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Denying the Laws of Physics

Feb 5, 2024

“Policymakers cannot overlook the laws of physics or the reality of the current situation.”

That is from Jim Matheson, NRECA President, and his opinion piece published in Fox News, “Our Broken Energy Policy Could Leave Americans in the Dark.”

Mr. Matheson makes several valid arguments in his piece, but policymakers unfortunately have no limits on what they can overlook. Even as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) warn that demand is exceeding reliable supply, there continues to be a push toward the total elimination of fossil fuels while promoting clean energy (in this case: solar, wind, hydrogen, or whatever inefficient and intermittent technology those in DC hand-pick as they look down their noses at those of us who have been generating electricity for 100 years) as a replacement for the reliability and affordability of those fuels.

The Biden administration, for example, published a “Fact Sheet” in December announcing the Launch of the “American Climate Corps,” described as an “initiative that will prepare tens of thousands of young people for good-paying jobs in the clean economy.” It goes on to call the initiative the “fulfillment of a key promise” and part of the Biden administration’s continuing to “deliver on the most ambitious climate agenda in history.”

There was curiously no mention of how some electric providers, for the first time ever, will be unable to accept new large-load industrial customers because the available energy supply is not capable of providing around-the-clock reliability. There is also no mention of the negative impact that the too-quick shift to Net Zero will have on jobs outside the so-called “clean economy.” Apparently, those jobs, which would be especially important for the growth and prosperity of rural areas served by electric cooperatives, are not a priority. Also not a priority would be the jobs created and supported by fossil fuels, or the jobs lost as a result of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s “Power Plant Rule”, which would effectively close every coal plant and many natural gas fired plants in the US. Those jobs likely exceed the “tens of thousands” touted in the White House release. In the “clean economy,” reality is not real, and anything can be overlooked, especially when it’s written on a so-called “Fact Sheet”.

In his op-ed, Mr. Matheson also states: “Keeping the lights on is not a partisan issue. But politics and energy policy have had an outsized impact on how we got here.” He is correct. Keeping reliable, affordable power flowing to your home should not be a partisan issue, but it is evident that it has become so when agendas are celebrated as the “most ambitious” in history. There is a very thin line between ambition and recklessness.  

Reality can be sobering, and the current reality is that the electric industry is more unstable and uncertain than it has ever been. It is becoming normal in other parts of the country to hear about rolling blackouts. Parts of the country are even facing blackouts during normal peak periods, not only during so-called extreme weather. Somehow, this has not caused the level of outrage you might expect. The problems will only worsen as electric providers around the country are asked to supply more and more power to keep up with increased demand, including the demand electric utilities are expected to shoulder with the forced phase-out of internal combustion engines to EVs on our highways. How can the electric industry be expected to meet increased demand without the use of proven and affordable fuel sources?

Mr. Matheson closed his article with this thought on the energy transition: “The stakes are too high to get this wrong.” I would amend this statement slightly. In my opinion, the time to get it “right” has passed. The stakes are far too high to keep being so wrong. If policymakers continue to deny the laws of physics and overlook the self-inflicted problems caused by a rapid transition to intermittent energy, it will only get worse.

How much can be ignored before reality shows up? How many more blackouts and cost increases will it take? How many jobs in the traditional oil, gas, and power sectors will have to be lost to the “Climate Corps”? How many power plants we will have to close, and how many men and women will we have to send home to tell their families they are out of a job? How many thousands of acres of prime farmland or productive timber will have to be sacrificed for the few sporadic kilowatts created by the current preferred technologies of wind and solar? How much longer can we overlook the laws of physics? We will see.

I hope you have a good month.          

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