Letters to the Editor

Letter: Energy attack

March 22, 2014

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To the editor:

The Kansas Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) are under attack. The arguments advanced to repeal these standards, which require major utility companies to have the capacity to produce up to 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020, are pitifully weak.

First, it is argued that renewable energy has caused a 22 percent increase in electric rates. It is true that electric rates have increased steadily over the years, but a Kansas Corporation Commission report attributes less than 2 percent of rate increases to the RPS. If consumers think that repeal of the RPS will cause their electric rates to decrease or remain constant, they must be inhaling too much of that Colorado air.

The second argument for repeal is that the standards require the government to pick winning and losing industries. Since the standards do not specify what type of renewable energy the utilities must choose, if the standards are repealed, the government will in effect choose fossil fuel sources for Kansas-produced electricity, a proven loser.

The true costs of burning fossil fuel is not reflected in the costs of the electricity produced. The costs of air and water pollution, heavy metal contamination, mountain top removal and giant open pit mining, global warming and associated storm and drought conditions and sea level rises, are not borne by utility ratepayers, but by society at large. If these external costs of fossil fuel electricity production were added into the rates consumers pay, it would be apparent to all that renewable energy is a true winner compared to fossil fuel.

Comments

Bart Johnson 1 year, 2 months ago

I like civilization, even if some don't. If you want to live in a third-world country, by all means do so, but don't try and bring ruin upon the rest of us.

Ken Lassman 1 year, 2 months ago

Bart, Then I'm glad you're on board with renewables, since the UK is shooting for 20% renewables by 2020, Germany hit 12% of total energy consumption from renewables, with 22% electricity from renewables in 2012, Italy totaled 13.5% with electricity 25%, Spain totaled 14.3% with electricity 34%, Portugal totaled 34% with electricity more than 50%, Austria totaled 34% and Sweden totaled 51% from renewables. Affluent, "civilized" Europeans are leading the way, but China is coming up fast and so is the USA if we don't shoot ourselves in the foot too many times with fossil fuel protectionist policies like was dictated to us by the ALEC bunch.

So contact your contact your legislators and let them know that on top of all the other economic, jobs creating, climate mitigating reasons, RPSs are a mark of civilization and that we want to keep them in place.

Ken Lassman 1 year, 2 months ago

Wow, Scott, such vitriol does not become you. I brought up Europe because Bart was talking about how renewables was somehow uncivilized and linked to some kind of gray, third world existence, and I wanted to correct this misperception by pointing out that it is the "civilized" countries that are leading the way. But fear not, Scott, putting up wind turbines, solar panels and making our buildings more energy efficient does not turn us into Europeans. But it does make long term fiscal sense and climate prudence to do so, even though you presumably still deny the reality of climate change or its long term impact on agriculture, coastal cities, and other impacts that could make our current fiscal cliff seem like child's play.

James Howlette 1 year, 2 months ago

"All" is such a dangerous word, Scott. Seems to me that Germany isn't doing so bad compared to the US. Lower unemployment and debt to GDP. http://countryeconomy.com/countries/compare/usa/germany

Bart Johnson 1 year, 2 months ago

Mr. Lassman, those countries are trying to become third-world countries as fast as they can. But don't worry, the US isn't far behind.

James Howlette 1 year, 2 months ago

The US will beat them there by a long shot, thanks to our poor policy decisions since about the late 1970s.

PS, I find the "third world country" name calling by people who have never been to one and don't know what it means to be very amusing.

Bart Johnson 1 year, 2 months ago

Well Mr. Howlette, if you've never been to a third-world country, I don't recommend it. When you have a place where there is almost no respect at all for private property rights, you get horrifying poverty.

James Howlette 1 year, 2 months ago

I've been. Yes, I know that in the alternate reality in which you live, "property rights" are the magical solution to everything, but in reality world, it's not so simple.

When you have a system that unfairly advantages the already advantaged, that's when you get horrifying poverty. With wealth concentration comes power concentration. Eventually there is no chance to improve one's lot, no matter how much your meager property is "respected." Thank heavens that the US started out at a much much higher standard of living than Cameroon, Madagascar, Rwanda, Uganda, and Ecuador. Because we've got the same level of income inequality.

Bart Johnson 1 year, 2 months ago

No, the real world is extremely complex, and no amount of central planning can possibly be substituted for the choices of billions. Hence private property rights are the only solution in a complex world. Private property means that individuals choose how to allocate scarce resources instead of central planners.

"When you have a system that unfairly advantages the already advantaged, that's when you get horrifying poverty"

I agree. That system is called Central Planning by the Government. In a free market there is no advantage for the already advantaged. You could have had a successful business for decades that gets suddenly put out of business by some upstart with a better mousetrap. It's all about the consumer and merit is what rules, not previous advantage.

James Howlette 1 year, 2 months ago

Fantasy. Pure fantasy. I didn't expect any different from you, LO.

Bart Johnson 1 year, 2 months ago

No, reality. Central planning has failed wherever it has been tried. Taking away property rights results in mass starvation, time after time. These are facts. You live in fantasy land, I live in reality. I go with what works. Just look at the world economic freedom index. The more free the economy, the better off the people are. These are undeniable facts about reality.

James Howlette 1 year, 2 months ago

"Central planning" aka Communism fails, yes. Total deregulation, aka libertarianism also fails. One remarkable thing you'll notice that both systems have in common? Aside from the fact that neither has ever existed in the ideal form envisioned by their theoretical founders and never will? Extreme poverty. Big wealth gaps. They both form an elite superclass that concentrates all the wealth and power among a few. They both ultimately take the power away from the people in the name of "empowering" them.

The world economic freedom index includes a lot more poverty reduction measures and market regulations than I suspect you (or Heritage) is comfortable admitting. All successful economies are essentially mixed economies, and for the healthiest - that mix is further to the left than ours is here. We're circling the drain, and it isn't because of central planning. It's because an elite superclass is concentrating wealth and power at the expense of the majority, and they're using claims like "property rights" to dupe people like you into think it's a good idea. They're breaking democracy. These are the undeniable facts about reality.

Bart Johnson 1 year, 2 months ago

"Total deregulation, aka libertarianism also fails...Extreme poverty. Big wealth gaps....They both form an elite superclass that concentrates all the wealth and power among a few"

Are these just your opinions or do you have anything to support these assertions?

Regardless, let me try and understand your response to my point. I pointed out that as economic freedom increased, the better off the people are. If this were put on a graph, we'd have a line where as economic freedom increases, so does the welfare of the people. Are you saying that there is some point where that trend reverses? Where there is "too much" economic freedom and the welfare of the people goes down? Clearly the trend shows no evidence of this, so I'm wondering where you come up with this theory.

James Howlette 1 year, 2 months ago

Sure, I've got countless historical examples, but I've long since learned that you'll ignore them. You've even got an alternative version of what caused the great depression.

You pointed out the Heritage index with a subjective ranking of "freedomness" as if it were some sort of definitive proof. Singapore has the government actively manipulating property values. Many of those countries have fully socialized health care systems. Most have progressive taxes at rates higher than what we pay here, and most have substantial poverty reduction programs. It all doesn't strike me very much as proving what you think it does.

Bart Johnson 1 year, 2 months ago

I never said they were libertarian countries. The US obviously has fiat currency, progressive taxation, government retirement and health care plans etc. However, private property rights are usually respected, contracts are enforced, people have freedom to switch jobs, open or close a business and so on. This is not laissez-faire, but it's better than Cuba. Those countries with the highest standards of living tend towards more economic freedom. Those countries with the lowest standards of living tend towards socialism and central planning. This is just reality. You've done everything you can to avoid this reality, but it is still there. You've confirmed my thoughts with your inability to dispute my actual points. So thank you for this thought exercise.

James Howlette 1 year, 2 months ago

I'm really not sure why the cognitive dissonance in your own reply didn't make your head hurt.

Ken Lassman 1 year, 2 months ago

I'm curious who you consider to be civilized, then.

Bart Johnson 1 year, 2 months ago

I consider those places that have a higher respect for private property rights to be civilized. Places like the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia. Check out the world economic freedom index. Those with more economic freedom are much, much nicer places to live.

Freedom = civilization. Socialism = poverty, war and death.

Ken Lassman 1 year, 2 months ago

Well, everyone is entitled to their opinion. I have a much broader set of criteria for being civilized than just respect for private property, and I suspect I'm in the majority. But out of curiosity, I took a look at your referred Heritage Foundation World Economic Freedom Index and found it quite interesting both in terms of what they considered the most "free" and also in reference to renewable energies, which, of course is what this comment column is supposed to be about.

The first two on the list are the world's largest gated communities: Hong Kong and Singapore. I find both to the opposite of free, as they are essentially free through their free use of walls and restrictions through governmental control and repression in maintaining their economic freedoms.

Next on the list is Australia, which is producing 13.4% of its energy through renewables and despite a recent effort to repeal, has decided to keep their carbon tax in an effort to further stimulate the use of renewable energy and cut back on carbon emissions.

Next is Switzerland, which produces 56% of its electricity through hydroelectric project that are -gasp- socialism in action! New Zealand produces 37% of its electricity through mostly hydro but is shooting for 90% renewables by 2025, mostly by the use of wind energy. Funny how being an island makes you more concerned about climate change and rising sea levels.

The Economic Freedom list goes on, and many other countries rating in the top 20 include your socialist countries: Denmark (rates higher than the US), Netherlands, Germany, Finland and Sweden. Seems that your simple world view doesn't match very well even with the Heritage Foundation's freedom index and certainly with who is using renewables and who isn't.

Bart Johnson 1 year, 2 months ago

All that and you still missed the point. The countries with the least government intervention were the best ones to live in. You didn't dispute this point at all, but instead tried to claim that those countries at the top really weren't that free. All you've done is solidify my point.

Ken Lassman 1 year, 2 months ago

Actually, the letter was about the role of the renewable portfolio standards and the role they play in encouraging a more rapid adoption of renewable sources of energy. Since renewable energy plays an increasingly important role in countries both high and low on your freedom index, and government "socialist" incentives/public projects exist in all of them, I really don't think your definition of "civilized" is particularly relevant to the original topic at hand. Furthermore, your definition of what constitutes "civilized" is way narrower than the generally accepted definitions, to the point of being irrelevant to most people.

Larry Sturm 1 year, 2 months ago

The Kansas Governor and legislature is doing everything they can to degrade Kansas before they get kicked out of office.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 months ago

It is the ALEC approach to economics written in secret meetings behind those closed doors. I still question whether or not this is legal. Kansas legislation is produced behind these closed doors in which many Kansas legislators attend.

Rather than serve the public interest, ALEC champions the agenda of corporations which are willing to pay for access to legislators and the opportunity to write their very own legislation.

It helps surrogates and lobbyists for corporations to draft and promote state bills which:

  • wages war on women

• gut environmental laws

• create a regressive tax system

• eliminate workers’ rights = lower wages

• undermine universal and affordable health care

• privatize public education

• chip away at voting rights.

http://www.pfaw.org/rww-in-focus/alec-the-voice-of-corporate-special-interests-state-legislatures#Voter

United States of ALEC http://www.democracynow.org/2012/9/27/the_united_states_of_alec_bill

People For The American Way Say’s Dump Doma http://site.pfaw.org/site/PageServer?pagename=dump_doma&autologin=true

More on People For The American Way http://www.pfaw.org

Scott Burkhart 1 year, 2 months ago

I happen to be a member of ALEC, Richard, and we talk about you whenever we get together. I just thought you should know.

Brock Masters 1 year, 2 months ago

When you talk about Richard do you use original thought or do you just cut and paste old tired and hysterical talking points?

I am sure the gut says stay original, but to truly honor him, I'd suggest meaningless cut and paste.

Scott Burkhart 1 year, 2 months ago

We cut and paste everything he posts and present it on a power point presentation. Then we laugh, get drunk and discuss the ways we can further starve children, steal from the poorest of the poor, throw old women off of cliffs, cut all funding for education so that even our own children will not receive a quality education, and make sure that we educate people about whether they should pay their cable bill or buy health insurance. Oh, wait, that was President Obama not us. Sorry. Let's give credit where credit is due. President Obama has an ad out instructing people on how they should manage their family budget so they can afford to enroll for the ACA. Heaven forbid a conservative should suggest that households learn how to live within a budget.

Julius Nolan 1 year, 2 months ago

Your membership in ALEC is all anyone needs to know to understand your obsessive hatred of Obama. I will be sure that I never do business with you or your employer, even though it's not the Koch brothers.

Bob Smith 1 year, 2 months ago

Look up the definition of "snark", Julius.

Julius Nolan 1 year, 2 months ago

Just stated plain fact. Why should I deal with someone whose bias and attitude is repugnant to normal, rational person? He's stated he's member of ALEC, therefore no ordinary, thinking person is worthy of his services.

Brett McCabe 1 year, 2 months ago

Julius, I'd join you if I knew where he worked. One of the downsides of the "religious right to refuse service" being defeated is that, if the law had been instituted, at least then I would have known who to boycott.

As it stands, they just hide in the bushes.

Scott Burkhart 1 year, 2 months ago

I don't hate Obama. I think he is an unqualified community organizer with an irresponsible, idealistic view of the way he wants the world to be, not as it is. In other words, he's deluded.

Scott Burkhart 1 year, 2 months ago

Maybe I should qualify that. I think he is qualified to be a community organizer, not the President of the United States.

Scott Burkhart 1 year, 2 months ago

Do you think you could post some more liberal websites. We would like to talk about them too.

Brock Masters 1 year, 2 months ago

The same people defending the RFS are often the same ones loudly complaining about government subsidies for corporations. Who receives the tax credits and subsidies for renewable energy sources? Corporations. Stay consistent. Subsidies are bad - period.

If an industry can't survive without government welfare then it should just wither away and die.

James Howlette 1 year, 2 months ago

Subsidies aren't "bad, period." They're a tool. Subsidies are bad when they're used to give unfair advantages to entities that already have huge advantages. That's not an inconsistent argument.

There's no such thing as a totally free market. Every market has rules and regulations, including ours. You can't sell people poison and label it food. You can't change the rules of a contract after someone signs it. We have taxes on certain items. We "pick winners and losers" all. the. time. The market is not and has never been so "free" that you could do whatever you wanted.

In the case of RPS, the improvements won't happen unless we demand that they do.

Brock Masters 1 year, 2 months ago

Regulation to protect the public is good. Regulation to distort the marketplace is bad.

We, the public, should pick the winners and losers, not the government.

James Howlette 1 year, 2 months ago

You're not getting it. All regulation "distorts" the market. Regulations exist for a reason. Without them, the market would behave differently. We do not live in anarchy... or in a vacuum in which other countries are not already ahead of us in renewable energy development. In the case of RPS, the regulation protects the public from the fossil fuel pollution that would otherwise be occurring. It also creates jobs as new technologies are built, which is very good for the public.

We, the public, should pick the government instead of allowing the marketplace to do it.

Brock Masters 1 year, 2 months ago

Okay so it all distorts the market. Doesn't change what I wrote. Regulation to protect the public is good. Regulation intended to distort the market is bad.

Let me make it simple for you. Regulations prohibiting antibiotics in meat is good. Giving tax breaks to one industry over another is bad. Exempting one developer from paying taxes is bad.

Pretty simple.

People should be more engaged in electing their representatives. No argument there.

James Howlette 1 year, 2 months ago

Since it all distorts the market, it doesn't matter if it's intended to do so or not. One could argue that regulations that unintentionally distort the market are just poorly thought out. We give tax breaks to one industry over another all the time. It's a tool to shape innovation and encourage industries that are better for society as a whole. That benefits the public. The trick is picking the correct industries to favor. Hint: big oil is probably not the correct answer.

Brock Masters 1 year, 2 months ago

Blah blah blah.......just because it is done doesn't make it right. Government should not favor one industry over another with tax breaks. Yes it does matter on its intent. Regulation whose purpose is to protect to the public is good even it does distort the market. Incentives, credits, subsidies, etc. that are intended to distort the market are bad. Go on, try and make it more complicated than that.

Yep, worked great for Solyndra. Half billion down the drain thanks to favoring one industry over another.

James Howlette 1 year, 2 months ago

Sometimes protecting the public is done by favoring one industry over another. That's what I'm saying. It's not complicated. Not every industry is of equal benefit to the public, either in the short or long term. We, the taxpayers, will eventually have to pay for the environmental damage done by non renewable energy production. It is to all of our benefits to mitigate the damage and encourage industries to blossom that will not contribute to that long term bill.

Solyndra represented 1.3 percent of the loans backed by the government for that program, and, last I read, was the only one that bankrupt. Should we avoid every program with a 98.7% success rate? Meanwhile, industry has been spending a very low percentage of their money on R&D. If we didn't mandate they fix this, they wouldn't.

William Cummings 1 year, 2 months ago

James: Actually there were others that went bankrupt. Some of the names included were: Fisker Automotive, Beacon Energy, and Abound Solar. However, the dollar amount for all of these combined was not nearly as large Solyndra.

That said, you are correct that the losses were fairly small given the magnitude of the program. One of the successes is the largest solar power plant in the world. A great tour is available at http://ivanpahsolar.com/

Innovation does not come without risk, and failure is simply part of the process. A lot of private capital was lost on the Solyndra bankruptcy, along with the government loan guarantee. As an aside, Solyndra was named by the Wall Street Journal to be the country's top cleantech company in 2010. http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052748704548604575097972068138474

James Cooley 1 year, 2 months ago

A couple of additional points. Bankruptcy does not necessarily mean a company ceases to exist. Beacon, for example, has reorganized and is continuing in business with a different but related emphasis. The second point, much knowledge, experience, equipment and facilities, can be retained even though a company ceases to operate. The wages paid by Solyndra, the plant and equipment, the knowledge and experience of the staff and employees, are all still in California and may serve as the seed of inspiration for as yet unrealized innovations.

James Cooley 1 year, 2 months ago

Actually, Brock, that is the thrust of my letter. The external costs of fossil fuel produced electricity are essentially a huge government subsidy for the fossil energy companies and give them a great advantage over renewable energy producers, there by distorting the markets in favor of fossil electricity.

Brock Masters 1 year, 2 months ago

Didn't catch that when I first read your letter. Don't know if I agree with you, but don't know if I disagree either. Need to think on it. Interesting point

James Cooley 1 year, 2 months ago

Thanks for being open to consider the point. Let me give an example to illustrate the failure to account for hidden costs. If cities were allowed to dump their raw sewage into public streams, they could greatly reduce their treatment costs, but cities down stream would have to greatly increase their expenditures for creating potable water. In the same way, if fossil fuel generated electric plants can use the common atmosphere as a waste dump without paying to clean it up, they can charge lower rates. Society as a whole, however, will have to pick up the costs of climate change and air pollution. It is the hidden or externalized costs of fossil fuel electricity that constitutes a public subsidy for fossil electricity and distorts the market.

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