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Column: Proposed reconciliation bill would raise electricity bills and lower grid reliability

  • Sep 24, 2021 1:16 pm GMT
Tulsa World

Buried inside the massive $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill is a plan to bury America's coal industry and, along the way, bury homeowners and businesses under higher electricity bills.

That's assuming the electricity keeps flowing under a plan that calls for the drastic goal of eliminating nearly all fossil fuel-based electricity, including natural gas and coal, by 2030.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee has approved the $150 billion Clean Electricity Performance Program, along with billions of dollars in spending for electric vehicles and other Green New Deal proposals, as part of the budget reconciliation plan.

Its future is uncertain in the U. S. Senate, where members from energy-producing states are expressing concerns. That's not a surprise

And given the goal is to shut down the entire domestic coal industry, let alone phase out the gas industry, it's also not a surprise that the United Mine Workers of America opposes it.

But other stakeholders, representing publicly-owned utilities and small, rural coops, are also against this radical plan they fear could either leave their ratepayers holding the bag, huddling in the dark - or both.

That's particularly true in the 44 states that rely on fossil fuels for 25% or more of their electricity. Collectively these fossil fuels provided 60% of the nation's power generation last year.

The American Public Power Association wrote to House leaders warning that the unrealistic goals of the plan might sound good at a D.C. cocktail party, but for the 50 million customers they serve, the prospects aren't as bright.

"All the costs incurred by our members are passed along to their customers," APPA President Joy Ditto noted.

Many organizations, like the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, are opposing this approach. They support a transition to zero-carbon energy production over time but point to examples like California and Texas, where the green grid got ahead of the more reliable and less expensive traditional power sources.

For all the talk of wind and solar, wood burning actually accounts for a greater part of the energy matrix than solar.

Wind is the majority, at 26%, but that's inside of a pie chart consisting of all renewables, which account for only 12% of U.S. energy consumption, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Meanwhile, coal has certainly declined from where it once was, currently close to 25% and shrinking. America is well along the path to cleaner electricity without the costly and risky Clean Electricity Performance Program.

The Energy Information Administration projects that the electricity supply will be 50% clean by 2030 already.

Reducing to zero fossil fuels is not going to happen in 10 years.

Energy expert Ariel Cohen writes Biden's proposed target of 40% solar power by 2035 isn't realistic. "We lack storage to address the intermittency problem, and our early 20th-century grid is not smart enough to nimbly redirect energy from renewables. This would require a massive investment," Cohen said.

China remains unburdened by these considerations. Between 2000 and 2020, China's coal consumption grew by 14,642 terawatt-hours. That's more than the rest of the world over that same period combined.

At the same time, China controls most of the solar supply chain. It also has about 44 Xinjiang Goldwind wind turbines installed in the U.S., with most of those being installed last year. While they sell us solar and windmills, they will dig for coal, burn it, power their factories making U.S. clean energy goods, and send their particulate matter pollution across the ocean, into Japan and the U.S. Pacific Coast.

The vast majority of America's energy industry supports the idea of transitioning toward carbon-neutral energy. They are already doing more to achieve it than any politicians or government mandates.

What they don't support is a policy that hurts American businesses, raises costs on homeowners and makes the U.S. grid more unreliable - all while making China rich.

You don't have to work in a coal mine to oppose that.

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