Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bruce Lunsford's Energy Plan: Strip-Mine the Bluegrass

I'll give Bruce Lunsford this much: he's not so much of an energy panderer that he promotes the myth of "clean coal" or the catastrophe of mountain-top-removal the way Steve Beshear does.

No, Bruce Lunsford is a visionary; he wants to strip-mine the horse farms and rolling hills of Central Kentucky's Bluegrass Region.

To lure voters weary of high gas prices, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Bruce Lunsford is embracing a GOP-led push for oil shale drilling, one policy goal Congress already achieved and one proposal that received mixed reviews from both parties.

Lunsford, who is challenging Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in the November election, unveiled an eight-point strategy to reduce prices at the pumps in the short and long terms.

”I want action. The public wants action,“ he said at the United Auto Workers local union 862."

Lunsford neglects, however, to mention where one might find oil shale. It's not just out west in desert that not many Kentucky voters care about. It's right here in the Bluegrass.

(More after the jump.)

The Knobs, the semi-circle of low hills that curve around the east, south and west sides of Lexington are chock-full of oily shale.

Lunsford knows this because he was an aide to Kentucky Governor John Y. Brown in the early 1980s, when high gas prices sent the state scrambling for possible alternatives. Brown's Energy and National Resources Cabinets both investigated oil shale mining and produced reports on its viability in Kentucky.

Short version of the results: Gas prices were almost high enough to make oil shale economically competetive.

But only if you didn't count the astronomical cost of filling the Bluegrass region inside the Knobs with mountains of post-extraction waste rock - waste 10 times the volume of the mined shale.

Yes, Lunsford is discussing oil shale "drilling," which is theoretically less destructive than strip mining. But in Kentucky we're still blowing the tops off mountains to get to coal. When it comes to fossil fuels, we don't do "safe" or "clean." Environmentally sound is for wimps.

One of the prettier highway drives in Central Kentucky is the Bluegrass Parkway between Lexington and Elizabethtown. As you drive west from Lexington, you'll see a line of low hills rise up in front of you. Those are the Knobs. The oil-filled shale Knobs.

Now imagine the view of the oaks, hickories, maples, dogwoods and redbuds covering those hillsides replaced by mountains of gray, dead, sterile waste rock sucked dry of its oil.

At that very point on the parkway is a sign that reads: "Welcome to Hardin County. A Clean County."

Not for long, if Bruce Lunsford has his way. Not for long.

Taylor Shelton of Green KY nails Lunsford on the self-destructiveness of his "let's use more fossil fuels!" energy plan, but then gives him absolution:

I would personally like to see a little more leadership from Lunsford here, as this is where I think he really shows himself to lack the progressive credentials that alot of Kentuckians and alot of Democrats are looking for these days. While I don’t agree with Lunsford’s new energy plan, make no mistake that voting for Mitch McConnell in November is a vote against the environment, a sound energy policy, a healthy, green economy and thriving communities in Kentucky.

And when the new Senator Lunsford from Kentucky persuades his "Democratic" colleagues that strip-mining the Bluegrass is the solution to our energy problems, Taylor, will you still think he's an improvement over McConnell?

Shelton does a great job at Green KY of keeping Kentucky's many and serious environmental issues near the top of the blogosphere agenda, and I'm grateful for and appreciative of his work.

But at some point, we have to stop pretending that Bruce Lunsford is really a progressive Democrat in his heart.

All evidence to the contrary.

Cross-posted at Blue in the Bluegrass.