A full-page ad running in Kansas newspapers this week shows photos of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and asks: "Why are these men smiling?"
The ad's answer: The decision by the administration of Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) to block air permits for two coal-fired electricity plants because of carbon dioxide emissions "means Kansas will import more natural gas from countries like Russia, Venezuela and Iran."
The ad was taken out by Kansans for Affordable Energy; it does not mention that the campaign was paid for largely by coal mining giant Peabody Energy and a Kansas rural cooperative called Sunflower Electric Power, which wanted to build the coal plants.
"Without new coal-fueled plants in our state, experts predict that electric bills will skyrocket and Kansans will be more dependent than ever on hostile, foreign energy sources," the ad said.
Environmentalists cried foul, noting that Kansas currently exports natural gas to other states. The United States does not currently import natural gas from Russia, Venezuela or Iran, according to the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration.
"This is McCarthyism," said Bruce Nilles, a Sierra Club lawyer.
The permit denial by the Kansas Health and Environment Department last month marked the first time that a state agency applied a Supreme Court decision earlier this year calling carbon dioxide a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.
Peabody said it had helped pay for the ads, but it would not say who else had contributed or how much they cost. "There is a need to reset the energy debate in Kansas toward responsible, adequate supplies of energy going forward," said Vic Svec, a Peabody spokesman.
The governor says the state can meet its electricity needs with new wind power and other renewables, as well as with conservation measures.
In a statement, Sebelius called the ads "over-the-top nonsense." She said, "It does a real disservice to Kansans who are looking for an honest and constructive debate about our state's energy future."
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