Evaluating the Economic Case for Sunflower's Coal-fired Power Plant Expansion

By Lynda S. Livingston.

Published by The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published Online: September 8, 2015 $US5.00

In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide is a pollutant and must be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, even if the science of global warming is equivocal and even if there may be negative effects on American industry. The state of Kansas was the first to deny an expansion permit for a coal-fired power plant based on this ruling. The denied utility, Sunflower Electric Power Corporation, fought back hard—pulling political strings and mustering economic arguments supporting the expansion. In this paper, we evaluate their economic case, and find it lacking. First, Sunflower does not need the power: the expansion they propose is over four times as large as what would be needed to supply its projected needs in 2030, and it ignores new supply already created. Second, their most emphasized argument—job creation—is overstated: the majority of jobs that would result are low-paying service jobs, while virtually all of the project’s estimated value-added would accrue as corporate profits. We conclude that the corporate beneficiaries of this project are dumping a toxic project “in the middle of nowhere”—Kansas—to supply cheap power to other states. Conservation groups are already fighting this expansion based on its negative environmental impacts. We suggest that the project should be shuttered for economic reasons as well.

Keywords: Coal, Electricity Generation, Kansas, Sunflower Expansion

The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability, Volume 11, Issue 3, September 2015, pp.11-28. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published Online: September 8, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 627.238KB)).

Dr. Lynda S. Livingston

Professor, School of Business and Leadership, University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA, USA