Citing carbon emissions, Kansas rejects coal plants

October 19th, 2007

Posted by: admin

Hard to say what John Marburger would say about this (more on him in a minute), but yesterday Kansas’ Secretary of Health and Environment cited carbon emissions in rejecting the application to install two 700MW coal plants in western Kansas.

The move may be more about politics than about climate, but whatever the reasons, the decision was sold on climate and that’s as important as it is surprising. It’s also another loud declaration that the states aren’t going to wait around for a national-level policy to move on climate mitigation. Here’s hoping that the losers on this decision give more thought to developing a profitable wind project on the plains than to giving lawyers millions to argue the coal case. (The quote from the coal plant developer’s spokesman, “We are extremely upset over this arbitrary and capricious decision” invokes the legal key phrase that spells l-a-w-s-u-i-t.)

News on the Kansas move comes on the heels of some bizarre statements on climate change from Mr. Marburger. I’m not sure what his agenda is, exactly, but the Washington Post today has him saying

…the target of preventing Earth from warming more than two degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, “is going to be a very difficult one to achieve and is not actually linked to regional events that affect people’s lives.”


Marburger said that while there is general agreement that human activity is producing too much carbon dioxide and “you could have emerging disasters long before you get to two degrees. . . . There is no scientific criterion for establishing numbers like that.”

I’m wondering what the point of saying this is. Is he trying to pave the way for the Bush White House to say, “We’re not going to target 2 degrees, we’re going to target 3.”? Certainly his “not linked to regional events” statement is an absurd misdirection, completely ignoring risk while seeming to make a case for inaction due to incomplete information. His second statement essentially does the same, this time acknowledging risk but implying that it is not well-enough characterized to make policy choices. Are Mr. Marburger’s statements part of a White House communication strategy or is this really how he is approaching and advising the problem?

3 Responses to “Citing carbon emissions, Kansas rejects coal plants”

  1. Nora Thomason Says:

    For a thorough treatise on the political behind the scenes of this coal war in Kansas, check out my fellow blogger’s post at -

    Thank you Mr. Bremby

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  3. Stan Kjar Says:

    Do you, or any of the readers, know of any studies that show how much CO2 wind farms save? I’ve looked for some, but I haven’t been able to find any. One reason I’ve heard that wind farms don’t save a ton of CO2 is because usually they replace fossil-fuel power plants and these plants have to be up and running in case the wind stops.


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  5. kevin v Says:

    Stan, the problem with wind is that it is an intermittent source, so you still need something that can be constantly on (coal, nat gas, nuclear, hydro) to provide baseload power. The older coal plants can’t easily ramp down their burn rate, so they tend to stay on high constantly (plus a coal plant is huge capital cost, low operating cost, so you want to keep it at full burn to maximize payback). However, wind still gives you significant capacity to meet peaking power demands, which can be high (more than double baseload in some areas). Ideally we’d have an interconnected wind grid to provide constant wind power when it’s blowing in one region and not another, but we’re not there yet (Europe is working on something to connect Scandinavian hydro with wind throughout the rest of Europe to provide firm power). Solar is better than wind in adding to “firm” power because you know when it’s going to be on and roughly how much energy you’re getting, so solar can be considered to add to baseload, but not wind (yet).