Pictured: Charlie Meadows
Will We Learn from Frigid 2021?
Why are those two states significant? Texas happens to be the largest producer of wind energy among all the states and Oklahoma is second. Truth is, the wind factories, commonly known as high tech windmills and promoted by climate change alarmists, failed miserably under such extreme cold temperatures. This should be a real wake up call as to how dangerous the “green new deal” is to America and its people if we continue the foolishness of embracing such nonsense.
Over the past 15 years or so, those in the wind energy business have been able to carve out a significant position and huge profits among the producers of electricity by obtaining taxpayer subsidies from the federal government. In Oklahoma, besides the federal subsidies, those in the wind industry were also able to obtain taxpayer subsidies as well as various tax breaks from state government. Finally the state of Oklahoma wised up and have put a halt to state subsidies for new projects. However, subsidized projects started years ago with multi-year benefits are still lining the pockets of those in the Industry.
There is little solar energy produced in Oklahoma, though that amount is expected to grow in coming years. We didn’t just have a problem with the brutal cold, we also had several days of clouds and near record snow fall, so solar energy was as much a failure as wind energy. So what has been the result of all this energy failure? Rolling blackouts in Texas, and for the first time in history, Oklahoma.
Emergency management officials, as well as elected officials, were pleading with folks to conserve energy. Water pipes froze, heating systems failed, and folks made a run on portable space heaters which inefficiently use a lot of electric power. Even the giant Goodyear Tire Plant in Lawton was ordered to shut down because they were using too much natural gas in the production of new tires.
So why the shortages in states like Texas and Oklahoma that have massive amounts of natural gas which is now the main power source for the production of electricity? After all, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the regulatory body for the oil, gas and electric utility industries in Oklahoma requires the electric utilities to maintain adequate traditional base load capacity for electric generation during peak demand periods. That requirement is because of the unreliability of wind and solar generation for electricity.
In the past, peak loads would occur during one of those hot summer days with temperatures in excess of 100 degrees and not a whisper of wind. When those days occurred, Oklahoma’s electric utilities would supply enough electricity for peak demand from coal fired generation plants and plants that use natural gas to generate electricity. This has not been a problem in the past as most of the gas generating plants using natural gas have been modernized, are efficient, and are capable of coming online quickly as well as shutting down quickly when the demand surges or drops.
However, natural gas has a reliability problem in extreme cold. Because of the moisture content in natural gas, when it gets really cold valves freeze up at the wellhead and short term gas shortages occur for both residential customers, and more importantly, utilities that use natural gas to generate their electricity. OG&E prefers a mix of generating fuels. There are no nuclear power plants in Oklahoma, very little hydroelectric production, and very little solar. Therefore, the mix is between coal, natural gas, and wind energy.
Anyone with an ounce of intellectual honesty understands that wind and solar are unreliable, but most folks honestly did not understand the reduced reliability factor for natural gas during below freezing temperatures, especially when we are below zero for a lengthy amount of time.
Therefore, the most reliable source of energy, at least in Oklahoma, is coal. So one might ask, surely the electric utilities should have known this? So why have they been converting coal-fired units to natural gas? This is an especially pertinent question since the coal-fired plants in Oklahoma are mostly modern and efficient. Even better, they only use low sulphur clean burning coal shipped by rail from Wyoming. That means, about the only thing being emitted from Oklahoma’s coal-fired stacks are two really VALUABLE green house gases, water vapor and especially CO2.
Of course just the mention of CO2 will cause many of the intellectually dishonest climate change alarmists and their legions of deceived sycophants to freak out at the thought that the greenhouse gas CO2 is good and in no way an “existential threat” to the well being or even the survival of mankind. Truth is, as Dr. E. Calvin Beisner of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation often says, CO2 is the elixir of life, absolutely necessary for plant growth and the production of food, both plant food and meat.
While it is true that the use of fossil fuels for energy may have a very slight influence on global warming, that is really a good thing. Without water vapor, which is the major greenhouse gas, and to a much lesser degree CO2, heat from the Sun would strike the earth and bounce back into space causing us to all freeze to death. We would also have no plant life or meat to eat. Therefore, we need to understand God has designed an ever balancing system to trap just enough of the Sun’s heat to sustain life on earth. His system allows for fluctuations over long periods of time which have produced ice ages and times of warming. Manmade influence on that balancing is miniscule.
While that is important information, it doesn’t answer the question about Oklahoma utility companies reducing the amount of power they produce from coal. Ten or more years ago OG&E, PSO and the Municipal Power Authority wanted to do something never before tried in Oklahoma. They wanted to share the costs of building a new coal fired power plant and then share the generated electricity for their respective customers.
The plan was to build the first of its kind in the US a new European designed, super clean burning coal-fired power plant made even cleaner by using the Wyoming low sulphur coal. The unit was to be built next to already existing coal-fired units at OG&E’s Red Rock power plant just South of Ponca City. Once the proposal was made to the Corporation Commission, the proposal was assigned to an expert to determine the value of such a project. The expert’s evaluation was that ratepayers would save $100 million in construction costs by the three companies joining together rather than each of them building their own separate generating units. It was also estimated ratepayers would save nearly a billion dollars in electric power costs over the life of the generating plant. Sounds like a great deal for ratepayers and more reliable electricity in times of extreme cold. All that was needed was for two of the three Corporation Commissioners to give final approval.
However, Aubry McClendon, founder and CEO of Chesapeake Energy, had other plans. At that time, Chesapeake was one of the largest producers of natural gas in the country. I believe he wanted to make sure any new fossil fuel generating power plants used natural gas and not coal so he could sell more of the product he produced. Therefore, he waged an estimated 3 to 4 million dollar public relations campaign in newspapers, as well as TV and radio ads. Those full page newspaper ads showing coal-fired exhaust stacks puffing out dark polluting smoke was very dishonest as that didn’t represent present day Oklahoma coal-fired generation of electric power. Oklahoma’s largest newspaper found it worrisome that two of Oklahoma’s corporate giants were locked into such warfare. In the end, the Commissioners voted 2 to 1 to reject the brilliant plan. It is probably safe to say, without a shift in thinking to TRUE science, we will probably not build any new coal-fired power plants in Oklahoma.
While that information is disturbing, it even gets worse. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wanted to take things further. Misusing the federal “Clean Air Act” the EPA suggested there was a growing haze problem covering the Quarts Mountains in the Southwestern part of Oklahoma. The agency suggested the haze problem was a result of the emissions from the coal-fired plants in Northeastern Oklahoma.
I am of the opinion the EPA is loaded with Marxists and represents one of the most powerful deep-state swamp creatures in Washington. Our then Attorney’s General, Scott Pruitt, fought their federal overreach valiantly, but it appeared to me they were bent on reducing to amount of coal-fired generation in Oklahoma, no matter true science or the legal limitations of the Clean Air Act. I even testified at one of their public hearings with this point. How can supposed pollution travel at least 180 miles from these generating plants against the prevailing winds cause such haze? In the end, both OG&E and PSO agreed to reduce the amount of electricity produced by converting some of their existing coal-fired generation capacity to natural gas. In addition, OG&E was forced to install expensive scrubbers on the remaining coal-fired generators, even though their benefit would be minimal at the least.
Therefore, one must ask, will we learn anything about unreliability in the power grid which has been exposed by this frigid cold snap? One would certainly hope so. The real problem is the false narrative spread by the radical environmental alarmists. As a result of technological advances, coal does not have to be harmful to the environment. We need more electricity generated by coal, not less. Not only is the price of such energy more stable and not subject to price spikes like many people are getting ready to find when they start getting their next few gas and electric bills, but we can avoid future rolling blackouts which kill people, harm the economy, and cause many folks to suffer extreme hardships.
As I write this, legislation is working its way through the 2021 legislative session to enable the increased fuel costs to be spread out over a lengthy period of time. We have found out the total increased costs for not having most of our electricity generated by coal will be $4.5 Billion dollars. That means a person paying an average monthly energy bill of $100 would see their first month’s bill with the added fuel costs spike to $1,800, with each successive month’s bill declining over several months until the full $4.5 Billion is recovered. That amount will still have to be paid, but now it will be spread out over years so the monthly bills don’t spike to such extremes.
Charlie Meadows is Co-Founder and President Emeritus of the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee (OCPAC), the oldest, largest and most active conservative club in Oklahoma. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org