Saturday, August 21, 2010

Coal Fired Power Plants Still S.O.P.

Sobering news: AP Enterprise: Old-style coal plants expanding.

My own public comment to the KDHE to deny Sunflower Electric Power Corporation's permit for the Holcomb Power Plant expansion project is below:

As a Kansas citizen, I’m urging you to deny the permit for the 895 MW coal fired power plant proposed by Sunflower. Over this comment period I’m sure a great deal of opponents have provided a variety of health, environmental, economic, and energy related reasons for denying the permit. I myself did so during the last go around. But this time I thought I’d provide a narrative of what life might be like for one Kansan 30+ years from now if we don’t step up and start making some really hard choices. And the only way this is going to happen is if we have some very strong-willed leaders (from local levels all the way up) to pull us down this path.

7:43 AM and it already feels like a sauna. Beads of sweat begin to roll down Dan’s back as he waits for the bus. The high is predicted to reach 111, with a heat index near 122. It’s the 17th day in a row of over 105 degree heat, with no end in sight. And the sea of asphalt and concrete surrounding him only makes it worse as the hot days drag on. For the umpteenth time last night, the weatherman discussed how their asphalt jungle’s nightly dissipation of heat at these temperatures is too slow to fully recover by the time morning rolls around. And so each day seems to start out warmer than the last. Add to that the multitude of city air conditioners rejecting interior heat into the outside air and you have a local urban climate up to 20 degrees warmer than surrounding areas on any given day. Dan looks up at the bus stop sign and thinks to himself, “Next stop, hell on earth.”

He briefly glances at those next to him, taking care to stay outside of everyone’s personal bubbles as they wait. Tempers flare much more quickly in this kind of heat – yesterday two people were stabbed at a bus stop across town as an argument spun out of control. A sudden sneeze snaps Dan to attention; its then followed by a few coughs. He slowly inches away in the opposite direction. The respiratory infection going around was another reason to stay clear of strangers. This was the third time in the last 2 months a large scale illness was making its way through the city. He recalled his doctor’s declaration that such occurrences were now the rule as a result of the warmer climate, particularly in the close quarters of a city.

As Dan waits, he tries to will the beads of sweat back into his skin – coming into work soaked with sweat doesn’t exactly help generate clothing sales and the resulting commissions he desperately needs. “Clothing sales,” he says to himself and mentally shakes his head. Working in retail was a far cry from his life growing up on farm near Greensburg. Though he was never really sure whether or not he wanted to take over the family farm, that decision was made for him by the farm’s ever expanding costs and dwindling profits.

Every year rain seemed that much more unpredictable, increasing their use of irrigation as well as more frequently delaying getting into the field when it was needed. The stress resulting from agricultural, residential, and industrial water use (including the region’s coal fired power plants) on regional groundwater sources and the once vast Ogalla Aquifer had resulted in irrigation related water use taxes. New and increasing weeds, pests and diseases meant increasing pesticide costs, as well as antibiotics for the cattle. Crop yields were steadily declining despite trying more expensive drought and pest resistant wheat. Cattle were underweight and sometimes sickly, and they lost more calves every year. Beaten down by the constant stress and a mountain of debt, his dad finally sold the farm.

With no future in farming and no money for college, Dan needed a job. He could probably have gotten some scholarships and government assistance, but it wouldn’t have been enough and his family had long ago blown through the little college savings he had trying to keep the farm afloat. So he needed work. The local wind turbine manufacturer would have been a great option, but the manufacturing floor wasn’t hiring anyone, at least no one with his limited skills. Had the U.S. jumped on the renewable energy bandwagon 30 years ago, US manufacturers might now be the dominant players in wind power. As it turned out, China has had that title since 2015 and the US was still playing catch up. Though he’d heard a Chinese manufacturer was looking at purchasing the Greensburg plant. If so, they likely would expand, start hiring, and maybe even implement some extensive on-the-job training programs.

But for now Dan needed other options and so he turned to family. His cousin lived in Olathe and could get him a job at one of the local clothing retailers, as well as put him up to save some expenses. And so now he found himself in the greater Kansas City area, waiting at a bus stop, futilely trying to keep from sweating.

Finally the bus arrived and Dan made his way onto the air conditioned oasis with the rest of the crowd. As he made his way down the aisle to an empty seat, he passed a young mother and her crying toddler, a look of sad resignation on her face. He wondered what her story was – was she a recent immigrant into the city as well? Did she have a job? A place to live? Was she squatting in one of the many abandoned buildings throughout the city like so many of the new arrivals?

He took a seat as the bus pulled away. So many looks of resignation, sadness, and apathy on his fellow passengers. “What did the future hold for any of them?” he wondered. Dan settled in and stared out the window towards his destination. “Was it really going to be hell on earth?”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are a headcase, or quite simply a nut.