Pipeline fighters’ ‘clean energy barn’ using some fossil fuels


THE LITTLE BARN THAT COULD: Pipeline fighters in Nebraska built this barn in the proposed path of the Keystone XL oil pipeline as a staging area for protests and symbol of clean energy, but their adversaries say it’s using some fossil fuels.

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN, Neb. – The Nebraska chapter of Americans for Prosperity says the “Build Our Energy Barn” that pipeline fighters built in the path of the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline is not so clean after all.

The conservative group said the little barn built 15 miles northwest of York has been using power from coal-fired power plants, according to the energy consumption report it obtained from the Perennial Public Power District.

“Jane Kleeb and Bold Nebraska have a dirty little secret that’s been exposed,” said Matt Litt, state director of AFP-Nebraska.

Litt said Bold Nebraska and its head, Kleeb, pledged to use renewable energy for the barn, but that wasn’t enough to meet its consumption demands, so the symbol of their movement is not self-sustaining and uses some of the same electricity that other Nebraska communities use: power from coal-fired generating plants.

“It highlights the fact that, what we’ve been saying all along, that we need cheap energy for economic growth,” and Keystone XL will help meet that need, Litt said. “This just shows that an all-of-the-above energy approach is necessary.”

The barn’s energy consumption history – which was obtained through an open records request – shows the barn consumed 143 kilowatt hours of energy from September 2013 through January 2014. During that same period, 93 kilowatt-hours was produced by Bold Nebraska’s generator, which they claim is supported by a wind turbine and solar panel.

So altogether, Bold Nebraska purchased 50 kilowatt-hours of energy, or an average of 10 kilowatt-hours per month, from the power district during its first five months of existence. Perennial Public Power gets about 55 percent of its energy from coal-fired plants.

Litt points to an on-camera interview in which Kleeb said, “This barn will not only have solar energy, it will have a wind turbine as well, so it will be powered 100 percent by renewable energy.”

BARN RAISING: Bold Nebraska and pipeline fighters built the “Build Our Energy Barn” as a staging area for protests and example of clean energy.

At first Kleeb called his allegations “a ridiculous story” and said Litt apparently doesn’t know how to read an utility bill, but later acknowledged the barn has had to use some of the local power district’s energy during some cold months. During other months, the barn generated more renewable energy than it used, she said.

Kleeb said the barn is charged about $40 per month in standard fees no matter how much energy it uses, and AFP “made a leap” in concluding the barn is using fossil fuels.

“Our bottom line is that the energy barn is producing more clean energy on Nebraska’s grid than the TransCanada pipeline ever will and that will always be the case,” she said.

Kleeb said she received a notice of the records request, and it was made by a group called Nebraskans for Jobs and Energy Independence, which she considers a front group for TransCanada. The group has promoted approval of Keystone XL.

“It continues to surprise me that the laborers (labor union) continue to work side by side with Americans for Prosperity, a right-wing group that hates unions,” Kleeb said. “It’s all just partisan politics of them, playing gotcha.”

Bold Nebraska has never said it’s against using traditional energy, but is against using tar sands oil and foreign oil, she said. The group supports responsible American oil and gas development, but believes the nation needs to move away from fossil fuels toward more renewable energy.

As for her vow that the little barn would solely run on renewables, she said, “I don’t know if I made that promise one time in a statement. I know that some months we’re generating more energy than we’re using. If Americans for Prosperity wants to nitpick the clean energy that we’re producing in our state, why don’t they generate a coal plant?”

The little barn was built to show that Nebraskans can build their own energy, to show they’re putting more clean energy on Nebraska’s grid than the pipeline will and to make a clear symbol to President Obama, because TransCanada would either have to reroute the pipeline or demolish a sustainable energy structure.

The barn is also likely to be a staging area for protests if the Keystone XL pipeline ever gets cleared for construction.

Contact Deena Winter at deena@nebraskawatchdog.org. Follow Deena on Twitter at @DeenaNEWatchdog

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