Putting The Cart Before The Horse

“Medical evaluation:  fail.  Physical evaluation:  fail.  Psychological evaluation:  ‘Alcohol and substance addiction indicated.’  Oof!  ‘Pathological rejection of authority based on unresolved childhood trauma.  Subject is not approved for field duty and immediate suspension for service advised.’  What is this, if not betrayal?  She sent you off to me, knowing you’re not ready, knowing you’ll likely die.  Mommy was very bad.”

      —Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva in Skyfall


Think about this the next time it’s 95 degrees in Concord, California or Dallas, Texas, and you’re sitting in your air-conditioned living room.  Think about this the next time it’s 5 degrees in Akron, Ohio, or Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and you’re dozing off in your cozy bedroom heated via an electric furnace.

Back in August 2011, EPA issued cross-state rules aimed at curbing sulfur dioxide emissions in areas where upwind states might be impairing the ability of downwind states to meet air quality requirements.  In Texas, the rule would have required a 47% reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions by 2012.   As an aside, Texas was included in the requirement despite having already reduced its emissions by 33% since 2000, because EPA’s computer model showed emissions from Texas contributing to alleged noncompliance at a single monitoring station in Madison County, Illinois, some 700+ miles and three states away.  

Texas’ largest electricity generator responded to the rule by announcing it would reduce its generating capacity by 1200 megawatts, close three lignite coal mines, and lay off 500 employees.  Ironically, this response to an action by an agency within the Executive Branch came at the same time the White House was announcing President Obama “will not rest” until everyone that wanted a job had one.  The shutdowns and layoffs were only avoided by a last minute injunction—an injunction that will now be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The bigger impact, however, may have been on Texas’ power grid.  Had the rule gone into effect, the reduction in generating capacity would have resulted in rolling blackouts in Texas.  That would be a huge problem during the summer, when even with full power capacity we see dozens of heat-related deaths every year.  EPA’s rule would surely increase that number.

This problem of green-zealotry edicts conflicting with power grid reality is not confined to Texas, either.  EPA has been issuing carbon regulations that have or will result in the closure of hundreds of coal-fired power plants in 33 states and effectively end the construction of any new ones, with nothing in place to replace that generating capacity.  It is inconceivable that this will not have a negative impact on the power grid in areas serviced by those plants that close or are never built.

The L.A. Times reports that even in the uber-green People’s State of California, public officials are having to confront the very real possibility that, having already forced the almost complete reliance upon “green” energy sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal, they now may not be able to provide power reliably.  Whereas coal and natural gas will always burn, the greenies are shocked to discover that sometimes the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, and when that happens the solar cells and turbines don’t generate electricity at all.  Nor does the capacity exist—and it is unclear that it ever will, or that if it does it will be economically viable—to store excess electricity generated during more productive times in order to make up for the lulls and protect the grid from overload.  And the electrical infrastructure originally designed to transport electricity generated at traditionally-fueled power plants does not yet extend to areas with the best solar/wind/geothermal generating potential.

Clearly this rush to green energy isn’t ready for prime time, yet we continue to plow ahead, oblivious to the obvious.  Sound familiar?

This illustrates the fundamental problem with Progressives in general, and the green zealots in particular: they either think they know everything about everything, or they’re so blinded by their ideological religion that they just don’t care.  If only they want it bad enough—whether it’s universal socialized medicine, or thousands of jobs in a vibrant solar panel marketplace, or an electric car in every garage, or 100% reliance on green energy—then it will be so.  The practicalities of what happens when the rubber meets the road simply don’t matter.  You want a totally fossil fuel-free power grid, well how will that work?  Somehow.  Where will the electricity come from?  Somewhere.  Never mind that the technology isn’t ready and the infrastructure doesn’t exist.  Never mind that there’s no market for the product, or that it can’t be sold for as much as it costs to produce.  If the Progressives want it, we’re going to do it, feasibility or consequences be damned.

It’s not that I oppose green energy—I don’t, and in fact I advocate an all-means-available approach that would include renewables, fossil fuels, and nuclear.  I don’t care if my truck burns gasoline, corn juice, or algae urine, as long as it runs.   But those of us who live in the real world understand that things like feasibility and consequences do matter.  We know what the Progressive Green Left can’t seem to grasp: that the electricity that heats the espresso machine at Starbucks, and lights the screen showing the Indie flicks down at the Bijou, and drives the amps at your local grunge fest doesn’t just magically appear (even though that’s the way it’s always appeared at Mommy & Daddy’s house); it has to be generated by someone with the means to do so and the wherewithal to get it where it needs to be.  But if you insist on forcibly cutting off the existing reliable energy stream before the alternatives are in fact ready to take up the slack, there will be nothing to fill the void.  When there’s nothing to fill the void, there’s, well, nothing.  No light.  No A/C.  No heat.  And that’s really going to suck when it’s July in Florida, or January in Illinois.

It didn’t have to be like this.  Emissions requirements for coal-fired facilities could have waited until functional alternative power generation facilities and infrastructure were in fact ready to replace them.  Renewable energy mandates could have waited until the technology and transmission lines were in fact in place to carry the load.  They weren’t, and they’re not, yet the Greenies forge ahead anyway, because they know best.

And so Solyndra sits idle, with no market for its Progressive Government-subsidized solar panels.  Fisker sits essentially idle, with Progressive Government-subsidized electric cars that still spontaneously combust and no one will buy.  The West is littered with Progressive Government-subsidized wind farms that have nowhere to send their power, yet continue to spin and chop up the occasional unsuspecting eagle.  And pretty soon, rolling blackouts will come to your town, courtesy of the naïve and unprepared Progressive Left.

I wonder if you’ll appreciate how much cleaner the air in your last breath was as you freeze to death.