasn't. I didn't think Mikkelson's letter was all that great, but this reply merely repeats denialist crap.

Moderate Responds

And your solution is. Mr. Kelly's points are IMHO accurate.

The real tragedy with people who believe as you seem to do is that other solutions and mitigation do not happen because we are chasing partial solutions that are fine in and of themselves but will not by themselves solve the problem. We need to think bigger!

And your comment is so apropos. We have conservative “C (and I very frankly do not consider Mr. Kelly’s offering in that category) and liberal; C but no agreed to solution. Maybe you should work in that direction? Could you be hindering progress??

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camper 2 years, 1 month ago

Canadian oil shale is not a solution. Natural gas (a cleaner fuel) is used in the extraction process in addition to huge amounts of water (which of course is either treated or sits in resovoir ponds). But I guess this is Canada's choice. Let them make it, but don't push the USA around and hardline us into running a pipeline accross our plains. Go take a walk Canada.

Solar polar shows a lot of promise in my opinion.

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its_just_math 2 years, 1 month ago

Bozo calls us "zombies" and "denialists". Lemme tell you, who'll be in denial when all the coal plants are shut down, corporate farming is a thing of the past and 300 million + people are sitting in thier living rooms because they can't afford to put gas in their car at $10/ gallon, with parkas, insulated boots and sock caps on in January and 3 squares consisting of mac-n-cheese. Far-left ideology is not catching on because it is, well , lunacy---simply put. You want see "denialist".......go stand in front of a mirror and look straight ahead.

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Liberty275 2 years, 1 month ago

Thank you, Mr Kelly. You are spot on.

The driver behind pushing people green has little to do with conservation or the environment. Instead of keeping our world as clean as possible, the militant edge of the green movement is propelled, like most leftist ideologues, by jealousy and greed. This lot would see us all driving the same 30 MPG car or leaving the AC off in 80 degree weather in their zeal for false justice. If they can't have a fast, and yes - gas guzzling car, why should anyone? If they can't afford to pay for air conditioning, why should others have it? Why? Freedom. That's why.

Luckily, enough Americans remain to stand up to our would-be energy dictators and we hold plenty in reserve to continue squashing their petty little attacks of envy for a long time. In time, technology will take this bit of ammo from the hard left with smart conservation and alternate sources of energy driven by the market.

I can't imagine any American wanting anything but the cleanest environment possible. However, the enviroleftists are just using the perfection to bludgeon the better to death, and that is a sign of their ulterior motive.

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SinoHawk 2 years, 1 month ago

Fantastic, LTE. Fantastic.

I try to be green as much as possible (walk/public transit to work, for example), but we can't just flip a switch and get off of fossil fuels. We should certainly continue to invest, but that doesn't mean that we should eliminate the capacity that we have without an adequate substitute.

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George Lippencott 2 years, 1 month ago

Bozo

Mr. Kelly is right on in responding to the earlier letter. Certainly there were solutions he did not offer - there are word limitations. While you are pointed in your rejections of his points you actually offer no solution at all (except energy efficiency which is a no brainer). Is your argument that we can solve the problem by making everyone walk, eat local vegetables, wear homespun, freeze or broil and so on.

I will believe your sincerity when you offer population as a major source of carbon. One of the simplest things to do is limit births and drive population down. Why do we support children through tax and social policy? We should at least be neutral. Perhaps we could even have a special tax for the second and subsequent child. Bet that would ease our carbon footprint by about 300 tons per kid.

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SouthWestKs 2 years, 1 month ago

DougCounty,

Using those numbers, 3,754,000 MW hours for wind energy in 2011 times 0.022 cents per KH for the production tax credit, it cost us $82,588,000 extra for that energy.. Who do you think pays for that cost?? Also will that be added to the normal cost of electricity that we have to pay for??

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Armstrong 2 years, 1 month ago

Mr. Kelly, I believe your common sense article is a bit much for the environment. Do you not see the impact your statements have made on the tree hugger group this morning.

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Ken Lassman 2 years, 1 month ago

So Mr. Kelly, You too, are under the same delusion as was implied by Mr. Mikkelson's letter: change doesn't come with the flip of a switch. Any scenario that I've ever seen proposed describes a steady transition, starting with energy efficiency measures to greatly reduce the amount of energy wasted in our current building stock and distribution network, followed by a gradual but steady influx of renewables into the energy grid. The amount of money that is saved by reduced waste goes a long way toward paying for the transition, combined with some incentives up front to get the ball rolling, i.e. paying the utilities to help reduce customer waste--otherwise you are asking utilities to pay for programs that will reduce the amount of electricity they can sell.

And this indeed is what is already happening: check the US Energy Information Agency and you'll find that over 3,754,000 MW hours of electricity was generated in Kansas by the wind in 2011. That's up from a little over 270,000 MW hours in 2005, and virtually none in 2001. With the wind resources in our state, plus job growth in places like the Hutchinson Siemens wind turbine plant, there is every reason for this process to continue, and with the price of solar coming down so fast, I would expect that Kansas is well enough endowed to see a similar curve develop for solar as it has seen with wind.

The goal I believe is to see 20% of electrical generation through renewables by 2020, which sounds pretty ambitious, but when you see that Iowa, Colorado and Texas have already had that much of their electricity generated by renewables on some days, maybe that does not seem so far fetched. The question is not one of know-how or technical feasability as you suggest; it's one of leadership and commitment.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 1 month ago

One more note-- absolutely no mention of the single biggest leg of reducing the production of greenhouse gases-- conservation and increased efficiency-- something that requires almost no new technologies, only the political will to do it.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 1 month ago

"There is no politically or economically feasible way to transition to lowered carbon"

Correction-- no ways that are ideologically palatable to the letter writer-- the real reason that conservatives/capitalists are in such denial over the science of global warming/climate change.

"Second, because technology exists does not mean technology is sufficient or cost-effective for economic needs."

Bald assertion, but strangely, the writer of this LTE only applies this "logic" to technologies he doesn't like, not the fossil fuels or nuclear energy whose real costs he externalizes, and whose inherent insufficiency (and unsustainability) he blithely ignores.

"The carbon in Canadian shale oil will be released into earth’s biosphere whether the pipeline crosses Kansas or not."

More bald assertion. There is a good deal of resistance to the continued massive destruction caused by the strip mining of tar sands, and to pipelines across British Columbia. His insistence that we can't resist the "Borg" of big oil is as pessimistic as it is idiotic.

"Should we shut it all down and drink a collective cup of hemlock"

Your overall prescription of going full speed over the cliff is mass suicide, anyway, so go ahead-- bottoms up. If enough of you and your ilk join you, then maybe, just maybe, sanity might prevail.

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grimpeur 2 years, 1 month ago

Not as unrealistic as continuing to ignore the consequences of our personal lifestyle choices.

But carry on.

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tomatogrower 2 years, 1 month ago

So we just continue to do what we are doing, and don't look for solutions? Of course, things won't get bad in your lifetime, so what do you care. I hate these selfish people who don't care about future generations.

Do you conservatives actually look for high gas emission, high gas mileage vehicles? Are you the ones who throw the trash from these vehicles? Do you set your thermostat to 80 in the winter? Do you dump oil, gasoline, and old tires in the creek out back? You claim to be good little Christians, but you s*** on God's creation?

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cato_the_elder 2 years, 1 month ago

Wow. One of the best letters to the J-W in a long time.

The proposals routinely put forth by environmentalist wackos and their deluded followers are often so idiotic that they shouldn't even require a response, but they do. Our children are being brainwashed daily with such rubbish, which emanates from the Campaigner-in-Chief on down.

Thanks to Mr. Kelly for a cogent, entertaining, spot-on dissection of yet another ridiculous example of the Envirowacko Theater of the Absurd.

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its_just_math 2 years, 1 month ago

Well, Michael, the nutty far-left seems to think we can end fossil fuel use and corporate farming for that matter. In a few years from now, going by their wishes, the winters would be long, cold and very hungry. They do live in a dreamworld that they insist is do-able, and I'm going to win $50 million in the lottery here soon---I'm sure of it. Al Gore has laughed all the way to the bank. Where has he been lately BTW?

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