June 27, 2014--In early June, the Environmental Protection Agency released new national carbon emissions standards aimed to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide pollution thirty percent by 2030. The proposed regulations are a landmark, the first ever attempt at limiting these harmful emissions. Although the new standards were designed to allow states flexibility in reaching the target levels, many Kentucky politicians were quick to brand the effort as a new phase in the mythical “War on Coal.”
In a Courier-Journal op-ed, Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) compared the new standards to those implemented in Germany, and went so far to brand them as a “dumb ass policy.” Stumbo listed three actions:“massive shifts to renewable energy” with dramatic coal reductions, a “complicated system of subsidies” and an electricity bill surcharge.underpinning the German plan. Then heposed the question: “Do these goals...sound familiar?”
No, in fact, they do not. What does sound familiar is the same old tune that Stumbo and other politicians keep singing: that renewable energy will always fail and that coal is our only reliable energy source. The Speaker’s logic is flawed when he insists that there is a direct correlation between the renewable energy policies of Germany and the United States—and Kentucky in particular.
Here are the facts:
· The U.S. has only planned to make moderate shifts to renewable energy. We will begin making reductions in the most polluting and expensive coal-fired power plants while maintaining our current nuclear power supply—not eliminating it.
· The U.S. is not setting up a complicated system of subsidies for these regulations
· The U.S. is not implementing a surcharge to pay for this transition
These stand in stark contrast to the supposed actions that Stumbo listed. Further, the Speaker failed to address some fairly major differences between Germany and the Commonwealth. At present, ninety-three percent of Kentucky’s electricity is generated from coal. The Commonwealth currently has no renewable energy policy and will be assuming only a one to three percent reduction of coal by 2016. Unfortunately, we are one of the last states to adopt any kind of reasonable energy efficiency measures. This means that the new emissions standards provide Kentucky with a great opportunity to address our dependence on a finite resource while assisting our utility providers as they transition into a renewable future.
Now, we can indeed learn valuable lessons from the growing pains of Germany. When that nation decided to become a leader in renewable energy, necessary investments had not yet been made in the grid’s infrastructure.
Germany invested heavily in solar capacity, when a more balanced approach incorporating increased wind power might have been a better option. Nuclear plants were shuttered, while new coal plants were constructed instead of modern natural gas facilities.
Finally, Germany set itself a lofty goal of becoming eighty percent renewable by 2050. To assist in achieving this, they instituted a tariff to be paid by residential energy customers while exempting the energy industry. This flawed policy created an unequal burden on ordinary German citizens.
Challenges aside, Germany understands that a fossil fuel-based energy system is simply not sustainable and it continues to work to improve the transmission & storage system so it can reap all of the rewards its renewable investments have created. We in the United States can learn from their growing pains and ensure that we do not make the same mistakes in leaving behind our extractive past and moving into our sustainable future.
In the conclusion of his op-ed, Stumbo offered some valuable advice. “We need new leadership in Washington that does more than just talk about worrying about the affect this [transition] will have,” he writes.
I agree wholeheartedly. Sadly, it seems that President Obama is one of the few currently exhibiting true leadership on this issue. We need politicians, especially from the Commonwealth, who will lead us into a sustainable, economically viable future. We need leaders to invest in sustainable forestry initiatives, local food movements, eco-tourism, energy efficiency integration, alternative energy sources and a balanced energy portfolio. We need representatives who recognize and assess the true costs of fossil fuel production paid by Kentuckians—poor health, high medical bills, and a shortened life span. And most importantly, we need leaders who can protect both Kentucky’s great natural resources and its hard-working miners by assisting them and their families through this transition by providing education and support.
The new emissions standards have provided Kentucky with a tremendous opportunity. We are now poised to take a comprehensive look at our energy policy and create a balanced portfolio that will protect our environment and increase both the fiscal and physical health of our state and its people.
Heather Warman is executive director of the Kentucky Environmental Foundation.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014--(c)space, a project of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, welcomes its first member. Kentucky Environmental Foundation (KEF) will join the unique (c)space concept in early June. (c)space is designed to gather, under one roof, individuals and nonprofits working to improve the health and quality of life of Kentuckians.
“(c)space is a product of the Foundation’s efforts to collaborate and strengthen nonprofits that are working to make Kentucky a better play to live, work and play,” said Foundation Chief Operations Officer Mary Jo Shircliffe, who is project developer. “The diversity of work by the various agencies and individuals that will utilize (c)space will serve as a ‘melting pot’ for new strategies and approaches to challenges faced in many areas that intersect with health, such as education, economic development and the environment.”
Working in this new shared space with others working to improve health and quality of life was the deciding factor in the Kentucky Environmental Foundation’s decision to locate at (c)space.
“Interaction creates synergy.”” said Heather Warman, Executive Director of Kentucky Environmental Foundation. “We are thrilled to have the opportunity to work in such an inspirational space that will promote collaboration on important issues related to health, education & the environment.”
Additionally, KEF has an initiative that Warman says highlights the intersection between health and environment. “Engaging stakeholders from all sectors is critical for creating integrated balanced solutions,” concluded Warman.
Nonprofit leaders, business executives and a wide array of other perspective members got their first chance to see (c)space during an open house event Monday evening. A photo gallery of open house pictures is available online. (c)space is located in 5,000 square feet of office space, in the 28,000 square foot office building owned by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, at 1640 Lyndon Farm Court in eastern Jefferson County, Kentucky. (c)space has 13 private offices and 6 workstations with amenities such as free parking, visitor reception, kitchenette, use of the Foundation’s Conference Facility, etc.
(c)space offers a variety of options for emerging, scaling, and established nonprofits and individuals including dedicated, shared and flex space. “We want to give them class A space and a nice working environment, but it must be affordable," concluded Shircliffe.
For the full article, click here.
As Kentucky students break for summer vacation, some look ahead to summer camp and family trips, while others wonder where there next good meal will come from. School districts and nonprofits struggle to find ways to assure Kentucky’s lowest income families can offer their children nutritious food during the summer.
So it is ironic to read that Congress – our elected representatives - is battling to reduce or delay the nutrition standards recently enacted. Yes, to reduce them, through a proposed waiver of the nutrition standards enacted in 2010.
This while Kentucky school districts have stepped up to the plate to answer Kentucky requests for healthier meals – taking advantage of farm-to-school opportunities, experimenting with edible schoolyard programs, and introducing children to fresh fruits and vegetables they may never before have seen or tasted.
This while the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky’s polling data tell us adults want healthier foods in the schools. Our most recent Parent Poll showed that 88% of parents believe it is important that the meals served in their child’s school or daycare meet a minimum standard for nutritional value. Despite the importance parents placed on nutritious meals, fewer than 1 in 4 described the meals at their children’s school or daycare as “very nutritious.”
And the 2014 Kentucky Health Issues Poll (KHIP) – which reaches adults throughout the Commonwealth – affirms this view is broadly held. When asked specifically about the recently adopted USDA school nutrition standards, more than three-quarters of adults (78%) favored the new USDA standards for meals served to students. In KHIP polls since 2009, adults see childhood obesity as a problem – about half as a serious problem, another third as a problem, but perhaps not as serious.
In Kentucky, the Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health showed that in 2011-2012, 35.7% of Kentucky children were considered overweight or obese. Sadly, children living in poverty are at higher risk of obesity, since their diet is less likely to include the nourishing fruits, vegetables and protein they need, and more likely to be heavy on sugar, fats and salt.
Kentucky was a leader in removing junk food from school vending machines. We are known nationally for innovative efforts (such as the Lexington-based “Better Bites” program) to offer healthy foods at parks and recreational sites not known for their nutritious offerings. “Healthy in a Hurry”-style efforts to transform local corner markets in cities and smaller towns, to offer fresh seasonal produce, and the growth of local farmers markets underscore our desire to grapple with the challenges of obesity in our schools and communities.
The reason for the waiver – to accommodate schools struggling to make needed dietary changes – might be more compelling if the major voice for the waiver – as USA Today noted in their recent (May 29) editorial - were not the “School Nutrition Association,” a trade group of school food officials backed by such food companies as Coca Cola, Domino’s Pizza and PepsiCo. Interestingly, USA Today also noted 19 of the association’s former presidents have called on Congress to reject the waiver.
We add our voice to this call.
Susan G. Zepeda, Ph.D.
Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
Find out more about the Foundation for Healthy Kentucky by clicking here.