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Don't dismiss EPA rule's potential

By Larry Dreiling

I was reading—and writing—about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s release of its draft rule to regulate carbon emissions from fossil-fired power plants in an effort to cut U.S. carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent by 2030 from levels seen in 2005.

“That’s like canceling out annual carbon pollution from two-thirds of all cars and trucks in America,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in speech at EPA headquarters announcing the rule. “And if you add up what we’ll avoid between now and 2030, it’s more than double the carbon pollution from every power plant in America in 2012.”

The EPA’s plan is reduce 2005 emissions nationwide by an average of 25 percent by 2020 and 30 percent by 2030. However, the EPA is giving each state a goal based on what the agency believes is achievable for that state, which takes into account the important progress individual states have made since 2005.

Still, under the rule, Kansas must reduce its carbon by 23 percent—based on pounds of carbon dioxide emitted per megawatt hour of electricity produced—over the next 15 years. That’s considered a relatively average percentage cut compared with other states in our region that have fossil fuel intense economies, such as Arkansas, which must cut its emissions by 45 percent by 2030, or less intensive economies, such as Iowa, at 12 percent over the next 15 years.

That’s nothing compared with Washington state’s dramatic 72 percent cut but is still pretty good-sized.

Other states in the region and the amount of carbon pollution needed to be reduced are: Colorado, 35 percent; Missouri, 13 percent; Nebraska, 23 percent; New Mexico, 34 percent; Oklahoma, 35 percent; South Dakota, 35 percent; and Texas, 39 percent.

It’s a lofty goal. EPA wants the individual states to determine how to make their cuts in emissions and isn’t averse to having states band together in regional units to reduce their emissions.

However, Republican members of Congress are talking about legislation against the rule, which will be vetoed by President Barack Obama, so that will be a mere play for the cameras and a waste of taxpayer time and money.

Also, several Red State governors already have dug in their heels and said no toward working to create a plan for their states. Lawsuits are already being considered. They will take years to litigate, costing taxpayers more money, and the problem of climate change and an American effort to mitigate it slowed on account of political spite.

This is a bad idea, since EPA has said that those who refuse to budge will likely have a plan forced on them.

The largest agricultural lobbying group has blasted away at the proposal, too.

Those that are dismissive of this plan are saying things like there’s a crisis in the nation and we need to stop it.

As a kid, I was taught that old concept of the Chinese cryptogram weiji, meaning “critical opportunity.”

We are a critical moment, when, as National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson said: “The changing climate has already begun to affect agriculture, and it is clear that weather volatility will only continue to increase in the coming years unless our policymakers proactively address this challenge.…Agriculture stands ready to be an important part of the solution to our climate challenges.”

This means we in rural America have a critical opportunity to make a big difference in how carbon emissions can be mitigated. We ought to take the opportunity and run with it.

The company I work for has long supported alternative energy. Years before I worked for this publication, it had a wind turbine on premises. We have editorially supported ethanol production not only for cleaner air but also for the economic opportunity it gave our region.

Our region’s wind and solar footprint is huge and we need to exploit it. Already, wind farm projects have cropped up in more places than I can now list. Recently, the utility from where this reporter’s office buys power, Hays, Kansas-based Midwest Energy, Inc., is soliciting offers from buyers interested in purchasing solar panels on the cooperative’s new solar farm to be placed near Colby, Kansas.

I already live in a city with an aggressive recycling policy. I’m thinking, “Why not invest in solar and be as carbon neutral as possible?”

Companies all over the country, loaded with young entrepreneurs, are looking to find places with hard working young people to join them in growing their enterprises. Why not use a green environmental attitude—“We’ve Got Wind and Solar!”—as a calling card to bring in new businesses and keep our kids close to home?

We also need to think hard about agriculture, too, before we dismiss this plan. Those who are climate change deniers need to stop and look around at three years of drought and what it has cost our region financially, not just in the private costs of smaller bottom lines but of the years of all taxpayers incurring the costs of disaster assistance and crop insurance. In the big picture, it’s not much, but it’s something to give the enemies of production agriculture something more to complain about.

It’s time to take this time of weiji and own it for ourselves and future generations.

Larry Dreiling can be reached by phone at 785-628-1117 or by email at

Date: 6/9/2014


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