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An energy strategy for Kentucky
by Paul Wesslund

The energy strategy Gov. Ernie Fletcher released in February covers a lot of ground. Among the actions it calls for:

  • more production of Kentucky coal;
  • development of renewable resources and energy conservation;
  • greater coordination of energy-related research;
  • promoting awareness of low-income energy assistance;
  • reducing drug and alcohol abuse among coal miners.

The 39-page report contains 54 recommendations that will “set the direction of the energy future” for Kentucky, Fletcher said when he released the plan.

Fletcher said the strategy follows three overall principles:

1. Maintain Kentucky’s low-cost energy.

2. Responsibly develop Kentucky’s energy resources.

3. Preserve Kentucky’s commitment to environmental quality.

Kentucky’s Energy—Opportunities for our Future: A Comprehensive Energy Strategy resulted from a speedy four-month process that included public hearings around the state.

That fast-track process sought to give Kentucky a formal energy plan before the end of the current session of the legislature. It was also aimed at taking Kentucky out of the ranks of the few states that have no energy planning document. Some federal grants and programs are only available to states that have an official energy strategy.

Among the reasons state officials could produce a comprehensive strategy so quickly is that it built on an existing network of information from a wide variety of public and private representatives in the state (see accompanying commentary).

An example of where the state energy strategy is already being followed comes from East Kentucky Power Cooperative based in Winchester. That co-op, which generates electricity for 16 electric distribution cooperatives that serve about 500,000 homes and businesses in the state, lists several practices that already carry out the aims of the plan. Those include:

  • Building three advanced clean-coal power plants that will be among the cleanest in the nation, and will be able to burn coal from east and west Kentucky;
  • Operating three renewable energy plants that produce electricity from methane collected at landfills;
  • Using low-emission biodiesel fuel in its fleet of vehicles.

The next step for the strategy will be for the governor and the legislature to work together to implement the recommendations in the strategy.

As part of the ceremony announcing the energy strategy, Fletcher signed five executive orders implementing part of the plan. Those included ordering the Kentucky Public Service Commission to report on future electricity needs in the state; establishing a Utilities Saving Council to find ways to reduce energy costs in state government; and encouraging the use of alternative fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel.

You can read those executive orders and the full energy strategy on a Web page of the Kentucky Division of Energy: go to www.energy.ky.gov and click on Kentucky Energy Plan.

Commentary
Energy plan builds on success

by Ron Sheets

The adoption of Kentucky’s first statewide energy strategy (see accompanying article) was achieved in a remarkably short time—about four months. For the first time in our state’s history, all components of Kentucky’s energy foundation have been brought together in a formalized, coordinated statewide plan. This is a tribute to the remarkable administrative skills of Kentucky Commerce Secretary Jim Host and his highly regarded Chief of Staff Andrew McNeal. Also particularly prominent in this effort were Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet Secretary LaJuana Wilcher and Finance Secretary Robbie Rudolph. Many other important individuals were also involved, including state legislators.

But another major reason this was able to be put together so rapidly was because many of the components of a non-formalized energy policy were already in place. Programs and activities with a considerable history of substantial success were already available in lots of separate areas. The Kentucky Public Service Commission is one of many such places. Kentucky has actually had a number of highly successful energy-related components within our state governmental structure for decades. But the remarkable and glaring deficiency has primarily been our state’s failure to bring these together in one coordinated document. So the task of doing this, while arduous and greatly detailed, could proceed rapidly because of the separate existing components of Kentucky’s informal and non-coordinated plan for energy production and use.

Still, the formalization and presentation of a statewide coordinated plan will bring huge advantages. It will be the nucleus around which the state legislature will focus much attention in coming years. It will be valuable to the industry itself, providing for the first time a quick reference for how our various energy components are interrelated and how their programs are administered. It should eliminate waste and increase efficiency, and it most certainly will bring a common vision and a common mission to the surface, helping better ensure that we are all working toward a more common objective.

As has been noted several times during the formulation of Kentucky’s energy strategy, Kentucky is greatly blessed. The existence of ample water, coal, and other forms of energy provides a resource-rich state. And the focus on a statewide energy plan also provides us even greater opportunity and justification to pursue those areas that have been less strong relative to their advancement. Renewable resources, such as wind and solar, are just two of many examples. Leaders in the Kentucky General Assembly have also been prominent in the accomplishment of achieving a statewide energy policy. This has been a wonderfully productive effort. And Kentucky’s electric cooperatives congratulate all of those who were involved. And we are pleased that representatives of Kentucky’s electric cooperatives were among those helping achieve this accomplishment.

Ron Sheets is president of the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives.

Guest Opinion
How we hurt ourselves

by Mark P. Pfeifer, M.D.

As chief of staff of University Hospital, I see the full range of humanity and emotion every day. Joy is just down the hall from despair; tragedy a floor away from a miracle. But those cases that weigh heaviest on the heart are those that could have been avoided with only a little care and thought. Here are three steps that all Kentuckians can take to be safer—and, I hope, never see me at work.

1. Buckle up.
Every day I see victims of motor vehicle accidents coming through our emergency room. More than 900 people were hospitalized at University in 2003 alone as the result of auto accidents. That’s a striking number. But even more astonishing is that only 36 percent of those were wearing seatbelts. Those not wearing a seatbelt are much more likely to have serious, disabling, and life-threatening injuries. For most of us it is a matter of when, and not if, we or a loved one will be in an auto accident. Make sure that you and your family buckle up every time you are in the car.

2. ATVs are not toys.
Although we’ve only been keeping statistics on ATV accidents since 2002, we’ve known for a while what the numbers are starting to bear out—ATVs cause a lot of accidents and it’s getting worse. We hospitalized more than 54 ATV riders in 2003, many with very serious injuries. ATVs are not toys. Don’t carry another rider, don’t operate on streets or paved roads, supervise children closely, and wear a helmet and appropriate clothing.

3. Prevent falls.
Falls are a leading cause of injury and unintentional death. Nearly 16,000 people in the U.S. died from falls in 1998. Falls around the house are common on steps and in bathrooms. The elderly are especially vulnerable to falls and having the fall result in serious injury. To prevent falls, make sure lighting is good, bathrooms have grab bars around showers and baths, stairs have handrails, and that there are no trip hazards such as extension cords or rugs. In addition, seemingly simple home repairs like painting, gutter cleaning, and tree trimming cause many preventable falls—always use secured ladders and never work alone. We see far too many broken hips, shattered shoulders, and serious head injuries from falls.

I’ve chosen these three areas for various reasons, but mainly because they point to easy, simple steps that we can all take to make Kentucky safer.

University Hospital is the leading trauma hospital in Kentucky. Affiliated with the University of Louisville, it is a leader in teaching and research, as well as patient care.

Scholarships for juniors & seniors
Women in Rural Electrification (Kentucky W.I.R.E.) is taking applications for $1,000 scholarships. The scholarships are open to any eligible student whose family is served by a Kentucky electric cooperative and has at least 60 hours of credits at a Kentucky college or university by the start of the fall term. W.I.R.E. will award three scholarships. The deadline for application is June 15, 2005. For an application form, go to www.kaec.org and click on the link at the bottom of the New Info box, or call your local electric cooperative or the Kentucky Living office.

B is for Book Fest
The Southern Kentucky Book Fest will be held at the Sloan Convention Center in Bowling Green on April 15-16. Admission is free. Headlining this year’s event will be New York Times best-selling author Sue Grafton. She will speak and sign books April 16. Headlining Children’s Day on April 15 will be Sharon Creech, best-selling author of the Newbery Medal winner Walk Two Moons, and the Newbery Honor Book The Wanderer. She is also the first American in history to be awarded the CILIP Carnegie Medal for Ruby Holler. For more information, contact Jayne.Pelaski@wku.edu or visit the Web site at www.sokybookfest.org.

Heart health forum
A Women’s Health Forum will be held Saturday, April 9, from 8 a.m.–1 p.m. at The Center for Rural Development in Somerset. This year’s theme, Love Your Heart, will focus on topics and issues relating to women and heart disease. For more info, call the Pulaski County Extension Office at (606) 679-6361 or e-mail pyork@uky.edu.

A home for a cause
The Nursing Home Ombudsman Agency is hosting a Decorators’ Showcase that will be open to the public April 16-May 8. The featured house, a Greek Revival mansion completed in 1854, is located on a working horse farm on Russell Cave Road north of Lexington.

All proceeds from the event benefit the NHOA of the Bluegrass. NHOA works to improve the quality of care for more than 5,000 residents of long-term care facilities in 17 counties of central Kentucky.

The agency has held this event regularly for nearly 20 years. It involves several designers donating their time to renovate the inside of a house of a willing homeowner. This year, 24 designers redid different parts of the house.

Admission is $15 a person to tour the house, see before and after pictures, and get information on each room. The house will be closed Mondays. For more info, call (859) 277-0870 or visit the Web site at www.ombuddy.org.

Walking for March of Dimes
The annual WalkAmerica fund-raising events for the March of Dimes started in January and will continue through May. Since WalkAmerica began in 1970, it has raised more than $1 billion to support research and programs to save babies from premature birth, birth defects, and other threats to their health. In WalkAmerica events, participants recruit sponsors, and then walk a course of a few miles to meet the sponsor commitments. To find out how to participate in your area, you can phone (800) 525-WALK or go to the Web site www.walkamerica.org. In Kentucky, WalkAmerica events planned for April and May include Warren and Taylor counties.

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