So why, if he is really committed to promoting alternative energy, would Governor Mike Rounds (through spokesman Joe Kafka) so vocally bemoan the demise of Big Stone II?
"The governor feels it's a setback to development of the wind-energy sector in the state, because enhanced transmission capacity was tied to the project," Kafka wrote. "Without the ability to move larger amounts of wind energy to markets in large cities to the east, plans for future wind-energy projects may be sidetracked" [Ross Dolan, "End of Big Stone II Could Be Trouble for South Dakota Wind," Mitchell Daily Republic via Rapid City Journal, 2009.11.18].
Now I know the governor has obligations to his lieutenant and the Dakota Dunes donor base. I know it's oh so satisfying for the conservative commentariat to say President Obama and climate change legislation and we liberal bloggers killed Big Stone II and wind power all in one shot. We have to keep reminding the other side of the aisle that BSII backers themselves were saying all along that climate change legislation was actually making the plant a better deal.
But my question this evening is why would the governor insist on shedding his usual boosterism and being such a wet blanket about wind power? He dispatches his spokesman to tell alternative energy investors, essentially, gee, it's going to be awfully hard to justify building wind farms here in South Dakota. Golly, you investors, I don't know why you'd even think of spending your money here after a big setback like this. Does that sound like a sales pitch to you?
Governor Rounds sounds a lot more like the crabbing conservative bloggers who are big on blame but short on innovative thinking and solutions. They keep forgetting that Otter Tail bailed out of Big Stone II even while adding 180 megawatts of wind power over the last three years. The Western Area Power Administration is working on another 200 megawatts of wind power.
Instead of moping and fueling bogus anti-Obama, anti-environmentalist rhetoric, maybe the state's cheerleader-in-chief could show some leadership and salesmanship. He could make it his mission to sell utilities on the business case for building transmission lines to cash in on the Saudi Arabia of wind.
Or he could one-up his Republican counterpart in California, Governor Schwarzenegger, and sign an executive order requiring South Dakota utilities to get 33% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. Maybe the governor could exhort the Legislature to pass real renewable quotas, not the fluff-ball paperwork charade that Senator Russell Olson likes to tout as progress. Utilities like Pacific Gas and Electric have responded to that mandate with all sorts of great energy initiatives (including poo-power!).
Of course, this argument assumes Governor Rounds really wants wind energy to thrive. It assumes Governor Rounds really wants to see alternatives rise to compete with the fossil fuel industry. If that's what I were selling, that's what I'd be saying.
But Governor Rounds isn't saying that, is he? Hmmm... I'm feeling contrapositive....