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An opportunity for Republicans

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Henry Craver's picture
Small Business Owner , Self-employed

As a small business owner, I'm always trying to find ways to cut costs and boost the dependability of my services. To that end, I've become increasingly invested in learning about energy saving...

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  • Mar 31, 2022
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America is highly polarized. It’s trite to say at this point, but that doesn’t make it any less true. The highly polarized environment traps many, politicians and normal people alike, in a state of oppositism. I don’t think that’s a word, but here’s what I mean: Claiming a position solely because it opposes the perceived position of the adversary. 

This pathology affects both the right and the left alike, and it’s hamstringing the country’s progress in lowering emissions, among other things. 

At this point, it’s out of the question that our political class comes together to make rational decisions. They’re just in too deep. However, as it relates to energy, maybe there is room for complimentary opposite positions that mitigate climate change. 

Andrew Sullivan, the famed English-American heterodox journalist, has suggested that Republicans embrace nuclear power in opposition to pro-renewable, anti-nuclear liberals.  Here’s how he frames the argument:

“...Like psychedelics, or cannabis, or homosexuality in the past, the subject has become a leftist cultural signifier. For large numbers of right-leaning people, environmentalism has long just felt socialist, big-government, hippie, “soy-boy,” and lame. For a country built on the ruthless exploitation of the natural resources of a whole continent, it felt un-American to talk about the limits of growth, or conserving energy use, or imposing regulations that could inhibit industry and business and growth.

So how do we turn this around? Climate is simply too important to be sacrificed to cultural prejudices. We must, I think, reframe the debate again, to give Republicans cultural permission to save the world. Which means, in part, not saying we are going to “save the world,” and keeping Al Gore and Prince Charles out of it. They’re heroes in a way. But they’re not going to help convert the GOP.

I propose the following triad for reframing: nuclear power, economic nationalism, and owning the libs.”

I propose that the same paradigm could work in favor of a Republican initiative to boost transmission development. Of course, unlike nuclear power, transmission lines aren’t frowned upon in left circles. Like in most places, they aren’t paid much attention to at all. That fact might be all the fuel Republicans need. 

“Democrats are droning on about renewables when we don’t even have the infrastructure to move that energy from the source to the consumer … what idiots. They’d rather pump money into the pockets of their green investor friends than give jobs to the regular workers needed for transmission projects.”

That’s what a pro-transmission Republican pitch might sound like. 

When it comes to transmission, the stakes are high right now. As it was pointed out in an Atlantic article last year: “Since 2009, China has built more than 18,000 miles of ultrahigh-voltage transmission lines. The U.S. has built zero.” The consequences of this stagnation are hard to miss. Before the energy crunch, producing electricity in America was cheaper than ever, and yet utility bills were still going up. This paradox is due to bad transmission, as demonstrated in this CanaryMedia article a few months ago: 

“Two trends are clear. First, the cost of generating power has declined significantly — from 6.8 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2010 to 4.6 cents per kWh in 2020, using 2020 inflation-adjusted figures. That’s due largely to falling natural gas prices and the growing share of power coming from wind and solar. With renewables making up the vast majority of new generation capacity, the generation share of utility costs is likely to continue declining over the coming decade. 

At the same time, the costs of the infrastructure needed to deliver power rose from 2.6cents per kilowatt-hour in 2010 to 4.3 cents per kWh in 2020 — nearly equal to the cost of generating the power itself. Delivery costs have in fact been rising steadily since 1998, according to the EIA — an outgrowth of the need for new grid infrastructure to replace aging lines and equipment and accommodate new wind and solar power farms, as well as for new technologies such as smart meters to modernize the utility system. And according to multiple studies, the U.S. will need much bigger grid investments in future years to accommodate the massive growth in renewable energy that will be required to decarbonize the power sector.”

The USA needs more power lines right away. Unfortunately, NIMBYISM and a lack of political urgency are making that imposible. Ideally both political parties would get their acts together and address this. However, current polarization makes such a consensus near impossible. Still, at least one party can embrace power lines, berating the other party for failing to do so. That would be better than nothing.


 

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Henry Craver's picture
Thank Henry for the Post!
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