Kentucky must step up renewable energy.

In an NPR report on Kentucky’s growing demand for renewable energyRenewable energy is power generated from infinite sources, such as wind or solar power. Conventional energy is generated from finite sources, such as natural gas or fossil oil., a state official said, “We’re a coal state, we’re sentimental about our attachment to coal.”

Charles Snavely, a coal company executive for 35 years before Gov. Matt Bevin made him secretary of the Energy and Environment Cabinet, also said that the cabinet is working with companies to develop renewable energy but that he struggles with whether “the growth of renewablesRenewable energy is power generated from infinite sources, such as wind or solar power. Conventional energy is generated from finite sources, such as natural gas or fossil oil. (comes) at the expense of coal. Is it a bigger pie, or is someone taking a slice of our pie?”

Snavely’s office did not respond to an email seeking elaboration, leaving Kentuckians to surmise that with thinking like his at the top, Kentucky should be ready to enter the 21st century about the time it ends.

Kentucky officials have long insisted that cheap — by which they mean coal-fired — power is key to retaining industries that employ Kentuckians. But now many of the world’s leading corporations — including major Kentucky employers — want renewable energy, which Kentucky is unprepared to provide.

A report this week on NPR’s “Morning Edition, entitled “Big Business Pushes Coal-Friendly Kentucky to Embrace Renewables,” notes that Toyota aims to be a zero-carbon company by 2050. “General Motors, Ford, Walmart, L’Oreal and others also have big goals to reduce emissionsEmissions of greenhouse gases, greenhouse gas precursors, and aerosols associated with human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, land-use changes, livestock, fertilisation, etc. (IPCC). Even the state’s beloved bourbon makers are starting to look at renewables.”

Going green has PR value, but the bottom line drives corporations, which recognize that disruptions from climate chage will be terrible for business. Also, the costCost: The consumption of resources such as labour time, capital, materials, fuels, etc. as the consequence of an action. In economics, all resources are valued at their opportunity cost, which is the value of the most valuable alternative use of the resources. Costs are defi ned in a variety of ... of solar and wind is dropping fast.

Renewable energy is in short supply everywhere. Kentucky, where coal provides 87 percent of our power, is caught especially flatfooted, hobbling us in the competition for investment and jobs.

It didn’t have to be like this. In 2008, Gov. Steve Beshear released a seven-point strategy for prospering in a carbon-constrained future. Both major presidential candidates that year had pledged to combat climate changeClimate change is a lasting change in weather patterns over long periods of time. It can be a natural phenomena and and has occurred on Earth even before people inhabited it. Quite different is a current situation that is also referred to as climate change, anthropogenic climate change, or ..., and Beshear’s energy secretary, Len Peters, a chemical engineer and former professor, never pretended that climate change could be ignored. But the fossil fuelEnergy from fossil sources, such as natural gas and oil. This type of energy contributes to climate change and because of its finite nature it is not a permanent resource. industry unleashed a well-funded backlash against the newly elected Barack Obama, and the politics of energy became radioactive.

Beshear, who had coal industry backing, dropped one of his most important strategies: a renewable portfolio standard requiring utilities to sell a specified amount of renewable energy (solar, windWind occurs due to different temperature levels in the atmosphere (troposphere) which are heated up by the sun. A typical example are the trade winds at the equator where the sun is most powerful., hydro), thus diversifying the energy mix and reducing emissions.

Twenty-nine states and Washington, D.C. have such mandates, while eight states have set renewable energy goals. Kentucky is one of 13 states that have neither.

Bevin touts that he came into power free of debts to special interests. He should capitalize on that by pushing Kentucky out of its “sentimental” attachment to coal and into the energy mainstream, where the jobs and investment will be.

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