Be Green OR Have Green

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

The Los Angeles Times provides us with a pretty accurate, if somewhat hazy, picture of why electrical prices are set to increase substantially for the foreseeable future. A couple of examples should help illustrate what I mean by the adjective hazy.

First, regarding the proximate cause:

The problems confronting the electricity system are the result of a wide range of forces: new federal regulations on toxic emissions, rules on greenhouse gases, state mandates for renewable power, technical problems at nuclear power plants and unpredictable price trends for natural gas. Even cheap hydro power is declining in some areas, particularly California, owing to the long-lasting drought.

"Everywhere you turn, there are proposals and regulations to make prices go higher," said Daniel Kish, senior vice president at the Institute for Energy Research. "The trend line is up, up, up. We are going into uncharted territory."

New emissions rules on mercury, acid gases and other toxics by the Environmental Protection Agency are expected to result in significant losses of the nation's coal-generated power, historically the largest and cheapest source of electricity. Already, two dozen coal generating units across the country are scheduled for decommissioning. When the regulations go into effect next year, 60 gigawatts of capacity -- equivalent to the output of 60 nuclear reactors -- will be taken out of the system, according to Energy Department estimates. [bold added]
The problem with hydroelectric will go away with the drought and, like that caused by the polar vortex, with which the article opened,  it wouldn't be a big deal were it not for the many meddling tentacles of the government. (Isn't it ironic that one of the oldest leftist caricatures of capitalism is the octopus?) The sentence in bold pretty neatly summarizes our problem, but let's boil it down further, to a phrase: improper government involvement in the energy sector.

This leaves us with the question of why, in a self-governing nation, we have such tyranny. The article gives us that, as well:
"If power gets too expensive, there will be a revolt," ... said [Alex Leupp, an executive with the Northern California Power Agency, a nonprofit that generates low-cost power for 15 agencies across the state]. "If the state pushes too fast on renewables before the technology is viable, it could set back the environmental goals we all believe in at the end of the day."
Again, this is a hazy picture, but it gives us everything we need: Leupp doesn't speak for me when he claims that "we all believe in" having the government force people to do or pay for things that support the toxic goals environmentalism. However, he is correct to note that we are in this predicament because lots of people buy into environmentalism and central planning. Some of these do so without thinking through the implications for their own lives. Others, badly afflicted with magical thinking, do so, expecting a miracle to keep the lights on. A very few are genuinely malicious -- See the last link. -- and are happy to cash in on the confusion.

Be that as it may, we have a clear choice: continue accepting central planning (exacerbated by goals that have nothing to do with giving us the power we need) -- or have affordable lighting. We can't have both.

-- CAV

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