Letters to the Editor

Letter: Green energy

February 24, 2014


To the editor:

Ken Meyer, in his Feb. 17 letter, makes a valid point about corn-based ethanol, which I would be among the last to attempt to defend. His statements about the carbon footprint of green energy alternatives is way off the mark, however.

It is true that all forms of electrical energy production involve producing some amounts of carbon dioxide, but when the amount of CO2 is calculated over the useful lifetime of the various alternatives, all of the green energy alternatives produce far less CO2 that do coal, oil, and natural gas generation. Coal, for example, produces between 863 and 1175 grams of CO2 per equivalent kW of electricity, with oil producing 893 grams and natural gas producing 577 grams.

Of the green electricity alternatives, low temperature geothermal produces the least at 0 to 1 gram. Hydroelectric is second at 15. Wind comes in third at 21, followed by concentrated solar at 40 (Plus or minus 15), nuclear at 60 to 65, high temperature geothermal at 91 to 122 and photovoltaic solar at 106 grams per kW.

These figures are from published studies, cited in a Wikipedia article on green energy carbon footprint. As one can easily calculate, fossil fuel electricity produces anywhere from 5.4 to as much as 1,100 or more times as much carbon dioxide as does green electricity production, calculated over the lifetime of the plant. Given that 10 percent to 30 percent of electricity produced in central plants is lost in transmission, localized production of green energy becomes an even better alternative.


Ken Lassman 1 year, 9 months ago

Thanks for collecting these facts together, Jim. It is not only a response to another letter, it is a timely reminder as to why we need to maintain our goals we set to transition, considering that the legislature is considering repealing the Renewable Portfolio Standard of 20% peak energy potential from renewables adopted in 2009. Kansas has a tremendous potential to become one of the country's leaders, and adoption of the RPS has helped stimulate wind farms in our state since it was adopted: over 2700 MW of wind has been installed since 2009. Iowa, a less windy state has already reached 20% wind capacity, while Colorado is shooting for 30% by 2020, and while Oklahoma has only set 15% as their goal, it has set 2015 as its timetable so could reach 20% by 2020. In contrast, Nebraska does not have an RPS and lags far behind surrounding states in terms of developing this resource, which creates jobs for thousands of people, by the way. I wasn't able to track down the number of wind-related jobs in Kansas (anyone have this?) but in Iowa, it looks to be around 6,000. For a state looking to be business friendly, repealing the RPS would certainly send mixed signals to an industry that would continue to create thousands of local jobs for Kansans.

James Cooley 1 year, 9 months ago

Thanks for your reply Ken. About the only argument I have see advanced for repealing or reducing the RPS in Kansas is that the higher costs of paying for renewable energy benefit only the owners of the production, but are born by all ratepayers. As I pointed out in my comments following Ken Meyer' s letter, this ignores the fact that many of the costs of fossil fuel generated electricity are externalized, ie, they are born by all citizens, even those who choose to live off the grid. Since everyone pays for the costs of air and water pollution and the environmental impact of fossil fuel extraction, it makes far more sense for rate payers to pay a small additional amount for renewable electricity and thereby avoid the much greater externalized costs associated with burning coal, oil, or natural gas. Everyone benefits from RPS s, but only the centralized power producers benefit from reducing or eliminating them.

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