Energy forum looks at climate change, wind power

ReAnne Utemark

With the wind in Kansas’ sails, the state stands to gain much from wind power. This and other energy issues were the topic of a forum Wednesday, Jan. 23, in the Washburn Room.

The Climate and Energy Project gathered a panel of experts to answer audience questions and present facts about climate change and alternative fuel sources, most specifically, wind energy. Nancy Jackson, the executive director of CEP, started the evening of panelists with the explanation that there is no silver bullet, but there is silver buckshot.

“Will their [children of this generation] great, great, great, great-grandchildren be able to live and thrive in the same beautiful and sustaining place?” said Jackson. “I believe the answer to that is a resounding yes but I think that we have to make choices today that make that possible.”

The evening started out with speaker Johan Feddema, a geography professor at the University of Kansas and one of two contributing scientists to the International Panel on Climate Change in Kansas. Feddema discussed the impact of humans and carbon dioxide output on the environment, including the greenhouse effect and global warming.

“We know that humans are, in fact, changing the environment,” said Feddema. “We’re changing it in many ways.”

Feddema said humans need to look at the potential consequences and the response from the environment because of these changes.

Ezra Hausman, a senior associate with Synapse Energy, discussed the cost of carbon emissions that could result from future coal plants like the one that planned for Holcomb, Kan., that was stopped late last year. The assumption is international laws will be passed which will impose fees on plants producing excessive amounts of carbon dioxide.

“You can’t do business as usual,” said Hausman. “You must do something to protect the planet.”

Other speakers included a representative from TradeWind Energy who discussed the economic viability of wind energy, especially in Kansas. According to the American Wind Energy Association, Kansas ranks third for wind energy potential. However, the transportation of the energy is an issue, which is what a representative from ITC Great Plains discussed. ITC Great Plains is a company that provides the transportation for energy throughout Kansas and is working on transportation lines across the Midwest.