Kansas 10th grader writes about the new governor’s “sad” decision to okay new coal plant

I’m hoping readers will write a comment to Andrew Grin.  We need a lot more 10th-graders like him.  Here he is with his “converted 2005 Hyundai Tucson electric vehicle” (details here).

Andrew Grin and his modified Hyndai Tuscon

We don’t need to build new dirty coal plants (see FERC chair on new nuclear and coal plants: “We may not need any, ever.”)  Nor should we (see “Intro to global warming impacts: Hell and High Water“).  But some myopic mid-western states want one last deadly fix — albeit a fix that could last many, many decades and ultimately cost ratepayers billions of dollars.  In Kansas, the former Governor had been leading an effort to bring sanity to the state (see “Gov. Sebelius stuck in coal-powered version of Groundhog’s Day“).  But with her departure, the new governor caved in to this new coal plant faster than … well, faster than a collapsing coal mine (see deal details with spin here and without spin here).  Before I could blog on this, I received an email from an Overland Park 10th Grader, Andrew Grin.  After receiving an OK from his (very proud and justifiably so) father — “Andrew showed me what he wrote you. I totally agree and would be happy to have the post on your blog. Andrew is on top of the green movement and  already working with some very influential political players who deal exclusively in energy” — I am reprinting it below.

While the Kansas move is a tragic one, I find reassurance in knowing we have a new generation of smart, passionate activists coming up.  It is the Andrew Grins of the world whose health and welfare we are imperiling with our myopic greed.  It is our moral obligation to make sure we hand them a world that is not irreversibly ruined.

Dear Climate Progress:

I am sad to say that just days after our wonderful governor Kathleen Sebelius was swore in as HHS Secretary our new govern, Mark Parkinson,
has cut a deal with Sunflower Electric Power Co. to build one 895 megawatt coal plant (of which only 200 megawatts will come to Kansas).

Although the former governor wanted the following compromise [see here]:

“The governor’s letter says the compromise involved the following points.

  • Build one new plant similar in size to the Sand Sage permit previously approved (660 MW);
  • Kansas base load power needs must receive top priority;
  • Plant must be able to implement carbon sequestration technology;
  • Commitment for 20% wind power (132 MW)
  • Commitment for 100 MW of energy efficiency
  • Net metering allowed in the Sunflower service area””

….This new deal  includes 180 megawatts of wind and transmission lines that can link our Kansas wind farms to the western U.S. grid, but I am saddened by the omission of energy efficiency (a key climate solution) and net metering which is absent from anywhere in my home state. Hopefully federal legislation will come about soon to ban the building of this and other new coal plants.

Keep up the amazing work Climate Progress!

-Andrew Grin
Overland Park, Kansas 10th Grader

[JR:  Note to would-be guest bloggers — flattery works!  Andrew provides a little more background on himself below:  Turns out there is just one degree of separation between us:  He knows my friend Chris Paine.]

Just to give you a little more information about myself; I’ve been actively involved in alternative energy after seeing Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and then Chris Paine’s Who Killed the Electric Car. Here are a couple of posts I wrote for Chris’s Revenge of the Electric Car blog.

[JR:  One final note to reporters at the Wichita Eagle.  You write “Sunflower agreed to a package of environmental improvements, including reducing the carbon dioxide from the proposed power plant from nearly 11 million tons a year to 6.6 million tons.”  It is misleading to call that a part of the package of environmental improvements — that was just an inevitable result of agreeing to the smaller coal plant.  Here’s a rewriting of your sentence — without spin: “Parkinson and Sunflower CEO Earl Watkins said the new 895-Megawatt plant will incorporate the latest in technology to limit the carbon emissions. But look at this: Sunflower’s earlier 1,400 megawatt proposal would have produced 10.6 million tons of carbon emissions. The new proposal – 895 megawatts – would produce 6.67 million tons of carbon emissions. Works out to nearly the same ratio of carbon to megawatt.”  Now if the plant only had biomass cofiring.]

9 Responses to Kansas 10th grader writes about the new governor’s “sad” decision to okay new coal plant

  1. I gave Governor Parkinson a Climate Change Double Dumb Ass Award yesterday, and encourage all CP readers to write to the governor via his web form at:

    Just for a point of clarification; the agreement also commits Sunflower to spend 1 percent of gross sales on energy efficiency programs, according to the Kansas Star.

    Also, a minor point, but you should have written the Andrew Grins of this world, not the Andrew Grin’s. Damn that transcription software!

  2. Modesty says:

    Way to go Andrew! Gore was talking about you when he said, in America, political will is a renewable resource.

    The new Gov’s gotta cut some deals, but he’s also gotta understand that there’s no future for coal and that shoehorning coal into the future of Kansas cheats Kansans in every way.

    Thank you Andrew!

  3. Bullwinkle says:

    Wow! It’s posts like this that make me think we may actually have a chance. I’m proud of you, Andrew!

  4. Nancy says:

    Andrew: You are one in a million – are your high school friends & teachers interested in what you’re doing?

    I’m sure we’ll read more about you when in a few years, you help turn Detroit into an international electric car manufacturing center and show GM and Ford how to do it right.

    You’ve certainly brightened my day. Thanks!


  5. Reply says:

    Human interest piece! I approve.

  6. Zac says:


    As a (former) Kansan now working on climate change issues, it is refreshing to see citizens from my home state fully engaged in these issues. I hope you continue to focus on these matters and demonstrate how Kansas is full of engaging individuals willing to stand up for what is right.

    Best of luck!


  7. Gail says:

    Excellent, Andrew!

    Now Joe, see if you can get this guy to dramatize the greenhouse effect:

  8. Ronald says:

    I get the need to get more people involved with this issue, but someone should mention a warning of doing to much with people who not adults. Criticizing in the political world leads to getting criticized. If we push or pull kids to promote clean energy, are deniers going to put their children on TV asking for people to stop keeping coal mining dad or mom from having a job? I cringe at 10 year olds who are Christian preachers who are maybe pushed that way by parents. Or criticism of politician’s kids for their behavior (yah, I get that politicians bring that on themselves on purpose many times.)

    I am of the opinion that we should let the kids be kids and not be the lead in the public square discussions where possible. (yah, I get that they will be the ones who have the most to lose in a global warming world, that is an argument that that policy is wrong)

  9. Andrew Grin says:

    Thanks for the wonderful comments everyone! They brightened my day as well.

    Nancy. Not all my friends are interested in this topic but as a debater I was fortunate to have alternative energy as the topic for high school debate this year which helped make the issue more real to everyone and put a solution in sight.

    Ronald, I understand your concern about putting “kids” into the debate and agree that we shouldn’t use children as tools for political advantage. Although I do believe we need to teach young adults (as myself) about the issues so that we are informed and able to make decision for ourself.

    I am also happy to take criticism as I am a high school debater :) and after talking with a local environmental official in our county I can see a political reason for wanting to get past this issue. Kansas will, in all likelihood, see a change in governor in 2010 and if this issue is still on the table, the two coal plants would have been handed to Sunflower Electric Power Co. without any compromise. BUT I do believe the issue of climate change is too great to make compromises and hope that Governor Parkinson takes up the issue of net metering in Kansas as we are one of the only states without it.

    For more on midwest politics I recommend reading New York Times Best Seller, “Whats the Matter with Kansas – How Conservatives Won the Heart of America.”
    By Thomas Frank