Editorial:

Keep politics out of energy

Posted 2/25/21

It looked like it was going to be a mild winter until the country was treated this month to a frigid blast that sent windchill temperatures in Powell down to 30 below zero. 

The cold …

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Editorial:

Keep politics out of energy

Posted

It looked like it was going to be a mild winter until the country was treated this month to a frigid blast that sent windchill temperatures in Powell down to 30 below zero. 

The cold stretched south all the way to Texas. Unlike us Wyomingites, the fine folks down in the Lone Star State aren’t quite as accustomed to this kind of weather. When the frigid temperatures swept over Texas, rolling blackouts left residents without heat. In some places their water treatment plants didn’t have the power to operate, and residents had to boil their tap water to drink it. 

The disaster Texans faced has many people giving the wind energy industry the evil eye. President Joe Biden is pushing for his version of the Green New Deal, which aims to replace all electrical generation with renewable sources by 2030. By executive order, he placed a moratorium on federal permitting — a move that threatens to decimate Wyoming’s oil and gas industry. It’s a convenient time to hold up frozen Texans as a warning to all those who embrace the renewable energy mandates. 

However, frozen wind turbines were not really what caused the lights to go off in Texas. What happened is, quite simply, Texas got cold in ways it almost never gets down there. While it’s true that wind turbines froze up and their generating capacity diminished, this also happened to natural gas plants. In the case of gas-fired plants, Texans were using so much to heat their homes that the supply wasn’t enough to keep them running. Nearly a third of the state’s thermal generation (gas, coal, and nuclear) went offline as a result of cold and gas supply shortages. 

Texas prepares itself well for blistering summers when its residents suck up a lot of power to run their air conditioners, but the state’s grid isn’t set up to provide that much power during February. Nor can they operate well in freezing temperatures.

This past summer, when sky-high temperatures spread over California, rolling blackouts could be reasonably blamed on the state trying to rely too much on wind and solar. Maintaining grid reliability while incorporating an ever-increasing amount of intermittent energy sources from wind and solar, without a lot of reliable backup sources to draw on when demand exceeds supply, is no easy feat.

The energy poverty this month in Texas, however, was a simple case of Texans being as prepared for subzero temperatures as we here in Powell are prepared for a hurricane. 

This is not a defense of the entire wind energy industry, and it’s certainly not a defense of Biden’s unaffordable and destructive plan to re-engineer the nation’s electrical grid to accommodate 100% unreliable renewable energy sources. 

Biden’s green energy push is based on a partisan belief that getting energy from fossil fuels is inherently bad, and that is producing a reactionary and equally disadvantageous position that getting any energy from the wind or sun is bad. 

Ideally, a free market in energy would see that the energy source that makes the most financial sense in a particular market would be built and offered to consumers. Where energy needs are satisfied not by government mandate but by market forces, wind and solar would find their place ­— and quite possibly thrive in those areas. So would coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy. 

Facts serve the market well, and the fact is all of Texas’ energy sources had problems this month — not just wind. 

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