Discussion of the Obama administration’s proposal for reducing carbon emissions from power plants has mostly focused on the staggering cost of this unprecedented regulation. But a pair of reports out this month paint an even more frightening picture. Not only will your electricity cost more, you might not be able to get it when you need it.
The North American Electric Reliability Corporation conducted an assessment of the U.S. grid’s current reliability and concluded that parts of the country are already slipping into the danger zone. Because of rapid shifts to renewable and natural gas generation, combined with closures of coal-fueled power plants due to Environmental Protection Agency regulations, the Midwest, New York and Texas are already reaching dangerous levels of “reserve margins” — generating capacity called upon when electricity demand is high.
That analysis, however, did not include the impact of EPA’s proposed “Clean Power Plan” which would force even more coal-fueled power plants to close.
The NERC’s second report looked at it and the situation became even worse. It pointed out the EPA’s compliance deadlines were not realistic when considering how long it takes to build new gas pipelines and electricity transmission lines (assuming you can afford to do so). The NERC pointed out that the EPA’s estimates for gains from energy efficiency are completely unrealistic, creating an incentive to close even more of the coal-fueled power plants, which have long served as the backbone of the U.S. grid. As last winter graphically showed, we already have a critical shortage of pipelines and electrical transmission lines, so carving away more of the grid’s backbone will have serious repercussions on reliability.
These warnings are worth paying attention to. The NERC is not a special interest group. It is a non-profit, non-partisan body of experts in the engineering and operation of power grids. They are the architects of the miracle we take for granted every time we flip a switch and electricity instantaneously appears from generating sources hundreds of miles away.
On one level, the EPA’s miscalculations are understandable. Its personnel are environmental regulators. They are not electrical engineers with vast experience in the construction and operation of power grids.
On a higher level, the EPA’s miscalculations are inexcusable. The agency didn’t bother to involve real experts in the formulation of the regulations. It had a political agenda and a schedule to keep. Don’t let physics get in the way.
Make no mistake; President Barack Obama’s “Clean Power Plan” is not an environmental regulation at all. It’s a proposal to completely remake an enormous sector of our economy which underpins almost every industry and affects every consumer. It is beyond belief that the EPA undertook this vast feat of social engineering without considering whether the real world engineering will even work.
We now stand on the precipice of throwing away billions of dollars and decades of time invested in building an electricity infrastructure that undeniably works. We will try to replace that system with expensive and uncertain measures in order to accomplish reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that won’t even move the needle on climate change globally. We risk catastrophic consequences if the transition results in blackouts and brownouts at times when we most need electricity.
Of course, the people who proposed this rule will have no accountability for those consequences. If allowed to occur, the effects of the “Clean Power Plan” won’t be felt for several years. Pity the next occupant of the Oval Office regardless of the political party. It won’t be a pleasant place to sit when the lights start flickering.
Cramer is a Republican from North Dakota and is the state’s lone representative in the U.S. House. Contact him at cramer.house.gov.
Read the article here.
- On December 5, 2014