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Preserving Our World Without Sacrificing Personal Freedom

Washburn Federalist Society
Topeka, Kansas
October 28, 2008
Becky Norton Dunlop

Thank you so much for the opportunity to come and visit with you about one of my favorite subjects.

I will make my remarks following an outline that discusses the guiding principles of The Heritage Foundation; guiding principles for environmental policy and the challenges we face in meeting our energy needs while being good stewards of the environment.

One basic problem we face in our country today is an education system that has failed to teach our students about the very elements that have allowed us to become the greatest nation with the freest people in the world today. At the very heart of this is our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.

I am not going to give you a lecture today about these documents because I suspect most of you are very well aware of the principles in them. Let me say, however, that we must redouble our efforts to bring these documents and an understanding of them to our children, grandchildren and to all those who each of us have the opportunity to influence. It is from these founding documents that The Heritage Foundation takes its guiding principles: free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values and a strong national defense. These principles play a key role in assuring a future for our country that is politically free, economically prosperous, and offers hope and opportunity for all. Heritage is working to provide tools to better help all Americans and indeed people from every country in the world to better understand these guiding principles and the benefits they offer everyone everywhere. I have brought with me two of those tools to show you examples of our efforts: The Heritage Guide to the Constitution and the 2008 Index of Economic Freedom. Limited government, lower taxes, less red tape, protection of property rights, these are among the policy areas that shape free economies. At Heritage we seek opportunities to provide this information to leaders from other countries and to put tools like this in the hands of concerned Americans.

Now, to principles that should guide environmental policy.
• Resources are dynamic, resilient, lend themselves to being improved in quality and increased in quantity when mankind applies arts and sciences; a conservation ethic;

1. People are the most important resource.

Our human intellect and knowledge are important as the means by which we make decisions, use information, frame laws and engage in activities that can improve or change our environment.

Our public policies should inspire people to be good stewards…of our natural resources and the environment around us. And, they should be good for people as well as the environment. [Rule of Law]

Emissions testing in Northern Virginia, congestion mitigation, travel signal synchronization
• Chesapeake Bay – run-off from farms, city streets, septics

Operation Spruce-up and Fall River Renaissance

2. Renewable natural resources are resilient and dynamic and respond positively to wise management.

3. The most promising new opportunities for environmental improvements lie in extending the protection of private property and unleashing the creative powers of the free market.

4. Our efforts to reduce, control and remediate pollution should achieve real environmental benefits.

5. The Learning Curve is Green.

6. Management of natural resources should be conducted on a site and situation specific basis.

7. Science should be employed as a tool to guide public policy.

The science we teach and that we learn should…but does not always, undergird and inform public policy.
• Examples: forest management, farm policy (fertilizer and manure), water policy (wetlands, St. John’s River, the Everglades), climate change

8. Environmental policies which emanate from liberty are the most successful.

Conservatives are often at odds with environmental policy as it is pursued in the United States. Conservative objections to these policies often lead to changes that conservatives are not interested in being good stewards of the environment. That’s not the case. Current environmental policy is at odds with conservative principles.

Over the past decades, the trend in environmental policy has been toward bigger government. Policies such as the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act have issues that affect communities, and often lone individuals, federal problems. These policies have also violated free market principles and private property rights, both of which conservatives hold dear.

The creep toward bigger government now crosses borders.

Environmentalists are pursuing international regulations, like Kyoto Protocols. The federal government is not big enough to take on environmental issues. It’s now a problem for the international stage. For today’s spate of environmentalists, environmental stewardship is another term for big, and every-growing, government. It’s no wonder that conservatives are skeptical of big government environmental regulation.

Conservatives believe that policy and politics work best at the local level. We believe that individuals know what is best for them and they should be allowed to pursue their interests with limited constraints of government. In the realm of environmental policy, conservatives believe that individuals, local communities and states are best equipped to handle the environmental issues that affect them. Conservatives believe that big government and environmental stewardship are not the same.

So how can conservative environmental policy manifest itself today? Indeed, now seems as good a time as any for a new way forward. High gas prices over the past year, while perhaps not having a significant impact on the economy, have had a significant impact on the psyches of the American people. Congress is not doing enough. The thing that can make a significant difference in lowering gas prices: increase supply. Congress has gridlocked in its efforts to open up parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for exploration and development. Congress must also attempt to deal much more substantively with offshore drilling. On October 1st, the moratoria on offshore drilling expired opening up many areas in the Gulf, Atlantic, and Pacific. There is still much to be done, however, to make drilling a reality.

Increasing energy supply is a necessary step that the United States must take to ensure continued economic growth and to promote energy security. The U.S. has the resources to tap a steady supply for its energy needs, but it has yet to do so. This failure is the result of burdensome regulations.

Today, the federal government controls the lands of the outer continental shelf from beyond three miles of a state’s coast. Since this land is under federal control, the federal government has the authority to lease these lands for energy exploration and production.

Most of the OCS was not available for exploration and development due to federal moratoria. As a result, the only places where OCS lands are producing energy at this time for the country are parts of the Gulf of Mexico, California, and Alaska.

Even with the moratoria lifted, the federal government is still responsible for doling out licenses to drill. The United States should pursue a policy of allowing the states to determine whether to pursue OCS exploration and development off their coasts. The current policy of the country is a one-size-fits-all policy that does not take into account what is best for the individual states. A better policy is simple: Let the states decide.

States should have the option of choosing how to deal with their OCS lands. In a state like Florida, where there are objections to energy development, there would be the option of not drilling but I would argue that by delegating these decisions to the local level, Florida’s citizens would have more of a voice in how the drilling was conducted and how the revenues would be spent. By letting the state decide how to go about developing OCS, citizens can hold their elected legislators accountable. If Floridians disapprove of how a legislator stands on OCS development, they can vote him out in the next election. Or conversely, if the drilling produces more revenue for Floridians to use in restoring the Everglades or improving the stewardship of other of the states resources, they can reward the wise legislators. The likelihood of citizens choosing to open up the off shore lands relates directly, in my opinion, to their understanding of the nature of resources, their understanding of science and the current technology, their understanding of economics and their increase in knowledge on these matters relates directly to education in schools and for adults to education in organizations that offer people like you the opportunity to share what you know about these matters. I brought with me today a schematic of a new production platform that illustrates beautifully how our technologies manifest much less impact visually and environmentally. And, I enjoy explaining to those interested in alternative forms of energy how it would take 300 acres of windmills that were actually working to produce what this platform produces.

Speaking of windmills, I suspect you are getting an ear full at the moment about wind energy here in Kansas. Wind Energy, as I’m sure you’re aware is an alternative energy that is promoted as environmentally friendly. Billions of dollars are being invested into wind across the country with an expected $1 trillion to be spent by 2030. Nation wide 20,152MW of capacity was available by the end of August 2008. That’s enough to power 5 million average households. The U.S. became the world’s largest producer of energy from wind mid-2008. But according to a report from the American Wind Energy Association, power produced by wind was still only 1.5% of the national supply. The federal government has mandated that 20% of the nation’s power come by way of wind energy by 2030.

Here in Kansas the existing wind energy capacity currently sits at 465MW. By years end your state looks to break into the 1,000MW capacity zone. That will be enough to provide renewable energy to 300,000 Kansas homes…as long as the wind is blowing. It is anticipated that by the time we close in on the U.S. Department of Energy’s “20% by 2030” wind energy mandate, that Kansas will have anywhere from 7,000-10,000MW capacity. This could potentially result in $20 million a year to those leasing property for turbines, $1.3 billion to local economies during construction, and thousands of long-term maintenance and manufacturing jobs to the state.

However, like all things, with the good, must come the bad. And I would be doing you a disservice not to mention the potential side affects from this energy as well. Wind energy is more expensive than coal-fire plants. Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson [D-Kansas] told the Salina Journal this past September that in order for wind energy to be cheaper than coal-fire plants there would be need for an extension of federal tax breaks on wind energy. Increasing your taxes or having to divert them from other needs in order to provide you a smaller energy bill still does not help your bottom line. It’s like having two half full glasses of water in front of you and you pour one glass into the other. You’re still drinking the same amount of water in the end.

While leasing fees will be in the neighborhood of $3-5K a year per turbine and provide land owners additional income, there are issues with the ease of farming because of the access roads cut for service technicians and of course the monstrosities themselves.

***Example of farms being cut up by access roads; possible example to have blown up to show at presentation***

And this is not even to mention how many of these things you will begin to see dotting your scenic Kansas plains. At this time the two most commonly purchased turbines are the GE 1.5MW turbine or the Siemens 2.3 MW turbine. For those of you that are lawyers and not math whizzes allow me to help you out a bit. What this means to your state is that when Kansas hits 1,000MW capacity at the end of the year they would have to have roughly 667 GE models or 435 of Siemens variety, or some combination of the two. By the time we are closing in on the “20% by 2030” mandate, and Kansas reaches a 10,000MW capacity you will have approximately 4,500-7000 of these massive white statues dotting the landscape. You won’t miss them. The irony to this of course is that building oil platforms 10-50 miles off of our coasts, beyond the native field of vision is an “eye sore” to the environmental extremist. But for some reason these same people find destroying the scenic landscape of the plains a non-issue. Remember, this is your back yard; this is where many of you will be working and raising your families.

Furthermore, an estimated 40-50 million birds are killed by hitting telecommunications towers every year. What do you think will happen when we add giant spinning blades to those towers? I guess we could try putting a sign on them that says, “Birds, please don’t fly here.” Finally there are current studies showing health affects in association to wind turbines for those living within a 1 mile radius of a wind turbine. Research indicates that turbine noise pollution has resulted in sleep deprivation, headaches, dizziness, unsteadiness, nausea, exhaustion, mood problems, and inability to concentrate.

All that being said, the positives and the negatives on the table, one thing that is certainly commendable is that Kansas has moved forward with these and other options including the construction of more nuclear power plants, additional ethanol refineries, and the state is allowing voters, not environmental extremists, to decide on future clean coal-fire plants in a bill to be on the ballot in the upcoming election. Governor Kathleen Sebelius [D-Kansas] recently opined that Kansas would be among the first two states to reach 1,000 mega watts via wind energy without a mandate.

In The Heritage Foundation’s The Conservatives Guide to Energy, which I have here today, it is our opinion that wind and solar are not quite ready. But what we do advocate are free market Federalist principles that allow states and their citizens to make their own decisions. No one power source should be mandated as the solution, it just won’t work. America must use all its resources, renewable energy, nuclear, and fossil fuels. Kansas’ government is not getting in the way of the free market by issuing mandates. Energy options that work will prevail, and those that don’t will be removed from the market. Power options in every sector will most assuredly improve the energy ecosystem around the state. Allowing the states to decide on their energy options is the best policy. These are options that states like Florida are not getting.

Current OCS and much environmental policy is dictated by Washington and is a complex maze of bureaucratic regulations. Cookie cutter solutions will not work in a country as large and as geologically diverse as ours. In the case of our environment and future energy needs, a simple policy is the best policy. The federal government should cede its authority to the states. States should be allowed to decide whether to pursue energy development on their lands and what types of energy they would like to pursue. This policy is both environmentally responsible and suited to meet America’s energy needs.

So there you have it…

Principles that should be guiding our country and our leaders…and do guide Heritage.

Principles that could better guide environmental policy.

Remember, energy supplies and energy security are within our grasp…We just need the national will and the freedom to make it happen.

Thanks so much for your time. God bless you and God bless America.