Energy Poverty

Energy poverty is the term der Spiegel Online, a German weekly, gives to the situation many of Germany’s poorer citizens find themselves as a result of Chancellor Merkel’s “energy revolution”. After the tsunami caused the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear facility in Japan the German government decided to get rid of nuclear power and coal and substitute wind and solar. (The last tsunami to hit Germany was in 1760 so it’s not exactly a common threat). The result has been a doubling of energy costs and reliability issues forcing some high energy consuming industries to shut down during shortage periods. Worse, when the sun fails to shine and the wind stops blowing, coal power plants have to be fired up to keep the grid from going down and to make-up the shortfall. The result is that German emissions of C02 have actually gone up since the implementation of this policy.

Did Obama’s EPA learn anything from the German experience? No, of course not. To the liberals/progressives ideology always trumps experience and common sense.

Obama’s EPA is doing exactly what he promised he’d do when campaigning in 2008. He said his plan would bankrupt anyone attempting to build a coal fired power plant and that electricity prices would sky rocket. Now, of course, he claims his Clean Power Plan
will lower costs for consumers. Maybe the American public is gullible enough to fall for that one. Considering he made the same claim: that Obamacare would lower the cost of health insurance by an average of $2500 per family. That turned out to be a laugher so people should be skeptical.

The Clean Power Plan calls for states to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by 32% (from 2005 levels) by 2030. The only way to accomplish that is to close existing coal fired plants and replace them with natural gas or renewables. According to an article in the WSJ (“The Price Tag for Uprooting America’s Electric Grid” August 9, 2015) The Energy Information Administration expects coal plant closures will reach 90 gigawatts by 2020- that’s enough to deliver reliable power to 73 million Americans.

The North American Electric Reliability Corp, a regulatory body that studies the US and Canadian power grids, has reported that some areas of the US are already operating at dangerously low levels of reserve margins and have an increased likelihood of experiencing brown outs or blackouts during high usage periods. This is caused by taking coal fired plants out of service and replacing them with natural gas and renewables in response to previous EPA restrictions. The CPP would take an additional 33% of electrical productive capacity off the grid. According to the Washington Free Beacon that’s 48% of the coal fired plants. That is, before considering that the regs also require that CCS (carbon capture and sequestration) technology must be installed in coal plants that continue. This technology is new, unproven and likely prohibitively expensive.

The contention by Obama that energy cost to consumers is going to go down under this plan is ludicrous on its face. Many of the coal fired plants that will be shuttered have not been paid off yet and power companies are going to have factor in those losses in the construction of new power plants.

Also, one has to consider the raw cost of producing electricity by different methods. For example: Existing nuclear facilities produce electricity at a cost of $29.60 per megawatt hour. Hydro power comes in at $34.20, coal at $38.40 and natural gas at $48.90. New natural gas plants produce power at $73.40 per megawatt hour while wind power comes in at $106.80. The high costs reflected in these new facilities demonstrate the added expense of building the infrastructure to support them, such as pipelines and transmission lines. A lot of places where the sun shines and the wind blows are not near population centers . Also, in the case of wind and solar, when the wind is not blowing and/or the sun is not shining, gas or coal plants have to be fired up to supply electricity to the grid. These numbers are provided by the Energy Information Administration and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. These are government bodies not industry organizations.

One thing different from the German plan and the CPP is the support for nuclear and indeed, the Obama Administration has licensed the construction of several new nuclear facilities. Whether these actually get built and functioning by 2030 is another matter. The environmental fanatics hate nuclear only slightly less than evil carbon. The irony is that nuclear is the least expensive and produces zero carbon.

The bigger joke is that for all its cost and misery the plan will have zero impact on global warming. Joe Bastardi, a meteorologist with Weather Bell, a weather consulting firm, estimates that, fully implemented, the CPP will prevent .01 degree C in warming. That is smaller than the margin of error in measuring temperature. IOW, it won’t do shit even if you believe that carbon-dioxide has that big of an effect on climate.

Closing coal and nuclear facilities massively raised costs and disrupted availability in Germany putting hundreds of thousands of people in “energy poverty”. Why would the US think that a similar plan to get rid of coal power plants in the USA would turn out differently for them?

As Einstein famously said: “Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

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