After fried chicken and horse racing, Kentucky probably brings to mind two things: blue grass and coal, both seem openly antagonistic to _green. _But in truth, while politicians on both sides of the aisle pledge allegiance to coal, it’s the clean energy movement that has the wind at its back in horse country.
Last month, Kentucky’s Public Service Commission voted to approve construction of a $36 million dollar solar field in Harrodsburg, right in the heart of Central Kentucky.
The 10-megawatt photovoltaic installation will provide just a tiny fraction of Kentucky’s energy needs. But this is a project that was proposed by LG&E and KU — the state’s two largest electric utilities — and green lit by the state body that oversees utilities, signaling a much needed shift from those who needed to do the most shifting.
This comes at the same time that Louisville, Kentucky’s largest city, has launched a fleet of ten zero-emission, electric buses to replace the gas guzzlers that previously roamed its downtown corridor, cutting the city’s diesel consumption by more than 25,000 gallons a year.
For all the political bluster, Kentucky coal is far from the thriving industry it once was. In 1980, about 50,000 Kentuckians worked in coal. That number has dropped more than 75% to 12,000 today. Politicians blame federal regulations, but there’s little evidence to support the trend, which began in the 1980’s. The truth is, along with diminished resources, it simply takes far fewer workers to blow off the top of a mountain than it does to tunnel underground and remove it, and the growth of cheap natural gas has dramatically changed America’s energy map.
So with fewer coal jobs, rapidly dropping renewable prices, and the catastrophic effects of mountaintop removal, it’s getting increasingly difficult to justify an allegiance to coal.
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth — a diverse, 9,000 member grassroots organization committed to empowerment and justice on a whole slew of issues — also deserves a major hat tip here for doing the groundwork to ensure that the facts cannot be ignored.
What does it mean?
It’s a start. Kentucky, like everyone else, still has a long way to go to make the changes we need to stem the effects of climate change. But these are huge strides in the right direction, and if they continue, there’s reason to believe we’ll get there.
Plus we’re seeing leadership from the unlikeliest of places, and it’s not the first time.
Mark Twain once said, “When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Kentucky because it’s always 20 years behind the times.” But today, Kentucky is acting to save the world, and states that don’t join them will soon be struggling to catch up with a Bluegrass State that’s going green.
Want to green up your energy?_ It all starts at home._