Missouri's DNR director speaks about Missouri's energy future

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CST; updated 12:13 a.m. CST, Tuesday, November 17, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY — Natural Resources Director Mark Templeton testified Monday in one of his first public appearances since being suspended on Sept. 30 for issues stemming from pollution in the Lake of the Ozarks.

Testifying before the Joint Committee on Missouri's Energy Future, Templeton said energy is "one of the most critical issues facing our state." Missouri needs to increase its energy efficiency, Templeton said, adding that Missouri had "rocketed" from 45 to 41 out of 50 states in energy efficiency.

Gov. Jay Nixon had suspended Templeton without pay after DNR provided the governor's office with false information regarding beach closures at the Lake of the Ozarks. Following an internal review of the department's handling of the issue, Templeton was reinstated Oct. 16.

Templeton said that over the next three years, the DNR will give out $20 million in federal stimulus money for projects that aim to make energy usage more efficient in Missouri buildings.

In his testimony, Templeton focused on roadblocks to energy efficiency including a high up-front cost. Another problem, according to Templeton, is that it's hard to verify energy savings on an individual level.

"You never see the $50 you save over the year," Templeton said, referring to purchasing new household appliances. "You only see the $100 you put out."

Templeton said that giving financial incentives to companies that provide combined heating and power systems was one option the legislature should consider next session. Although he said other incentives could be considered, "the state budget is under strain, so other incentives are not appropriate right now."

Following his presentation, Templeton sat for a moment and then left the hearing.

A presentation on solar power produced a contentious moment between Henry Rentz, founder of Missouri Valley Renewable Energy, and Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar.

Referencing federal tax money provided for installation of solar power, Emery said, "I'm still having a hard time believing I can be more efficient by getting my neighbor to pay half my electric bill."

"You don't pay your neighbor's electric bill," Rentz said, adding that the subsidies come from federal tax funds.

"Who pays federal taxes?" Emery asked.

"It's just a part of life," Rentz responded. "We're going to take advantage of it just like everyone else does."

Two proposals on the use of geothermal power generated the highest level of interest from committee members. Geothermal power is the process of extracting energy from heat stored in the Earth's core.

"Geothermal holds more promise than a lot of the things we're looking at," Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, said.

Emery described one of the geothermal proposals as "intriguing" and "terrific."

"I really appreciate what you're doing," Emery said to Shawn Xu, an MU professor who has worked extensively with geothermal technology in China.

Robert Reed, an associate professor at MU who presented alongside Xu, said one of geothermal energy's benefits is that it produces a consistent price to consumers.

Schaefer had said previously that the committee plans to present its findings to the next session of the Missouri legislature, which begins in January 2010.

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