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  Tuesday July 29th, 2014    

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  (ARCHIVES)Back to Current
‘Because, Senator, you oaf, you idiot...’ (05/25/2008)
By John Edstrom


     
The energy plot thickens, and that is not an oblique reference to cornfields. A little read news story from a couple of weeks ago tells of the setback to plans for Big Stone II, a project to expand a coal-burning electric plant just over the Minnesota border in South Dakota. Administrative law judges in Minnesota have have recommended against issuing permits to build needed transmission lines in Minnesota. According to the Minneapolis Tribune, 5/9/08, "Judges deliver major setback to Big Stone II project," the judges ruled that the power companies had not proven the lines were needed "and had failed to show that less expensive conservation measures and renewable energy such as wind could not meet any demand for additional electricity."

This is a very curious finding, since presently no technology has been developed to make wind a significant or cost-effective contributor to our energy needs. And these needs, increasing needs, are undisputed except in the chambers of administrative law judges where, apparently, they burn whale oil. In fact, new transmission lines in western Minnesota are bound to be needed if wind energy is ever to be developed as a viable power source.

Yet these utilities are supposed to prove that power sources that don't exist, or are not economically viable would not be cheaper than the power that they intend to generate through a plan they can take to the bank and borrow for. How can you prove that something which doesn't exist exists?

It gets crazier yet. A Janette Brimmer, legal affairs director for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, says these coal-fired plants should not be built for economic and environmental reasons. "The days of polluting for free are numbered," says Brimmer's cohort, Barbara Freese for the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Soon utilities will have to pay to pollute, and when you accurately account for that cost, coal plants aren't a sound investment."

This is demented and sinister on many levels. Obviously, Brimmer, Freese, and their ilk wish to enact taxes on energy producers, which is to say, everyone who uses their products. (You could conclude that they wish to fund themselves and their efforts with the proceeds and be close to the heart of the matter.) So what they have done, apparently, is to convince these judges that taxes that they merely postulate, with no details as to form or amount, will eventually make electricity from this coal plant more expensive than energy sources which don't exist. This would be laughable except that their argument has prevailed, and Minnesota consumers will pay a great deal extra for scarce energy down the road because of it.

In the meantime we plow forward with ethanol plants which produce, extremely inefficiently, a fuel which will result in a net increase in the dread green house gas, carbon dioxide, over the gasoline we presently burn for transport. And these plants pollute in much greater proportion to what they produce than the Big Stone coal plant ever will, even if you grant that the emission of carbon dioxide, with Mother Earth as by far the greatest perpetrator, is polluting.

On that subject, the U.S. Senate, that greatest deliberative body in the history of the world, has summoned the oil industry fat cats once again, to explain why gas prices have gone so high. I wish, for once, one of them would have the character to reply, "Because, Senator, you oaf, you idiot, the price of oil has doubled due to the laws of supply and demand. And it was you who cut that supply by refusing to let American companies drill for American oil. Now go ask your green buddies in Hollywood what they intend to do about $4 gasoline."

J.E. 

 

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