October is Energy Awareness Month

October is Energy Awareness Month

In a month where we often turn on the air conditioning during the day but the heat at night, it seems appropriate that October has been set aside nationally to raise awareness of our energy needs.
This annual designation began nearly a quarter-century ago and gives us an opportunity to especially highlight renewable fuels and energy conservation, twin areas where Kentucky routinely gets high marks.
Under the former category, Kentucky is doing well in turning two of our leading crops into fuel. We produce 40 million gallons of ethanol annually, for example, and we’re seeing a welcome and growing trend of gas stations selling E85. About 70 now offer this mostly corn-based fuel across the state, a number that will undoubtedly grow as flex-fuel vehicles become more widespread.
Ethanol has several factors in its favor, from cutting greenhouse gases significantly to being less costly per gallon than gasoline. It also reduces our reliance on oil imports and provides a large and stable market for our corn farmers.
Biodiesel does the same thing for our soybean growers, who help Kentucky produce nearly 70 million gallons of this fuel a year. Among the state’s biggest customers, UPS relies on it to fuel ground vehicles at its Louisville facility, while Mammoth Cave National Park has long been a proponent; in fact, it was the country’s first national park to be powered entirely by alternative energy.
Perhaps the highlight of Energy Awareness Month is National Bioenergy Day, which this year falls on Oct. 21st. Here in Kentucky, Energy and Environment Cabinet officials and others will be in Campbellsville that day to tour a wood-based heat and power generator.
The use of wood and other organic materials accounts for nearly one-fourth of the nation’s renewable energy, which is more than wind and solar combined and second only to hydroelectric.
Given Kentucky’s role in hardwood production – we lead the South in this category – we hold a lot of potential in this industry, and Somerset is another community taking advantage of it. It is home to a major wood-pellet factory that turns 50,000 tons of excess wood fibers and sawdust each year into fuel that can heat our homes and businesses.
Two other energy-producing sectors gaining traction in Kentucky are solar and nuclear. Next month, two of our largest power companies will begin building the state’s first private, large-scale solar-powered facility, which will use 45,000 solar panels to run the equivalent of 1,500 homes. This installation will complement similar ones at Fort Campbell and Fort Knox.
Nuclear energy has never been a factor in Kentucky, since we effectively banned it in the early 1980s by enacting a moratorium that can only be lifted when the country has a permanent location for nuclear waste, something that has yet to occur and seems unlikely to happen anytime soon.
That moratorium, however, is getting a second look. One of the General Assembly’s committees discussed the possibility of lifting it last month, and another reviewed it last week in Paducah, the likely home if a nuclear power plant is ever built in Kentucky.
One thing in nuclear energy’s favor is that it could complement our coal industry by making it easier for the state to meet greenhouse reduction goals. It’s also worth noting that five of our seven surrounding states have long depended on it, and Tennessee is moving ahead with construction of another nuclear power plant.
Beyond renewable energy production, Kentucky has also become a national leader in energy conservation. We now have nearly 300 ENERGY STAR-rated schools, including the nation’s first two designed to energy neutral over a calendar year, and Louisville is among the top 25 metro areas in the country when measuring the number of buildings meeting these stringent guidelines.
At the individual level, the state’s Energy and Environment Cabinet is encouraging homeowners to get an energy audit so they can see what steps to take to make their homes more efficient. This can result in some lasting savings, with experts estimating that closing air leaks and installing a programmable thermostat could lower heating and cooling bills by as much as 30 percent.
When it comes to energy, we’re seeing that having a variety of resources, but relying on them less through conservation, is a winning combination. Both are key when it comes to making sure our country has the energy independence it needs for decades to come.
As always, I would like to know your thoughts on this issue. If you would like to contact me, my address is Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601; or you can email me at [email protected]
To leave a message for me or for any legislator by phone, please call 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.

Paid for by Rick Rand for State Representative, Regina Rand, Treasurer