We can’t wait until after the election to deal with a looming winter electricity crisis. Republicans must make demands on energy production in the continuing budget resolution to promote nuclear and coal power plants, terminate all of the onerous regulations that have stifled their productivity, and turbocharge our natural gas delivery capabilities. Anything short of an immediate deregulation plan will place Americans in the same predicament as Europe, where they are discussing group showers, eating bugs, and drinking sewage, as they face a $2 trillion surge in electricity prices.
Thanks to the controlled demolition of coal and nuclear power, there is record demand on natural gas for electricity. And although our production and exports of natural gas are at record levels, they are not as high as they should be given the regulations and the stifling of pipelines, and they are not sufficient to compensate for the sudden embargo of all Russian gas supplies. This is why inventories in underground storage are operating well below baseline levels of the pre-COVID years.
As such, the Energy Information Administration is predicting a 7.5% increase in electricity rates over 2021, and that is before the next man-made or manipulated global crisis. However, in parts of the Northeast, rates have already more than doubled because of a lack of sufficient pipeline systems in place, with many proposals on the table having been blocked for years. New England gets almost no electricity from coal any more and relies heavily on natural gas. But these same states have banned fracking and gas pipelines as well! So absent robust infrastructure to transport and store natural gas, which the Northeast lacks, the people have failed to reap the benefits of increased natural gas production. Rather than piping the gas in straight from the Marcellus basin, New England was importing gas from Russia!
Our existing level of natural gas production would have been sufficient had our government not purposely set fire to our coal industry for a decade and then decided to engage in a thoughtless war with Russia without a contingency plan. In the U.S., coal once composed roughly half of our electricity source just 15 years ago, but has dropped precipitously because of destructive eco policies. Now it only accounts for 21% of our electricity source, so shocks to the system are going to harm American consumers. Yet thanks to the reduced inventories, we are struggling to even supply a smaller percentage of our grid with affordable rates. The price of thermal coal is now at an all-time high of $439 per metric ton.
Our electricity generation from coal power plants is down by nearly two-thirds since 2008. Thanks to numerous regulations during the Obama administration, 250 coal plants closed between 2010 and 2017, leaving us with just 240, less than a quarter of China’s inventory. Thus, while our recoverable coal assets are enormous – 60% greater than China’s reserves – our coal electric power inventory is running between 85 and 90 million tons, down over 30% since 2020 and more than 50% since 2016, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
As you can see, our production is at a record low, as are our inventories:
It would be one thing if our government planned ahead in its destruction of coal by ramping up natural gas pipelines and building more nuclear power plants. After all, if clean energy is the goal, those two are great candidates for clean and effective sources of energy. But clearly that is not the goal. Scarcity is the goal. Thanks to endless regulations by the same people who claim to want clean energy, no new nuclear reactors have come online in decades, while numerous others have been retired. At the end of 2021, there were 93 active reactors, down from 104 a decade ago. Our monthly nuclear utility generation is down 5% compared to 2019.
The only forms of energy that have been increasing, at a painful cost to taxpayers, are solar, wind, and electric vehicles. However, they are impotent during our time of need, and the obsessive push for electric vehicles to reduce gasoline consumption further exacerbates the strain on electricity, which is even scarcer, and further drains the already low utility of green energy that relies on batteries (now in great shortage) to run.
During the California heat wave, one would think Californians would have enough solar energy to power the entire state, given how much they invested in it and how strongly the sun was shining, particularly during those hot days. But as the Washington Post reports, so much of it went to waste because the batteries and transmission lines needed to feed solar power are too expensive, especially with the scarcity of batteries (in itself due to mining regulations as well as the contrived demand for electric cars).
At some point, it becomes clear this is being done on purpose. Government regulators are cutting off all the useful sources of energy and jamming the feeble renewable energy grid with further demand precisely at a time when they are cutting off all Russian energy. To top it off, Biden has drained nearly 40 years of Strategic Petroleum Reserve inventories headed into the winter. This can’t all be an accident. To quote Diederik Samsom, chief of staff for Frans Timmermans, the European Commission’s executive vice president, “The two basic needs of life – food and energy – we have paid way too little for in the past 40 years.” In other words, this is being done on purpose.
So where are Republicans in all of this? Why are they not holding up the budget bill in the Senate until the “Inflation Reduction Act,” which raised numerous taxes and royalties on oil and gas exploration, is repealed? One of the provisions institutes a “methane fee,” which some estimate will single-handedly increase consumer natural gas bills by 17%. The tax will not only apply to the production of oil but also the transmission, storage, and exporting of natural gas, which is the worst thing you can do at a time of record high natural gas prices.
Moreover, the bill created all sorts of new incentives to promote electric vehicles, which will not only fail to ease the energy crisis, but will exacerbate it. It’s become clear that the electricity crisis is an even bigger deal than the spike in gasoline prices. Electric vehicles will create a tsunami of new demand on the electric grid at a time of record high prices, after people are already forced to pay a fortune for the vehicles. We are already witnessing this dynamic – of one green fascist policy running into the headwinds of another – playing out in California, where grid operators advised people not to charge their vehicles during the heat wave.
At a time when polls show more Americans than ever aren’t buying the global warming narrative, Republicans continue to agree to its premise and even pass new pernicious anti-consumer policies based on their agreement with the pseudo-science, just as they did with the response to COVID.