Years of Living Dangerously: Climate Change Deniers and Kansas Wind Energy
by Connor Gibson
May 15, 2014
Next Monday, SHOWTIME’s Years of Living Dangerously series will air an episode focused in part on wind energy in Kansas. Teaser clips posted by SHOWTIME review how wind energy has been a lifeline for farmers suffering from increased drought due to climate change. Another features interviews with fossil fuel industry lobbyists who are still peddling climate science denial in Kansas.
Wind energy is very popular in Kansas. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), Kansas’ wind industry employs thousands of people each year as new wind turbines are rapidly constructed. Kansas currently has 800 megawatts of wind energy capacity under construction, on top of almost 3,000MW in existing capacity.
The news gets better. Kansas has enormous potential for more clean energy growth. While Kansas is currently ranked 8th among US states’ current wind energy generation, it has the 2nd most potential of any state, after Texas.
Don’t try telling that to James Taylor though. Not the singer-songwriter, but the climate change denier James Taylor you see in the SHOWTIME teaser above. This obscure lawyer at The Heartland Institute has made his cozy career undermining public recognition of how serious global warming is and fighting against policy solutions to climate change. Here’s how that works:
Fossil fuel companies extract, distribute and burn dirty energy like coal, oil, and gas. The companies don’t like the expansion in clean energy competition, an industry that itself is a lot less explosive, corrosive, and polluting (have you seen coverage of the massive, deadly coal mine disaster in Turkey??) Rather than innovate their companies to respond to the needs of the 21st Century, polluting companies like Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, Peabody coal, and Duke Energy are funding a vast, coordinated network of political front groups, fake grassroots organizations, and lobbying firms to kill clean energy incentives in Kansas and other at least 14 other states.
Just two weeks ago, Kansas state politicians narrowly defended the state’s renewable portfolio standard. The RPS law is a major incentive for clean energy jobs, requiring utility companies to gradually phase in electricity sources that don’t exacerbate global climate change or poison the air we breathe and the water we drink.
As reported in the Washington Post, this attack on clean energy was the third within the last two years introduced by Kansas politicians affiliated with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) or backed by ALEC’s friends in the State Policy Network. Those “friends” includeclimate change deniers at The Heartland Institute, political heavyweights like Grover Norquist, and the Koch brothers’ main political group, Americans for Prosperity.
SHOWTIME’s Years of Living Dangerously will take a closer look at how these front groups and politicians conspired against Kansas’ clean energy industry, siding with fossil fuel billionaire Charles Koch instead of the farmers and wind industry employees who are building the infrastructure of today’s energy landscape. Here’s a longer preview of SHOWTIME’s forthcoming episode about the effort to build wind energy in Kansas and the fossil fuel industry-funded enemies of that effort.