When it comes to energy sources, Kansas isn’t the luckiest of states. But it’s pretty lucky.
The state has oil, natural gas and wind. It also has crops, such as corn and milo, that can be used to produce such fuels as ethanol.
When it comes to fossil fuels, such as oil and natural gas, Kansas is an also-ran. Its production is tiny compared to Texas and several other states.
Texas also produces a lot more wind energy than any other state, but Kansas does rank in the top five when it comes to wind power.
Its mix of old and renewable sources means Kansas is well situated as the world’s energy markets continue to evolve.
But whether the state actually prospers in the years ahead by optimizing its energy resources will depend on its ability to keep pace with the forces of change.
Like so much else, energy has become another topic used to politically divide people. And as the effects of climate change have grown more apparent, those political divisions have grown wider and deeper.
The guardians of fossil fuels are on one side. Many of them insist climate change is a hoax — or if it is real, well, it doesn’t have anything to do with anything humans are doing on the planet.
On the other side are environmentalists. The more extreme of that crowd demand that we make major sacrifices. They want us to change what we eat, how many kids we have, what we drive and virtually every other aspect of how we live.
Rather than pick either side, most Americans would prefer to find ways to move forward without major disruptions.
For example, it’s doubtful that Americans in any significant numbers would voluntarily give up their cars. But they would be willing to drive vehicles powered by hydrogen, electricity or other energy sources if they are affordable and the infrastructure exists to keep them up and running.
Similarly, many of us will not agree to give up meat because environmentalists claim that cows require too much grain and produce too much methane gas. But we are interested in research that provides farmers and ranchers with the means of reducing the carbon footprint of beef and dairy operations.
Science has tremendous potential to help us solve or at least mitigate our environmental issues. We just need to stop treating every disagreement and problem as a political or ideological battle.
That’s not to say that there won’t be disruption. Change often comes with a downside for some, even as it provides opportunities to others.
When gas-powered vehicles replaced horses, one industry declined as another grew.
When homes started using electricity and natural gas to power furnaces, ovens and lighting systems, coal and kerosene businesses slowly but surely lost customers.
These were, for the most part, economic transitions, not abrupt changes. And that likely will be how the energy changes we need to take place will occur.
There will be winners and losers. There will be states, industries and businesses better prepared than others to transition to the next chapter of American energy.
Kansans should not get bogged down in political combat or ideological warfare. Let’s support research and investments that position us to benefit from the technologies being developed and the practices and policies that are being formed.
A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers across Kansas.