Glaringly absent from Governor Dennis Daugaard's State of the State Address yesterday was any mention of the teacher shortage or Medicaid expansion. Dakota Rural Action's recharged legislative blog notes another notable gap in the Governor's priorities—energy policy:

Another topic that was absent in the speech was any reference to energy, more explicitly renewable energy. Though energy prices in SD are generally lower than national averages, our energy spending per capita ranks in the top ten. Energy consumption is eighth highest in the nation. According to the “2013 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard” published by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), South Dakota is tied for 47th with Mississippi and Alaska in energy efficiency with a score of eight out of 50 [Meghan Thoreau, "Supermajorities, State of the State, and What Goes Unsaid," Dakota Rural Action, 2015.01.14].

I recognize that even the best politician can only do so much. Governor Daugaard will have to expend some political capital to pass his proposed two-cent-per-year increase in the motor fuel tax. But I return to the critique I offered last month in South Dakota Magazine following the Governor's blasé budget address: if I had a 70% mandate from the public, supermajorities in both houses of my Legislature, and no plans to run for reëlection, I would govern my keester off. I'd rally the public and my loyal legislative minions to solve every major problem we could get our hands on. I'd build a legacy of lasting policy initiatives to invest in South Dakota's long-term well-being.

Rebuilding the state's road system would be one key part of that plan. So would ending two generations of national embarrassment for having the lowest-paid teachers. So would expanding Medicaid to insure 48,000 South Dakotans and bring huge federal stimulus. So would investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy production to save government, business, and residents money and add a whole new industry to our GDP.

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That darned liberal Jerry Brown took away one of Dennis Daugaard's talking points when he erased California's budget deficit two years ago. What's California's governor up to now? Just like Governor Daugaard, Governor Brown has a balanced budget. Like Daugaard, Brown is urging restraint. But here's what "restraint" looks like in Jerry Brown's California:

  • A 39% increase in state aid to education over four years. (Governor Daugaard's proposed $414 million in state aid to K-12 schools is 22.4% more than his FY2012 budget.. but remember, that was the austerity budget. Compared to five years ago, Daugaard's FY2016 budget increases state aid to education by 9.9%.)
  • A new Local Control Funding Formula that directs more money to districts with more "students from foster care, low-income families and non-English-speaking parents" to address the primary factor affecting academic achievement, economic disparities. (Governor Daugaard continues to fund schools on flat headcount, only adjusting for sparsity/economies of scale.)
  • A successful cap-and-trade carbon market that is helping California meet its goal of getting one third of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
  • New policy goals of increasing renewable energy to 50% and reducing vehicle petroleum use by 50%.
  • A new focus on producing distributed energy and creating more resilient micro-grids to power towns when regional power systems go down (hey, Steve Hickey! How about including micro-grids in your "Long Economic Winter" planning?).

Governor Jerry Brown laid out big stuff in his fourth inaugural address, visionary stuff. Maybe Governor Daugaard will surprise us with his second inaugural address this weekend or his State of the State Address to open the 2015 Legislature on Tuesday. But so far, Daugaard has given us a care-taking vanilla budget. His biggest initiatives of the past month have continued the state's shouldering the costs of business without advancing any substantively new vision for solving South Dakota's problems.

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Pat Powers keeps using the phrase "war on energy," as in, "the Obama Administration[']s EPA continues to prosecute their war on energy production."

Hey, Pat, buy gas lately? I saw $2.19 per gallon yesterday. If these gas prices are a result of a war on energy, please, keep warring!

Oh, guess what: These gas prices are resulting, at least in part from the very earth-friendly Obama policies that Powers irrationally hates. Remember those evil fuel efficiency standards President Obama approved in August 2012? Those standards have helped decrease gasoline demand, contributing to the surplus that's driving oil prices down below the business case threshold for Keystone XL. Even if SUV sales surge (it's already happening, because Americans live in the now... and perhaps because gas nozzles are so phallic?), the President's fuel efficiency standards will conserve energy and temper any price recovery:

...the fuel economy standards will help hold down U.S. gasoline consumption, even if buyers swing back to bigger vehicles. As the standards have toughened, and will get even tighter the next few years, automakers have been making even their lowest-mileage vehicles more efficient.

Since 2010, light trucks — like SUVs and pickups — have already earned an overall 5 percent improvement in gas mileage and by 2025 are expected to have boosted their efficiency by about half.

The mandates are eventually expected to eliminate the need for 3 million barrels of oil per day [Steve Everly, "Cheap Gas Attracts Thirstier Vehicles, But Tougher Fuel Economy Standards Will Make Them Guzzle Less," Kansas City Star, 2014.12.13].

A war on energy would be a war intended to destroy energy ("Impossible!" cry the attentive physicists in the audience), or at least to destroy our sources of energy. If anyone seems hell-bent on waging war on energy, it would seem to be the short-term Republican corporate mindset that advocates burning all the energy we can as fast as we can, leaving no energy—or at least no cheap, easy energy—for our children and grandchildren.

The Obama Adminstration appears to be waging the exact opposite of a war on energy. The Obama Administration is adopting conservation policies that ensure more energy will be around for future generations to use. The Obama Administration is waging a war for energy for future generations against the rapaciousness of a greedy present.

Related reading: Ben Casselman of FiveThirtyEight.com says we know nothing about the future of oil prices.

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David Allen, Democratic candidate for Public Utilities Commission

David Allen, Democratic candidate for Public Utilities Commission

David Allen wants to replace Gary Hanson on the Public Utilities Commission. The Yankton electrical contractor expresses a healthy concern about corporate power in government and wants to focus on protecting South Dakotans' pocketbooks.

Allen, a Democrat, has run for office before in an unsuccessful bid for District 18 Senate in 2012 against incumbent Republican Senator Jean Hunhoff. Even though he lost that race 65–35, the concerns he heard from numerous constituents about simply making ends meet convinced him to stick with public service. Allen chose the PUC race this year because he sees a chance in that office to do immediate good for families and serve as a buffer against corporate power.

Keystone XL

One example of the corporate power Allen would fight is TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The PUC approved construction of that pipeline in 2010; that permit has lapsed, and the PUC that Allen would join must rehear and reapprove the Canadian company's proposal to lay pipe kittywampus across West River.

Allen strongly opposes Keystone XL, in large part because of eminent domain. Allen says it is "absolutely wrong" that South Dakota allows a foreign corporation to exercise eminent domain on our soil. He worries that the tar sands oil ("dilbit," as it is sometimes called) is highly corrosive and makes leaks inevitable. (A 2011 Alberta government study says chemistry doesn't make the oil more corrosive; more corrosion may come from the higher temperature and pressure needed to make the dilbit flow.) Allen notes that folks in British Columbia have rejected a tar sands pipeline*; he argues that we shouldn't host all the risks of Keystone XL "just because we are easily whored out," especially when Keystone XL would carry oil straight to the global export market and add not one drop for U.S. consumption.

Renewable Energy Big and Small

Allen would rather focus on developing more green energy. Pipeline jobs are temporary; renewable energy jobs, says Allen, offer more permanent economic gains. Demand will grow, meaning ongoing job opportunities for installing solar panels and wind turbines. Our vo-techs could both promote and capitalize on green energy by offering more training programs in the field and attracting more students. Allen thus sees renewable energy as a way to renew the youth population, offering them both practical education programs and good job opportunities.

Allen wants to see more small-scale energy production. He favors net metering, allowing homeowners to sell surplus power from their home energy generation back to their co-ops and utility companies. Allen recognizes that utilities need to charge a basic access cost to maintain the grid that transports homeowners' excess power and keeps them juiced on dark, windless nights, but he says homeowner power lessens the burden on the electrical grid and ultimately lowers costs for utilities.

*TransCanada can't go west, but maybe they'll throw a Hail Mary east! Bloomberg reports the Energy East pipeline proposal could take the tar sands 2,858 miles east to New Brunswick and make Keystone XL unnecessary.

Phones, Seeds, and Sioux Falls

Allen commented on an array of other issues during our conversation Monday. He says we should keep encouraging tower construction to reduce our cell phone dead zones. He'd like to see directories start including cell phone numbers. If the idea of increased publication of your cell phone number alarms you, note that Allen would also like to put more teeth in our do-not-call lists.

The fallout from the Anderson Seeds collapse still weighs on Allen's mind. He doesn't think the PUC and Legislature have taken enough action to protect farmers from getting stiffed by failing grain warehouses. Allen says he wants higher bonds to protect those farmer-investors. Likening the failure of Anderson Seeds to the bankruptcy of Northern Beef Packers and problems with South Dakota's EB-5 program, Allen says the PUC needs to offer more checks on power and oversight to protect South Dakotans from shaky and shady businesses.

Allen says his incumbent opponent, Commissioner Gary Hanson, leans a bit too much in favor of corporations. But Allen also throws the Sioux Falls flag on Hanson. He's uneasy with two-thirds of the PUC coming from Sioux Falls and thinks South Dakotans would be better served by diversifying the geography of the PUC members with some Yankton blood.

Voters have through November 4 to choose among Allen, Hanson, and the very quiet Constitution Party candidate Wayne Schmidt from Mobridge.

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While Mike Rounds fantasizes that the Albertan tar sands oil that Keystone XL would ship to the Gulf of Mexico for export to China somehow secures American energy independence, and while pols and hustlers insist that maybe South Dakota can stick a straw in West River and suck some Bakken oil our way, the Union of Concerned Scientists notes that South Dakota has the resources to cash in on a real, renewable domestic source of energy growing and plopping right in our backyards... or the back forty.

UCS-Top 10 States for Crop Residue Manure Bioenergy 2030

According to a new UCS analysis, by 2030, South Dakota can sustainably produce the ninth-most biomass—crop residues and manure—for renewable energy production. (Add Mike Rounds's speeches on coal and oil, and we boost our rank to seventh.) We're not talking about turning more food into fuel; we can squeeze energy from all that stuff we and the cows leave in the fields without burning one more bean or kernel of corn.

UCS crop residue manure by county 2030

(click to enlarge!)

Why would we want to convert cornstalks and cowpies into energy?

Clean, renewable energy resources for transportation and electricity are an im- portant part of the solution to the climate, economic, environmental, and security challenges posed by our fossil fuel use. Bioenergy—the use of biomass, including plant materials and manure, to produce renewable fuels for transportation and to generate electricity—can provide a sustainable, low-carbon alternative to fossil fuels while enabling communities to benefit from local resources. Bioenergy is one of several elements of a comprehensive climate strategy that can cut projected U.S. oil use in half by 2030, and help put the nation on track to phase out the use of coal in producing electricity [Union of Concerned Scientists, "Turning Agricultural Residues and Manure into Bioenergy," July 2014].

Oh, those darned scientists, trying to get us to use less of a polluting fuel source that will run out. Don't they know that all this talk of conservation and renewability messes up the business model for Mike Rounds's favorite industries?

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That thunder you hear around Lead is the brainstorm Stan Gibilisco is having about alternative energy. The Black Hills (Black Holes?) thinker and tinkerer offers his thoughts about hooking up solar and wind power.

First he proposes a state-tribal collaboration to provide power (electrical and cultural) and jobs for South Dakota:

Gibilisco extends his remarks from the "Nerd Cave" to express mixed feelings about alternative energy. He reminds folks replacing petrol with electric cars that they are still burning fossil fuels. He also reminds us that even if we kick fossil fuels, China will still burn lots of coal.

Gibilisco sketches a "hybrid hybrid" system that could help a self-proclaimed "thermal wuss" get away from the grid and avoid net-metering worries:

Finally, Gibilisco elaborates on his concerns about utilities and the state charging home innovators for installing alternative energy. Gibilisco recognizes the utilities may have a case for charging customers intertie fees, but it sounds like his Libertarian heart wants to keep his entanglements to the minimum of his own wires.

Gibilisco welcomes comments on his YouTube pages. I welcome Stan's prolific video output to the video-blogosphere!

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South Dakota's wind power blows me away this morning. A Future Structure article reports that Kansas is swiftly expanding its wind power generation capacity, with Kansas utilities getting 19.4% of their electricity from wind power. Future Structure says that percentage is behind only Iowa and South Dakota.

South Dakota?! I check the most recent Energy Information Agency information on electricity generation, mash a couple spreadsheets, and get the following data on the percentage of net electrical generation coming from wind in each state in January 2013 and January 2014:

Census Division/State January 2014 January 2013
New England 2.1% 1.8%
Connecticut 0.0% 0.0%
Maine 8.4% 7.6%
Massachusetts 0.8% 0.7%
New Hampshire 2.5% 2.0%
Rhode Island -- --
Vermont 4.6% 3.6%
Middle Atlantic 2.2% 2.0%
New Jersey -- --
New York 3.6% 3.6%
Pennsylvania 2.0% 1.7%
East North Central 4.2% 4.0%
Illinois 7.0% 6.3%
Indiana 3.5% 4.3%
Michigan 4.2% 3.0%
Ohio 1.2% 1.2%
Wisconsin 3.3% 3.4%
West North Central 16.3% 14.4%
Iowa 32.8% 30.8%
Kansas 20.9% 16.9%
Minnesota 19.4% 16.7%
Missouri 1.6% 1.5%
Nebraska 6.4% 4.6%
North Dakota 21.1% 19.4%
South Dakota 36.2% 29.4%
South Atlantic 0.3% 0.3%
Delaware -- --
District of Columbia -- --
Florida 0.0% 0.0%
Georgia 0.0% 0.0%
Maryland 0.8% 1.1%
North Carolina 0.0% 0.0%
South Carolina 0.0% 0.0%
Virginia 0.0% 0.0%
West Virginia 2.2% 2.2%
East South Central 0.0% 0.0%
Alabama 0.0% 0.0%
Kentucky 0.0% 0.0%
Mississippi 0.0% 0.0%
Tennessee 0.1% 0.1%
West South Central 8.6% 6.5%
Arkansas 0.0% 0.0%
Louisiana 0.0% 0.0%
Oklahoma 17.9% 14.3%
Texas 10.5% 7.8%
Mountain 7.2% 5.8%
Arizona 0.3% 0.4%
Colorado 16.7% 14.2%
Idaho 20.1% 15.1%
Montana 10.9% 7.2%
Nevada 0.5% 0.4%
New Mexico 10.4% 5.9%
Utah 0.7% 0.6%
Wyoming 12.8% 11.4%
Pacific Contiguous 4.8% 4.6%
California 3.6% 3.3%
Oregon 8.5% 7.4%
Washington 4.7% 4.9%
Pacific Noncontiguous 4.0% 3.3%
Alaska 3.1% 2.3%
Hawaii 4.6% 4.1%
U.S. Total 4.8% 4.2%

In January 2014, wind generated 36.2% of South Dakota's electricity. Closest to that percentage were Iowa at 32.8%, North Dakota at 21.2%, Kansas at 20.9%, and Idaho at 20.1%.

Now if we could just stop all those nasty wind spills... although the wind we spill into Minnesota helps them generate 19.4% of their electricity.

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Rick Weiland makes clear he's my kind of Democrat. In a March 10 interview with Tasiyagnunpa Livermont on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, Weiland says that, polls be darned, he opposes the Keystone XL pipeline:

Weiland says proponents are exaggerating the domestic energy and jobs benefits:

The problem I've got with the Keystone piepline as its been proposed is that it's an export pipeline. Very little if any of the oil, tar sand oil, that's going to be coming through South Dakota is going to stay in the United States. Most of it's going overseas.

The other thing you hear about too is that it's supposed to create all these jobs, and... the last report I read, which was put out by the Government Accounting Office... basically says we're talking about 35 full-time jobs, permanent jobs, and we don't even know how many of those are going to be in South Dakota, and the 2,000 that its going to take to build the pipeline, those are temporary jobs.

The oil that's going to be shipped is really not going to contribute to our energy independence. And the jobs? It's not a jobs bill. Those are the two things that the proponents, the people that want to build Keystone are focused on, and... from the research I've done, that's just not the case.

So what you end up having... is an awful lot of risk associated with the construction of this and the potential for impacts on the environment and very little reward, and that's why I'm opposed to it [Rick Weiland, interview with Tasiyagnunpa Livermont, Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, 2014.03.10].

With such illusory benefits, South Dakota and the United States wouldn't really receive compensation for the significant risks Keystone XL would bring to, for example, the Ogallala aquifer:

...You look at what it takes in terms of the extraction of the oil and the energy that is consumed to do that, the transportation... they have to heat the tar sand up so it becomes almost liquefied, through a pipeline that crosses over precious water resources like the Ogallala and the potential for the damage that could occur, and the fact that we're not really getting anything for taking on that risk. I think that in and of itself is reason not to build it [Weiland, 2014.03.10].

Only demerits here: Weiland skips the part of Livermont's question about Keystone XL's crossing of Indian treaty land. Our Lakota neighbors are ready to wage war on the pipeline, in part because they contend TransCanada and the federal government have not sufficiently consulted with them in the permitting process. The bogus claims of jobs and energy independence are headline issues, but Keystone XL opponents should never miss the chance to build allies on the reservation and to remind all of us that TransCanada is pushing Keystone XL in ways that perpetuate centuries of abuse and neglect of Native interests.

But Weiland's explicit opposition to Keystone XL at least makes clear the door is open to the conversation about treaty rights, not to mention the property rights that South Dakota courts have surrendered to the foreign pipeline profiteers at TransCanada. This opposition is also one more sign that Weiland is willing to challenge big money when it acts against the best interests of South Dakota.

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