Critics fear higher energy costs

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A day after Gov. Mark Parkinson raised the stakes in the national fight over a renewable energy standard, members of the Kansas congressional delegation responded with varying positions

Ideas on such a bill, which would mandate the country produce a certain percentage of its energy through green sources, ranged from unambiguous support to labeling it a “government-induced energy tax.”

The lawmakers were responding to Parkinson, who on Wednesday told an audience in Topeka to call the state’s delegation and demand they vote for the standard.

“Please, do not assume that because your congressperson or senator comes before your group or your community and says they support wind power, that that means anything,” Parkinson told a gathering at the Kansas Wind and Renewable Energy Conference. “If they’re not voting for an RES (renewable energy standard), they’re not supporting wind power. That’s the bottom line.”

The state’s lone Democrat, Rep. Dennis Moore, was the only lawmaker to flatly say he supported such an idea. He pointed to his June vote on a cap-and-trade energy bill that included a renewable energy standard.

Moore said at the time, “Changing the way we create and use energy will not only create new industries and jobs throughout the country — jobs that can’t be shipped overseas — it will revitalize our economy by making the United States a leader in the energy industry and increase our national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil.”

Moore was the only Kansas representative to vote in favor of that June bill. Republican Reps. Todd Tiahrt, Jerry Moran and Lynn Jenkins voted against it.

On the other end of the spectrum from Moore, Tiahrt said investing in renewable energy must be coupled with conservation efforts and expansion of “traditional sources of energy” within American borders. He pointed to Spain, where a national renewable energy standard has pushed energy prices higher.

“We must not pursue policies that artificially raise utility rates for consumers,” Tiahrt said. “We must work toward energy independence using a comprehensive plan that does not result in a government-induced energy tax on consumers.”

Jenkins’ office echoed Tiahrt’s call for a comprehensive approach, including increased oil production, in addition to renewable sources.

“While Congresswoman Jenkins opposes the job-killing cap-and-trade legislation, she continues to pursue an all-of-the-above approach to energy independence that includes looking at a renewable energy standard and assessing the potential positive impacts on the Kansas economy,” said spokeswoman Mary Geiger.

Republican Sen. Sam Brownback supported a similar Senate bill that passed out of committee this summer. That legislation, however, hasn’t moved through the full chamber. The senator noted Kansas has the third-best capacity for wind energy production in the country.

“I truly believe that by pursuing a robust energy strategy that utilizes all forms of energy, both conventional and renewable, our country will one day achieve true energy independence,” he said.

Likewise, Republican Sen. Pat Roberts said his support in the Senate Finance Committee for preferential tax treatment for renewable electricity production and legislation he cosponsored to offer long-term extensions of those provisions are proof of his support of renewable energy sources. However, Roberts said he is concerned about the cost of imposing requirements on specific energy sources.

“I have strong concerns about the costs of setting nationwide mandates on specific types of electricity production because in the end, ratepayers eventually suffer the most through increased utility prices for these more expensive technologies,” he said.

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