The Garden City Telegram
2/19/2014
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Power surge

Koch quest would erase economic success story.

Tea Party Republicans have set their sights on state renewable energy standards in Kansas and beyond.

Their goal is to convince states to either block new renewable energy standards, or repeal those in place.

Among those targeted would be a deal from 2009 in Kansas that came about amid political wrangling over expansion of the Sunflower Electric Power Corp. plant at Holcomb.

Then-Gov. Mark Parkinson helped broker a sensible deal to allow a scaled-down Sunflower facility expansion along with initiatives to power wind and other renewable energy. The agreement called for utilities to draw 10 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2011, 15 percent by 2016 and 20 percent by 2020.

But Wichita-based energy and manufacturing giant Koch Industries, through Americans for Prosperity (a major Tea Party force), has been angling to erase the standards, claiming such mandates lead to costly subsidies, overregulation and higher energy prices.

Americans for Prosperity's laughable television ads even try to link renewable energy standards in Kansas to Obamacare.

Interestingly, the Kochs claim to wage war on so-called corporate welfare, yet a look at their own record shows the company has reaped the benefit of taxpayer subsidies involving energy production, among other government-related deals.

Now, they're hoping lawmakers sympathetic to their cause abolish Kansas' renewable energy standards — a damaging proposition in places such as southwest Kansas, where the positive economic impact of expanded ethanol and wind energy production is evident.

Ethanol plants have popped up throughout the region, bringing jobs and a boost to corn and sorghum growers. When farmers prosper, their good fortune resonates on Main Street, as well.

Wind, too, has become key in the state's economic development and energy portfolio.

Even Gov. Sam Brownback, who is guided by Americans for Prosperity-Koch input and support, backed extension of federal wind-energy tax credits needed to keep wind farm development on track.

Repealing Kansas' renewable energy standards, as the Kochs desire, would hurt. Lawmakers in a state that's benefiting from a growing mix of energy sources should be eager to keep the nonsensical Tea Party pitch from undoing an economic success story in Kansas.