Earlier this year, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius created the Kansas Energy and Environmental Policy Advisory Group (KEEP) and appointed Cessna Aircraft Company chairman, president and chief executive officer Jack Pelton as its leader.
This was a smart political move by Governor Sebelius. She appears to have put the planning for our state’s energy future in the hands of an independent, skeptical businessman, someone who will be concerned about the bottom line. Someone who won’t be overly influenced by the emotional appeals of environmentalists.
Kansans need to understand, however, that Jack Pelton may not want to, or be able to, exhibit the independence necessary to formulate sound energy and environmental policy in Kansas.
In a Wichita Eagle editorial on May 18, 2008, Pelton said he believes that carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced: “We are tasked with helping develop a plan to ensure Kansas energy needs are met now and in the future through policies and technologies that reduce the state’s carbon footprint.” To me, this sounds as though he’s already formed a conclusion — and one that happens to agree with our governor’s.
That agreement with Governor Sebelius may not be a coincidence. Other motives may be a factor. That’s because earlier this year, the State of Kansas approved $33 million in incentives for Cessna, with Wichita and Sedgwick County adding another $10 million. The governor signed the legislation in a televised ceremony at Cessna’s facilities in Wichita. This award to Cessna is part of $150 million in aircraft incentives the state authorized.
(As is often the case with economic development incentives, the state won’t directly give Cessna the money. Instead, it will issue bonds that Cessna will repay with its employee withholding taxes. Confusing maneuvers like this allow governments to say they aren’t actually giving money to companies. Instead, they’re merely issuing bonds which will be repaid, never mind what they’re being repaid with.)
His company having received a gift like that, how could Pelton turn down the governor’s request to lead KEEP? Given Kathleen Sebelius’ national political ambitions based on her green environmentalist credentials, how can he be expected to do anything that would ruffle her feathers?
When you combine these factors with the fact that KEEP is being facilitated by The Center for Climate Strategies, Kansans should be very skeptical of the conclusions and recommendations that will emerge from this process.