Energy & Environment

Support for KMUW's energy and environment coverage comes from ITC Great Plains and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Carlos Moreno

In a typical February, the small Wabaunsee school district just west of Topeka pays a natural gas utility bill of about $4,300. This year, its bill was more than $53,000.

It’s not because classrooms were cranking up the heat. Wabaunsee is just one of hundreds of school districts in Kansas hit by an unprecedented spike in wholesale natural gas prices during February’s record-setting winter storm. Now the state is stepping in with $20 million in loans to help. 

Digital Democracy on Tap convened on May 11, 2021, to discuss the status of energy in Kansas. We covered energy-related bills that went to the Kansas Statehouse this session, along with Evergy's newly released Integrated Resource Plan and its projections for the next 10-15 years. Our panelists:

  • Brian Grimmett | Energy and Environment Reporter, KMUW and Kansas News Service
  • Ashok Gupta | Senior Energy Economist, Climate & Clean Energy Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Brett Leopold | President, ITC Great Plains
  • Mike Ross | Senior VP of Government Affairs and Public Relations, Southwest Power Pool
  • Representative Mark Schreiber | Kansas Legislature Vice Chair of the Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications Committee

Brian Grimmett / Kansas News Service

SALINA, Kansas — Ebony Murell and a few interns meticulously sort 99 kinds of silphium. It’s a wild relative to a sunflower. And the biologists at The Land Institute — an outfit devoted to finding out how science can make farming more planet-friendly — want to unravel the plant’s secrets for tolerating bugs and diseases.

“We don’t know what all of these traits mean in terms of plant defenses,” Murell said. “Any or all of them could matter.”

Brian Grimmett / Kansas News Service

Scientists say that if we’re going to stop rising global temperatures, the world will need to greatly reduce the amount of carbon it’s emitting into the air.

Electricity production is one of the largest culprits and transitioning away from fossil fuels is seen as a key step in stopping climate change.

Under mounting pressure to ditch fossil fuels and amid shifting economics that make coal increasingly less competitive, the largest utility in Kansas pledges to close nearly all of its coal-burning plants in the next 20 years.

USGSBMIL Team

 MANHATTAN, Kansas — Ellen Welti has a Ph.D. in, essentially, grasshoppers.

And yet she was still mystified about why the number of grasshoppers in a long-protected and much-studied patch of Kansas prairie was dropping. Steadily. For 25 years.

After all, the grass that the springy bugs feast on had actually grown more robustly as it absorbed mounting levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

So why were the grasshoppers faring increasingly worse?

Kansas Highway Patrol Air Support Unit

WICHITA, Kansas — Utility companies in Kansas will soon have a new accounting tool that could speed the closure of coal-fired power plants — and save customers money.

The financial tool is known as securitization. It’s not a new idea, but it is complex. The Kansas Legislature passed a bill approving the use of the tool after more than two years of discussion.

Hugo Phan / KMUW

While getting his master’s degree from Wichita State University, Jesse Marks wrote his thesis on food insecurity.

Along the way, he discovered that food waste is a major problem, too.

He learned that a typical American family adds more than 500 pounds of food scraps to landfills each year.

Brian Grimmett / Kansas News Service

WICHITA, Kansas — Wind now cranks up more kilowatts than any other power source in the state.

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