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Experts Warn of Grid Crisis as PA Senators Demand Green Energy

When the U.S. Senate approved the Inflation Reduction Act, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) celebrated the legislation as “the most ambitious climate bill the Senate has ever passed.”

Casey said he supported the Biden administration’s goal of reducing power from coal and natural gas sources. “It will shore up the U.S.’s place as a clean energy producer and reduce our greenhouse emissions by 40 percent by 2030,” Casey said, “while investing in the coal communities that powered our nation for generations.”

But last week, senators on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee heard a very different story. The retirement of fossil fuel electricity production and the lack of reliable renewables to replace it are putting America’s grid at risk. That includes the possibility of rolling blackouts and widespread deaths from a loss of power.

For example, the regional grid operator PJM projected 40 gigawatts of electric production to be retired by 2030, about one-fifth of its current installed capacity. More than half of that loss comes from what it termed “policy-driven retirements.”

Last week’s committee hearing was called to “examine the reliability and resiliency of electric service in the United States in light of recent reliability assessments and alerts.” The news was ominous.

James Robb, president & CEO of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, told senators the electric power system “is absolutely at an inflection point right now.”

The grid, Robb said, needs to be able to hold up especially well when demand surges, and residents call for huge amounts of electricity. He argued that novel new forms of electricity production “can’t do that nearly as well as large, spinning mass generation.”

“And that’s why the loss of coal plants and natural gas plants and nuclear plants is so concerning from a grid reliability perspective,” he said.

“Grid transformation” has occurred throughout the U.S. for years as increasing numbers of reliable coal-fired power plants are retired, and renewable energy methods take their place. Activists claim the rapid shift away from carbon-based fuels to green energy is necessary to prevent the theoretical effects of climate change in the coming century.

David Tudor, CEO of the midwestern Associated Electric Cooperative, predicted the rapid retirement of fossil fuel power plants could bring about population-level deaths in the U.S.

“My concern is, you’ve got a gap period here that we have this push for new renewables and this push to shut down plants that work, and there’s nothing there in the middle to save us,” he said.

“I fear we are going to have blackouts, and I’m afraid we’re going to see a significant number of lives lost.”

Grid warning signs have been flashing at the state level as well. A panel of experts told the Pennsylvania Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee last month the state and the region were facing near-term power shortages due to the retirement of legacy plants in favor of newer, untested renewable source generation.

State Sen. Gene Yaw warned at the hearing that “short-sighted environmental policies” have “forced fossil fuel plants into nonexistence, resulting in fewer reliable energy sources to shoulder the burden of increased demand on Pennsylvania’s electrical grid.”

Also of concern is the number of jobs in Pennsylvania and elsewhere supported directly or indirectly by fossil fuels. A recent report found that fossil fuels, directly and indirectly, support over 400,000 jobs in Pennsylvania alone and millions across the country.

Neither of Pennsylvania’s federal senators appeared concerned about the possibility of electricity shortages in the state or nationwide. Casey, who did not respond to requests for comment, has supported the use of “tax credits for companies to build American-made clean energy facilities” and called upon the state to “increase the use of renewable energy” to address the climate crisis.

Sen. John Fetterman, meanwhile—who also did not respond to requests for comment—has claimed that the U.S. needs to “transition to clean energy as quickly as possible.” The freshman Democratic senator has shown a willingness to play politics on the question of energy, having reversed his position on fracking during his contentious run for Senate last year. But he has also supported extreme policies like carbon caps as a way to mitigate the possible dangers of climate change.

After the Senate hearing, Rich Nolan of the National Mining Association released a statement saying it was “impossible to listen to the testimony this morning, including from the nation’s top reliability regulator and from the CEO of our largest grid operator, and not conclude that we’re pushing aside existing, dispatchable generation – namely the nation’s coal capacity – far too quickly.”

“We are already in a grid reliability crisis, and the EPA’s regulatory onslaught is making an extraordinarily challenging situation all but unmanageable,” he said.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said most electrical generation in the U.S. continues to come from coal, natural gas, nuclear energy, and petroleum. Just around one-fifth of the total generation comes from renewables.

Robb told the senators his industry is doing its part on the infrastructure side to move the power, but that doesn’t solve the problem if there’s no power to move.

“The electric transmission grid is highly reliable and resilient,” he said. “Yet the risk profile to customers is steadily increasing.”

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Forget ‘Made in China.’ America’s Tech Challenge Is ‘Mined in China’

The United States is falling way behind in the global minerals race and the big loser could be the green energy sector, which is heavily reliant on minerals to power energy sources like wind and solar.

The U.S. Geological Survey’s annual Mineral Commodity Summaries report warns America is entirely reliant on foreign sources for more than half the critical minerals needed for its modern economy. That includes both green energy technologies of the near future, plus the batteries required to power laptops, cell phones, and other everyday items integral to everyday life.

And while the U.S. has agreements with friendly nations for these imports, China remains America’s top supplier — the nation that just sent a spy balloon through the skies over some of the nation’s top security areas.

“We have never been more dependent on China and others for the minerals that are absolutely essential to modern life,” said Katie Sweeney, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the National Mining Association. “The U.S. is stumbling when it comes to our supply chains. With each new announcement of a blocked mine or a foreign sourcing agreement with countries that have questionable labor practices, we are locking in our position of competitive weakness.”

Last year, the U.S. was 100 percent reliant on net imports for 51 nonfuel mineral commodities according to the Geological Survey. The report estimated the value of domestic metal mine production in 2022 was $34.7 billion, which was 6 percent lower than the revised value from 2021. The country’s capacity utilization for the metals mining industry dropped two percentage points from 2021 to 63 percent capacity last year.

The issue is not that the U.S. does not have the capability or resources to produce many of these minerals. The problem, according to mining advocates, is mine permitting takes an average of seven to 10 years.

“It takes forever to get a new permit. How crazy is that?” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said last March at the CERAWeek energy conference. Her comments that she would streamline permitting for sources of minerals needed for electric vehicles “elicit[ed] loud applause,” Reuters reported at the time.

But while comments from Granholm and Jigar Shah, head of the Department of Energy’s Loan Program Office sounded encouraging, the Biden administration remains reluctant to approve new mining projects. Just this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency denied permits for Pebble Mine in Alaska – a significant source of copper and gold – to protect salmon habitat.

The project would have mined up to 73 million tons of minerals per year, and Pebble Limited Partnership John Shively said the EPA’s action was “unlawful” and promised litigation over the denial.

Ian Lange, a faculty fellow at the Payne Institute for Public Policy at the Colorado School of Mines, bluntly assessed domestic production of minerals as “crappy.” Despite widespread acknowledgment among advocates of green energy that the U.S. cannot reach aggressive climate goals without critical minerals, Lange said many are more comfortable with outsourcing mining so they don’t have to see it happening – an advanced NIMBY-ism.

“The people who are supportive of clean energy but don’t want mining in the U.S. call it ‘friend-shoring’ where it’s sourced out to countries like Canada and Australia that do have environmental safeguards and labor standards,” he said.

The average time for permits in both of those countries is two to three years, according to the National Mining Association. But regardless of the good relationship the U.S. enjoys with those countries, China far surpasses them in production.

China is the largest processor of copper, nickel, cobalt, lithium, and rare earth minerals – all needed to power rechargeable batteries and other components of green technology, the association said. China is also planning 107 lithium-ion battery mega factories compared to nine in the U.S.; according to the mining association, that is the equivalent of China building one factory per week while the U.S. builds one every four months.

Increasing domestic production would meet two goals for the disparate groups that support mining and oppose it on environmental grounds: increasing economic development here at home.

“Both parties are interested in the same story of economic growth in the U.S.,” Lange said. “Low-income populations would a chance to expand [opportunities] because that’s where mineral deposits tend to be. But we’re missing out on the jobs and economic development that might come from developing a mine and supporting infrastructure.”

North Carolina has significant lithium deposits, and Idaho features large deposits of copper. In Minnesota, Twin Metals, which could produce approximately 30 million pounds of cobalt, and PolyMet, which could yield as much as 170 million pounds of nickel, are both stalled in the permitting process, the mining association said. And neither Resolution Copper in Arizona – a potential source of 25 percent of U.S. copper – nor Lithium Americas Thacker Pass in Nevada – the largest lithium deposit in the country – show signs of progress.

And then there’s the story from Maine, where the world’s richest hard rock lithium deposit was recently discovered, but state law forbids the mining procedures needed to extract it. Thanks to anti-mining laws, the $1.5 billion find may have to remain in the ground, and not in U.S. manufactured technology.

“We have tons of these minerals,” Lange said. “We have more than we’ll ever need but nobody likes a mine in their backyard.”

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BROUILLETTE: Wolf’s ‘Green’ Agenda is Fueling Putin’s War Machine

As Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brutal attacks on Ukraine continue, Americans are waking up to the true cost of denying energy realities around the world.

Well, not all Americans.

Gov. Tom Wolf and his allies on the left have demonstrated they’re still fast asleep under the spell of radical environmentalism and so-called “green” energy.

Recently, in an effort to help the people of Ukraine by weakening Putin’s energy-funded military invasion, a group of Republican lawmakers sent Wolf a letter asking him “to ban the importation of Russian sourced energy and to end his job-killing, punitive crusade against the production and exportation of Pennsylvania natural gas and other abundant fossil fuels.”

But instead of applauding the effort to stymie Putin’s killing spree, Wolf attacked the lawmakers and tried to make excuses for his seven years of restricting Pennsylvania’s natural gas production. Dragging out well-worn talking points from leftwing activists, Wolf said he’s “sought to strike a balance between natural gas development and environmental protection.”

As Wolf “strikes a balance,” Putin strikes the innocent men, women, and children of Ukraine.

Here are the facts: Pennsylvania is the nation’s second-largest natural gas-producing state, behind Texas. But much of our potential remains untapped—potential that could dramatically reduce our country’s dependence on foreign gas.

For example, Pennsylvania has the ability to supply natural gas to power New England. But instead, the left’s policies (especially in New York) have stunted pipeline development and forced that region to import natural gas from Russia.

Likewise, Pennsylvania could be shipping more liquefied natural gas to Europe—where currently 40 percent of natural gas is supplied by Russia. But the lack of pipelines and infrastructure again obstructs our ability to supply clean Pennsylvania natural gas to the world. The Marcellus Shale is one of the largest gas-producing regions in the world. With more pipelines and fewer restrictions on development, we could ramp up shipping and help accelerate the European Union’s transition from Russian gas to US gas.

Yet, for years, Wolf has undermined efforts to achieve energy independence by seeking to penalize Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry. By doing so, he has exacerbated our nation’s reliance on energy from hostile nations.

Beginning with his first budget address in 2015, Wolf has targeted the natural gas industry, attempting to double- and even triple-tax it. His ill-fated yet repeated severance tax proposals have sent a message to the natural gas industry that their ingenuity, productivity, and potential are not welcome in Pennsylvania.

Added to that, Wolf’s years-long attempt to unilaterally join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) threatens to burden the industry with higher costs that would stunt, rather than unleash, our energy potential, destroying thousands of jobs in the process.

To top it all off, Wolf’s vote last year to ban fracking within the Delaware River Basin drew this prescient warning from Marcellus Shale Coalition President David Callahan: “It may be a good day for those who seek higher energy prices for American consumers and a deeper dependence on foreign nations to fuel our economy, but this vote defies common sense….”

This forewarned dependence on foreign energy is now on full display, with deadly consequences. While Pennsylvania has the potential to power the nation and free the world from dependence on Russian energy, Wolf’s policies are forcing Americans, and Europeans, to buy overpriced Russian energy which funds the bombs dropping on innocent Ukrainians.

In his response to lawmakers, Wolf had the opportunity to demonstrate leadership and a commitment to unleashing Pennsylvania’s energy opportunity. He chose to lob insults and demonstrate his allegiance to radical environmentalists willing to sacrifice innocent lives on the altar of a “green” energy agenda.

Instead of using an international crisis to try to score political points, Wolf should act to use Pennsylvania’s affordable, clean, and reliable natural resources to weaken Russian control over the worldwide natural gas market and rescue innocent civilians from the grip of Putin’s war.

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One Year Later: Lessons Learned from Legendary ‘Texas Freeze’

The soundbites and images were startling. Blackouts. Burst pipes. People dead from extreme cold and carbon monoxide poisoning. This week marks one year since the coldest weather in generations hit Texas.

A year later, energy policy experts in Pennsylvania and across the nation are looking for lessons to be learned from those failures.

“There were multiple errors, but green energy failed at a critical time, and we no longer had fossil fuels and baseload power systems to back them up,” says H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., a Texan serving as senior fellow on environmental policy for the Heartland Institute.

“What led to the crisis and the blackouts is 20 years of bad policies pushed by politicians on both sides of the aisle from Washington, D.C. and here in the state of Texas that were propping up one form of unreliable variable generation over another, which is good natural gas and clean coal thermal generation that has been diminished because of these market-distorting policies, subsidies if you will,” said Jason Isaac, a four-time Texas state representative now serving as director of Life: Powered at the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF).

“That’s why we’ve seen this incredible growth in this variable generation that’s now a third of our grid in the state of Texas in wind or solar that we’re dependent on when the wind blows or the sun shines, and there’s no backup generation requirements for those sources of electricity generation,” he said.

Solar was virtually non-existent in terms of electricity generation at the time of the storm. Wind dropped to 1.5 percent of the electric generation.

“It’s, again, 33­­ percent of our grid,” said Isaac. “That’s unbelievable, and over 90 percent was coming from the other 66 percent of the grid, natural gas, coal, and nuclear.”

“There’s a reason we never had something like this before in the middle of winter,” said Burnett. “That’s because we never had so little reliable baseload power as part of our system.”

It should serve as a wake-up call for other states, especially at a time when federal and state legislators are pushing the Green New Deal and related measures.

“The national takeaway on the crisis that we experienced in Texas, the energy capital of the world, if you will, is that we need good, reliable natural gas, coal, and nuclear,” said Isaac.

The Sunrise Movement, a youth movement to “stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process,” sees things differently. Sunrise said in an email it is “building an army of young people” to make climate change an urgent priority across America.

“(We want to) end the corrupting influence of fossil fuel executives on our politics, and elect leaders who stand up for the health and wellbeing of all people,” according to its website.

And Sunrise has its eyes on Texas, where a primary election is scheduled for March 1.

“We have an opportunity to send our own — Jessica Cisneros and Greg Casar — to Congress to fight for us and win a Green New Deal,” Sunrise said in an email to supporters. Republicans, corporate Democrats, and Big Oil want you to forget what happened one year ago in Texas, but we’ll never forget.”

Pointing to the remarks from Sunrise, Isaac said they are laughable at best.

“The Green New Deal is about controlling everything we do in our lives and increasing the cost of energy, and expensive energy hurts the poor more than anyone else,” said Isaac. “If we had the Green New Deal here in Texas, our electric bills would be triple what they were, the reliability of electricity would be laughable, and deaths last year would have been much more horrendous than they already were.”

“Sunrise wants to double down on the policies that created the very problem,” said Burnett. “We had 200 people die last year during this weather.”

The indoor temperature of Burnett’s home was in the 50s after he lost power.

“The Sunrise Movement wants more wind and more solar, and that’s great, unless the wind stops blowing like it did last February and snow falls and covers all your solar panels,” said Burnett. “To be fair, the wind came back up, but by then, the turbines had frozen, (and) you don’t want turbines turning on and throwing icicles across highways.”

Isaac holds firm to his position on the need for natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy.

“Wind and solar is habitat and environment destroying technology that increases the cost of electricity, does nothing to improve the environment, and just winds up hurting the poor most,” says Isaac. “It increases the unreliability of our grid and the instability.”

It was a close call in Texas last year, one that should cause other states to wake up to what Isaac calls a “cult-like fascination with decarbonized electricity.”

“We were nearly four minutes away from a complete grid collapse because renewable energy was not producing any electricity,” says Isaac. “That would have been completely devastating to Texas. We would still be rebuilding today. Millions of people would have fled the state because of this, and just thousands of people would have died.”

“ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) made some terrible decisions,” says Burnett. “After the power outage, they wanted to get the lights on immediately, so they said, ‘natural gas plants, you have to ramp up,’ but then they cut off power to switching stations for natural gas and for storage for natural gas, so there was no power heating the pipelines or the switches and the plants were using gas at an enormous rate, and those pipelines and switches froze.”

“That would not have happened with a coal plant because coal typically has six months of capacity sitting around in a stockpile,” says Burnett. “They’re not going to run out if the switching stations freeze, but those coal plants had closed, so there were multiple errors.”

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