Friday, October 31, 2014

Free market energy

3/31/2014

Dear Sen. Caryn Tyson, many thanks for your recent call. I had called your senate office number, and asked that you consider voting “no” on Senate Bill 433. I did a quick read of the bill on the Legislature’s web site; I understand the bill to repeal the renewable energy standards that currently are law in Kansas and which mandate percentages of utilities’ production which must be generated by “renewable energy.”

You were nice to call me back; I missed your call, called you back and we talked some. So thanks for your time.

Dear Sen. Caryn Tyson, many thanks for your recent call. I had called your senate office number, and asked that you consider voting “no” on Senate Bill 433. I did a quick read of the bill on the Legislature’s web site; I understand the bill to repeal the renewable energy standards that currently are law in Kansas and which mandate percentages of utilities’ production which must be generated by “renewable energy.”

You were nice to call me back; I missed your call, called you back and we talked some. So thanks for your time.

I am puzzled by your remarks. I think you said you want the “free market” to be the arbiter of which kind of energy a utility invests. This, of course, as the alternative for the Legislature mandating sources of energy for utilities. What’s puzzling to me is that I think I hold the “free market” position, and you are doing political theater. (Sorry, these are strong words). I’ll try to make my points quickly. I said some of these things on the phone. I’ll write my conclusion first: the coal-fired electrical generating plants in the state are subsidized by taxpayers, and when all costs of these plants are included, they turn out to be more expensive, per kilowatt hour produced, than plants fueled by renewable energy sources. Hence, you are ignorant or doing political theater or some of both when you say you want a “free market” to “decide” power plant fuel.

Now the reasoning. The externalized costs of coal-fired plants are manifold. These plants produce the oxides of nitrogen and sulfur, which combine with water and thus produce the acids associated with N and S. (Sorry, I had a lot of chemistry when I was an undergraduate). These acids dissolve concrete highways, bridges, oxidize lung tissue, increase incidence of lung cancer, drive the Kansas soil ph down, concentrate mercury in lakes, rivers. And, these plants concentrate CO2 in the ambient air and this contributes to global heating.

All of this stuff is thoroughly documented. You can find all this stuff in study after study. One of the best is the “Mining Coal, Mounting Costs: The Life Cycle Consequences of Coal” (February 2011, the Center for Health and the Global Environment, which is in the Harvard Medical School). You really should look at this; you should read it. What’s so interesting to me is that your thesis that renewable energy supplies are not competitive with nonrenewable energy electrical generating plants just dissolves.

What is puzzling to me is why you make claims about “free market” and “competitive” when good evidence shows the largest source of nonrenewable energy, coal-fired plants, do not operate in a free market. They are publicly subsidized. I’m not talking about “evidence” from the so-called “think tanks,” which are covers for political agendas but evidence from the best universities in the country.

I guess I am so dismayed by Kansas politics because I expect you senators in Topeka to vote based on a reasoned assessment of evidence — sort of the way we were expected to answer questions on tests when we were in university. But you don’t seem to do this. My wife remarked to me the other day that the very existence of a lobbyist is evidence that markets are not “free.” It’s a nice point. Trade tariffs, federal subsidies, for instance, ethanol subsidies, tax write-offs, are all violative of “free markets.”

You Republicans vote for as much of this stuff as the Democrats do. Hence, I conclude, no one wants “free markets” and these two words are kind of levers to manipulate human brains into and out of positions. This manipulation seems to be working just fine in this poor county, Franklin County, where I live. My neighbors around our farm basically don’t read, don’t subscribe to a good newspaper. It’s sad.

And just as sad are the tricks you play on them. The Democrats are just as good at this as you Republicans. Why don’t you rise above this nonsense, Caryn Tyson, say what’s true, speak of the complications which exist in life and stay away from political theater? Surely this is more important than getting re-elected. (And, really, you ought to look at the study I cited above).

Well, thanks for your time. I do hope you can reason your way into an honest vote.

— Scott Yeargain,

Ottawa

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