Rep. Klinker talks coal, nuclear, and the future of power at Purdue Energy Forum

by Paul Pelech | Staff Writer

On September 24 in the Mechanical Engineering building, Indiana State Representative Shiela Klinker spoke to a group of students about energy efficiency in Indiana. Klinker, herself a Purdue Graduate, and a longtime advocate of clean energy, has been the state representative for Indiana’s 27th district since 1982.

Throughout her discussion, Klinker acknowledged some of the economic difficulties of switching to clean power, primarily those presented by the idea of transitioning the state off coal. She pointed out that towns like Evansville on the southern edge of Indiana rely heavily on the coal mining industry to support their local economies. While efforts can be made to convert to cleaner coal, a process which involves removing the toxic ash that the fuel source produces, it will be several years before a cleaner form of energy could even begin to introduce itself to the southern economy, let alone become a serious possibility for replacing coal all together.

Klinker also briefly touched on the points of nuclear and solar power, which are currently in their infancies, especially in the United States, when compared to oil and coal. “[Nuclear energy’s] time has come,” Klinker stated. “It’s inexpensive and it’s cleaner.” The representative noted that technology has come a long way since the Chernobyl disaster, which most fears of nuclear energy revolve around.

While Klinker spoke about the current problems of energy in Indiana, primarily the difficulties of moving beyond coal, her discussion was somewhat ill-prepared. Her note on alternatives such as nuclear and solar energy was very brief – simply to state that Indiana should use them – but she never attempted to suggest a plan of action or even collaboration with other representatives from the courthouse. The presentation seemed to be more about the theory of clean energy versus its actual implementation.

Nevertheless, Klinker continually stated that political change has to come from today’s youth, but that it will be a long arduous, process. “Young folks like yourselves are going to make the difference,” she stated. “[But] I’m not going to tell you that it’ll be an easy road, changing people’s minds.” Acknowledging that most Americans are frustrated with the stonewalling on Capitol Hill, Klinker advised her audience to write their legislatures about the changes they would like to see in the country. Switching Indiana to cleaner forms of energy will not be an easy task by any means, but it is a step in the right direction and one that cannot be delayed.

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