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Texas Energy Crisis Rages On As ERCOT Begs Users To Reduce Electricity During Near-Record Temps

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Texas Energy Crisis Rages On As ERCOT Begs Users To Reduce Electricity During Near-Record Temps

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the electricity grid operator for the state that left millions without power during record-low temperatures at the beginning of 2021, is asking customers to reduce their electricity use this week after rising concerns that there could be another wave of outages.

This time, any potential outages would take power away from people in some parts of the state who are seeing temperatures soar over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Unfortunately, it’s not a matter of ‘if’ Texans will lose power this summer. It’s ‘when,” Jason Isaac, Director of Life:Powered at the Texas Public Policy Foundation told The Federalist. “Conservation alerts being issued this early and often doesn’t bode well for the rest of the summer — and they’re more evidence of the systemic weakness in our grid caused by decades of poor policy decisions favoring unreliable sources of electricity.”

In an announcement released on Monday, ERCOT asked its customers to take “simple actions” such as raising their thermostat to “78 degrees or higher,” turning off lights, unplugging anything that is not being used, and “avoiding large appliances like ovens, washing machines, and dryers” to lessen the power grid load after “a significant number of forced generation outages combined with potential record electric use for the month of June has resulted in tight grid conditions.”

While wind power is still available for use, ERCOT noted that wind output is below the normal threshold needed to combat “peak conditions” and blackouts could be in the future. 

Lubbock, Texas, one of the cities seeing temperatures as high as 108 during the day, switched 70 percent of its electricity customers over to ERCOT two weeks ago in the “largest single transfer of customers in the history of the” grid operator. Despite ERCOT’s failure to keep Texans warm during the freak winter storm which resulted in at least 151 deaths, the city chose to continue the 2015 plan to join the power grid once their previous contract expired. The city remained confident in its decision to “allow Lubbock residents to have access to a deregulated power market” even after pushback from residents and state politicians who were concerned about ERCOT’s reliability following the February outages.

The city’s confidence, however, is not tiding over the community which appears to be losing its faith in the switch after the most recent demands from ERCOT. In a letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday, the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce urged the Republican administration and legislature to take action to hold ERCOT accountable for its previous mistakes and keep the Texas energy issue on the legislative agenda.

“Monday’s warnings from ERCOT for customers to conserve energy reinforced that there is still work to be done before our state’s grid reaches an acceptable level of reliability,” the letter stated. “On behalf of the Lubbock business community, we respectfully urge you to include additional electric reliability measures on any special session agendas.”

Abbott fell into the crosshairs of multiple groups, communities, and activist organizations on Tuesday for failing to take more action Days before ERCOT’s electricity reduction warning, Abbott signed  claimed that “everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid in Texas.”

Everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid in Texas.

Today, I signed bills into LAW to reform ERCOT & weatherize & improve the reliability of the state’s power grid.

Thanks @KHancock4TX, @DrSchwertner, & @chrispaddie for your leadership on these issues. pic.twitter.com/sXH5NTZ4Jq

— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) June 8, 2021

In another tweet on that same day, Abbott claimed that “the #txlege passed a long list of reforms & improvements to make the Texas power grid stronger than it has ever been before.” One of the bills limits ERCOT’s board from 15 members to 11 and gives state leaders more input into who sits on the board. The second bill mandates that ERCOT “weatherize their equipment and improves communication during outages with an alert system.”

The #txlege passed a long list of reforms & improvements to make the Texas power grid stronger than it has ever been before.

Tune in LIVE as I sign #SB2 & #SB3 into LAW ⬇️ https://t.co/5V370iPLWA

— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) June 8, 2021

While these bills were aimed at improving the Texas power grid and ERCOT’s response, Josiah Neeley, the Texas Director of the R-Street Institute, told The Federalist that there are still a lot of questions and discussions left to be had about electricity demand in the Lone Star State.

“There definitely was a lot of stuff that was left unaddressed in that bill, in my opinion,” Neeley said. “There was definitely an element of fighting the last war.”

The questions policymakers and ERCOT should consider, Neeley continued, are how can they motivate people to lower their demand without sacrificing too much.

“You’re kind of asking people out of the goodness of their heart to say, ‘Well, I’ll just be a little inconvenienced by having the thermostat at 78’ or whatever and some people are going to do that, a lot of people are not,” Neeley said. “What you ideally want is something, some sort of incentive in the system.”

“Texans should demand that legislators end energy subsidies that distort markets, increase our tax burdens, and make it harder for reliable generators to succeed,” Issac said. “Our capacity of reliable thermal power plants has decreased in the last decade while our population and economy have grown significantly. If that trend doesn’t reverse soon, blackouts will be an everyday occurrence — something that would devastate our economy, public health, and quality of life.”

This content was originally published here.

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Energy

The Colonial Gas Shortage Is Temporary, Bad Energy Policy Is Not

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The Colonial Gas Shortage Is Temporary, Bad Energy Policy Is Not

When I wake up in the morning and check the news, I often feel like I am stuck in some kind of novel. Some days it feels like a madcap satire by Tom Wolfe. Other days the news reads like a second-rate imitation of George Orwell. This week, however, the news has had a decidedly cyberpunk feel to it: Hackers seized control of a major pipeline in the southeastern United States, cutting off supply, and motorists in some parts of the Southeastern U.S. are seeing gas stations run dry.

I know what it feels like to not be able to find gasoline anywhere. After Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and Louisiana, a number of refineries were temporarily out of operation, and people started to worry that these disruptions would result in gas shortages. As it turned out, this wasn’t exactly true; gas supply remained mostly constant. But the worries about the potential for a disruption created a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. Everyone rushed out to fill their tanks ahead of the shortage, and soon all the stations near where I lived in central Texas were out of gas. Fortunately, the whole situation resolved itself after a few days and everything went back to normal.

Something similar is happening now with the gas shortages in the Carolinas and surrounding states. While the Colonial Pipeline is important, existing gasoline stocks in most places should be sufficient to cover a week or two’s worth of demand, by which point the pipeline should be operational again. The current shortages at stations are therefore likely the result of the same phenomenon that left me anxiously looking at my gas gauge back in 2017.

These sorts of disruptions are annoying, but they don’t signal an imminent Mad Max-style future for America. They are, by nature, self-limiting. People aren’t using more gas overall, merely moving up the timing of their purchases. In fact, the amazing thing is how well supply chains have generally adapted to the changes and strains of the last year. Reading stories about how 12 percent of global shipping was blocked because a single cargo ship got stuck in the Suez Canal could easily leave one with the impression that our system was very fragile. But the truth is if you didn’t read the news you wouldn’t have noticed any effect on your daily life (unless you work in shipping, of course).

By contrast, government regulatory restrictions can create shortages that last much longer and are harder to work around. Gas lines like we are seeing in North Carolina today were a common feature of life throughout America during parts of the 1970s. That was not due to hackers or hurricanes but rather bad government policy. Unlike businesses, which have a direct financial incentive to adapt to changed circumstances, government bureaucracy is not exactly known for being quick to update.

Similarly, government restrictions on energy infrastructure such as pipelines not only can make us more vulnerable to attacks on existing infrastructure, but could lead to ongoing shortages of fuel supply. New England, for example, faces recurring issues with its natural gas supply due to a reluctance of those states to approve pipeline development. Elsewhere in the country, projects such as the Keystone or Dakota Access pipelines have turned into interminable political controversies that take many years, if not decades, to resolve.

This isn’t just true of pipelines. A whole host of energy projects, increasingly including clean energy projects, are getting bogged down in permitting delays. Environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was originally expected to only take a year to complete, with the resulting environmental impact statements to be no more than 150 pages. Today the average impact statement is over 600 pages and takes five years to prepare.

It would be going too far to say that NEPA reform or faster state permitting would have prevented the current situation with the Colonial Pipeline. There will always be systemic risks that can’t be solved by just building spare capacity. But it does help to highlight an issue that has been simmering for years, but has not received the attention it deserves. The Colonial Pipeline hiccup has reminded us just how important our often-invisible infrastructure is to our daily lives. Even as infrastructure is ostensibly a big priority both for the Biden administration and the Republican opposition, the prospects for a meaningful updating of NEPA remains far from clear. Reforming NEPA and speeding up pipeline approval are never going to be headline-making issues to the degree that a cyber-attack on pipelines certainly is. But they could prove just as important to people’s lives.

This content was originally published here.

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Energy

Tens of Thousands of Premature Deaths Linked to So-Called “Cleaner” Energy Like Fracked Gas: Study

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A new study by researchers at Harvard University confirmed Wednesday that natural gas and wood as energy sources—billed by proponents as “cleaner” alternatives to coal and oil—are a major threat to public health and are responsible for pollution which causes tens of thousands of premature deaths each year.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, linked 29,000 to 46,000 premature deaths each year to fumes from natural gas, wood, and biomass which are used to electrify and heat buildings and power generators. 

Air pollution from burning natural gas and wood is killing up to 46,000 Americans per year, a new Harvard study shows.

“If you swap out one combustion fuel for another, that’s not a pathway toward a healthy energy system,” the lead author told me. https://t.co/9jZ4VxAbfR

— Alexander Kaufman (@AlexCKaufman) May 5, 2021

Although the use of natural gas has been applauded by those who oppose a transition to renewable energy, natural gas in at least 19 states and Washington, D.C. is now responsible for more deaths than coal due to its ties to particulate matter in the environment.

“Because we’ve been focusing on gas emissions, there’s been a blindness to other air pollutants that are hazardous to health.”
—Parichehr Salimifard, Harvard University

As Common Dreams reported last year, industrial soot pollution, also known as PM 2.5, is linked to asthma attacks, bronchitis, strokes, neurological problems, and heart disease. Exposure to such pollution disproportionately affects poor communities, with low-income people of color more likely to be impacted on average than white Americans, according to numerous studies including one published last week in the journal Science Advances

The Harvard study showed that the sharp reduction in coal-fired power plants in the U.S. in recent years did have a marked effect on premature deaths; in 2008, emissions from the power sector, half of which was then made up of coal plants, were linked to at least 59,000 premature deaths. That number plummeted to 10,000 to 12,000 by 2017. But the health effects of emissions from buildings, caused by natural gas and other so-called “cleaner” energy sources, cannot be dismissed, the study indicated.

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“Its usage still results in significant co-product emissions and corresponding public health impacts,” Eric Daniel Fournier, research director at UCLA’s California Center for Sustainable Communities, told HuffPost of natural gas. “As gas comes to represent a larger fraction of the country’s primary fuel portfolio, it will naturally come to be responsible for a larger proportion of the health impacts from stationary sources, of which electricity production is a major contributor.” 

Researchers at Harvard, led by Jonathan Buonocore, a scientist at the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at the university’s T.H. Chan School for Public Health, combined emissions data from the EPA with data from the Energy Information Administration. They then estimated the mortality in counties across the nation from PM 2.5 pollution associated with residential and commercial buildings and other stationary sources.

Up to two-thirds of the premature deaths the researchers studied were associated with fuel sources other than coal, the researchers found, and emissions from gas, biomass, and wood were the most deadly in buildings and industrial boilers. 

“What this really points to is if you replace one combustion fuel for another combustion fuel, that is not a pathway to get you to a healthy energy system,” Buonocore told Fast Company. 

The risk of natural gas emissions causing PM 2.5 pollution is compounded by the climate risks associated with methane, the main ingredient in natural gas which warms the atmosphere more than 80 times as much as carbon does over a 20-year period. 

Carbon emissions in the U.S. electricity sector fell by 23% over the past two decades as coal plants were put out of commission, but if the natural gas plants built over the last decade are used as frequently as coal-fired plants were for decades, HuffPost reported, “the projected emissions for the U.S. power sector over those generators’ lifespan will decrease climate-changing pollutants by just 12%,” with those reductions “effectively eliminated” should methane emissions continue. 

“This study highlights the gap there’s been in our climate planning,” Parichehr Salimifard, a co-author of the Harvard study, told HuffPost. “Because we’ve been focusing on gas emissions, there’s been a blindness to other air pollutants that are hazardous to health.”

This content was originally published here.

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Energy

Commentary: Biden Canceled Keystone Pipeline, Now His Energy Sec Says ‘Pipe Is the Best Way’ To Transport Fuel

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One of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet members admitted on Tuesday that pipelines are the best way to transport fuel when discussing the recent cyberattack against Colonial Pipeline and the related fuel shortage.

Residents of the Southeastern U.S. have had a hard time obtaining fuel in the days since a criminal organization known as DarkSide allegedly targeted the crucial pipeline last week, causing it to be shut down.

On Tuesday, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm was on the case during a White House media briefing.

But first, a bit of background on Biden’s energy secretary: Perhaps no Cabinet official chosen by the White House is more comically absurd than Granholm, the former governor of Michigan. This is a woman who, just a couple of months ago, bragged that her electric car runs on “sunshine.”

Never mind the fact that batteries are charged directly or indirectly through the burning of fossil fuels. Speaking of fossil fuels, people in the southeast need them, and due to a supply chain disruption, there aren’t enough of the refined ones getting to those who need them.

Is there a solution? According to Granholm, it’s to simply wait for Colonial to get its operations back online — which will hopefully happen by the end of this week. Granholm said people need to be patient with the pipeline while tankers fill in the supply gaps.

Granholm, when discussing the Colonial pipeline with reporters, then said something which calls into question everything this radical and inept administration has said about pipelines since before Jan. 20.

Despite the Biden administration using its first day in office to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline — costing thousands of jobs — Granholm appeared to make a stunning admission: Pipelines aren’t so bad.

In fact, they’re the “best,” according to her.

“We have doubled down on ensuring that there’s an ability to truck oil in, gas in, but it’s — the pipe is the best way to go,” Granholm said. “And so that’s why hopefully this company, Colonial, will in fact be able to restore operations by the end of the week as they have said.”

After Biden canceled the Keystone XL pipeline, Energy Secretary Granholm says “pipe is the best way” to transport fuel pic.twitter.com/fIRaIPN8YQ

— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) May 11, 2021

What?

An administration that made canceling a pipeline one of its first intentional mistakes is now saying that pipelines are the best way to transport a lot of fuel really quickly? Admitting one is wrong late is better than never.

Pipelines can move oil and gas quickly and consistently. Pipelines don’t put error-prone human drivers or the motorists they encounter on highways at risk when hauling tons of explosive liquids around the country. Pipelines are less prone to creating environmental disasters, as is so often the case when fuel is transported by road, rail or barge.

To quote Granholm, a pipeline is “is the best way to go.”

Why didn’t that rationale apply when Biden nixed the Keystone XL pipeline, costing thousands of jobs?

Is this a new leaf for the Biden administration, or simply another misstatement wherein the truth was errantly uttered?

Biden himself accidentally told the truth last month when he described the quagmire on the southern border as a “crisis.”

Of course, his advisers had to correct the record to ensure it reflected that he did not mean to call the border crisis a crisis.

Don’t look for Granholm, Biden or anyone else in this radical administration to repeat that praise of pipelines again.

It sometimes appears that officials within the Biden administration are capable of being honest, but only when they say something truthful by accident.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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