Remember the power flow?

It’s downstream from Washington.

Yesterday, I wrote of Texas power woes:

Central planners knew reserve dispatchable (on demand) electricity provision was a weakness for renewables’ case, even as renewables raise the importance of dispatchable power. If planners wanted more renewable energy they had to raise electricity prices to fund building the standby generators and securing the fuel supplies they might not use, or take bigger risks across the board.

Wind and solar were not to be dinged for the increased costs they impose on the grid to ensure reliable generating capacity during extreme weather events. Mustn’t have anyone question whether windmills or solar panels are doing the job you hired them for if you still have to have natural gas plants idling in case of bad weather.

Unsuprisingly, wind proponents would prefer the raise rates solution, now that they can act like they’re not responsible for the lobbying that contributed to it. The WSJ notes: “The wind lobby says Texas should have required thermal (nuclear, gas, coal) plants to be weatherized to withstand single-digit temperatures.

I wouldn’t have phrased it as if the costs might be borne by the conventional power companies. Consumers would pay. And I wouldn’t have accepted the wind lobby’s implication that the thermal power companies were the culprits, since the wind lobby persuaded the regulators to avoid price increases attributable to wind power in favor of higher risk. How do you think the new power transmission lines for windmills and solar are paid for? See also.

When wind lobbyists ask politicians to “require our competition to” it’s just another sign Texas is not a free market in electricity.

Then there are Federal regs.

In this case it seems as if they were used to give Texas a little slap. On Feb 12th, Texas Governor Greg Abbott asked the President to declare a major disaster for Texas’ 254 counties. The President approved it for 77 counties. Grants are now available for temporary housing, home repairs, and low-cost loans for most Texans. That means large population centers like Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin…

You can supply your own theory about why rural Texans are considered to have been less damaged.

By Feb 14th ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) was urging everyone to minimize electricity consumption, and had asked the Department of Energy for permission to exceed Federal restrictions (running fossil fuel plants at only about 60% capacity). The DoE approved this request with the proviso, first suggested by ERCOT, that the power would be sold at no less than $1,500 per megawatt hour, compared to $18.20 per megawatt hour in February 2020.

Note: the $1,500 figure, contrary to some reports, was SUGGESTED BY ERCOT. This doesn’t change anything regarding regulatory conditions, it simply means ERCOT knew what they had to do to get approval. DoE may not have initiated the price floor, but they still imposed it.

The letter later referred to this pricing as “a separate mechanism to help ensure this capacity is deployed only when absolutely necessary.”

Webber, the professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said that cost was a “minimum price” that would ensure plants permitted to bypass environmental restrictions were not given an unfair advantage.

“Emissions controls cost money,” he said. “It would be unfair to let some power plants turn off their emissions controls, which lowers their operational costs, and then to use that lower cost to underbid other generators who responsibly left their controls in place.”

Ted Kury, director of energy studies for the Public Utility Research Center at the University of Florida, said “when wholesale prices get high, the market operator is actually hoping that this sends a signal to folks to stop using electricity.” That works for, say, large companies — but it often ends up being punitive for residential customers.

Yes, prices are signals, but I think in this case Texans had already got the conserve power message. Soon enough they couldn’t buy it at any price. No “unfair advantage” there. And we can’t think of any way to have tiered pricing without sophisticated computer systems. And we don’t have that. Right?

Still, we must be absolutely sure that hoarders, wreckers, exploiters, and saboteurs – like some Aluminum smelter somewhere in Texas – didn’t use any of that power. They might have achieved 2 or 3 days production at the same electricity cost they’d have a week later. They might have forced their employees to drive to work under disaster conditions, and then made them sign NDAs to prevent anyone from ever finding out what evil businessmen do when old people are freezing to death. Or, some Bitcoin miner might have done the same thing, because they are really evil and they’d have comparatively few employees. Yeah, THOSE guys could get away with it.

Well, at least until the digital meter monitor reported their electricity usage.

‘Climate’ policy ignores weather at its peril

In rain and wind and sleet and snow, the power is out in your bungalow.

Excellent analysis. RTWT.
Assigning Blame for the Blackouts in Texas | Climate Etc.

“Extreme cold should be expected to cause significant outages of both renewable and fossil fuel based resources. Why would anyone expect that sufficient amounts of natural gas would be available and deliverable to supply much needed generation? Considering the extreme cold, nothing particularly surprising is happening within any resource class in Texas. The technologies and their performance were well within the expected bounds of what could have been foreseen for such weather conditions. While some degradation should be expected, what is happening in Texas is a departure from what they should be experiencing. Who or what then is responsible for the shocking consequences produced by Texas’s run in with this recent bout of extreme cold?…

Traditionally, responsibility for ensuring adequate capacity during extreme conditions has fallen upon individual utility providers. A couple decades ago I was responsible for the load forecasting, transmission planning and generation planning efforts of an electric cooperative in the southeastern US. My group’s projections, studies and analysis supported our plans to meet customer demand under forecasted peak load conditions. We had seen considerable growth in residential and commercial heat pumps. At colder temperature these units stop producing heat efficiently and switch to resistance heating which causes a spike in demand. Our forecasts showed that we would need to plan for extra capacity to meet this potential demand under extreme conditions in upcoming winters.”

Debate is raging over which form of power generation was the proximate cause of the Texas power fiasco. Bill Gates is arguing with Greg Abbot; the MSM publishes articles alternately excusing windmills and blaming natural gas. There’s chatter about failure of the free market.

Forget all that. Yes, more solar panels and more windmills would have made it worse, but nuclear plants shut down when cooling pumps froze (go figure), and natural gas more or less ran out. Gas prices soared 10,000%.

Texas power generation failed because of central planning. Intermittent energy generation was favored over energy capacity. CO2 reduction became more important than reliability. The system was robust until it wasn’t. Nassim Taleb’s books The Black Swan and Antifragile leap to mind.

Central planners knew reserve dispatchable (on demand) electricity provision was a weakness for renewables’ case, even as renewables raise the importance of dispatchable power. If planners wanted more renewable energy they had to raise electricity prices to fund building the standby generators and securing the fuel supplies they might not use, or take bigger risks across the board.

Wind and solar were not to be dinged for the increased costs they impose on the grid to ensure reliable generating capacity during extreme weather events. Mustn’t have anyone question whether windmills or solar panels are doing the job you hired them for if you still have to have natural gas plants idling in case of bad weather.

Politicians are neither engineers nor risk managers. They see risk management as an electoral issue. Global warming is a vaguely apprehended future risk, but the present hype is concrete and assuaging it ‘virtuous.’ Weather caused power failure is concrete, but also mundane and inevitable. The need for dispatchable power, AKA the cost of mitigating the extreme weather risk, is directly proportional to the increase in renewable energy dependance. And inversely proportional to the direction of the political wind.

This is a tunnel vision application of the precautionary principle. The risk of a once in a lifetime weather event was judged to be less important than the risk of AlGore’s vision of a future flaming globe. You get votes by paying homage to the latter, and complaints about electricity cost if you mitigate the former.

This danger was not a Hayekian lack of information. The consequences had been clearly foreseen by well established risk analysis protocols, and papered over. The consequences were unintended only in the sense of “we didn’t want that to happen.” Some of the ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) Board at least had the grace to fall on their swords.

ERCOT bet they wouldn’t have the weather, during THEIR terms, which they knew Texas would eventually experience.

Put differently, Warren Buffett invests in windmills because the economics are tilted by subsidies and pricing manipulation, not because he cares about providing affordable, reliable power.

*Yes, that would be regulation. In a free market we would long since have had contractual ways of doing this.

Calinferno – Anthropogenic Regional Malfeasance

I don’t want an argument about irrelevancies, so let’s stipulate that warming of the earth is a factor in California’s infernos. For our purposes here, it’s irrelevant. Whether it’s anthropogenic or not, California doesn’t control it. What they could control, they leave to chance.

Claims that wildfires started by lightning can be ameliorated today in California by achieving tenths of a degree reductions in global temperature by the year 2050 are facially specious. California’s only proven anthropogenic wildfires came from arson, poorly maintained power lines, and gender reveal parties.

In the gripping hand, we have technology to mitigate wildfire. And we know that California refuses to employ it, even as science tells them they should. Decreasing the amount of fuel available to a wildfire and creating clear-cut firebreaks are within the direct control of California. Eliminating CO2 and cow farts world-wide are not.

Propublica, no right leaning climate denier site, tells us the extent of this failure. They Know How to Prevent Megafires. Why Won’t Anybody Listen?

Academics believe that between 4.4 million and 11.8 million acres burned each year in prehistoric California. Between 1982 and 1998, California’s agency land managers burned, on average, about 30,000 acres a year. Between 1999 and 2017, that number dropped to an annual 13,000 acres. The state passed a few new laws in 2018 designed to facilitate more intentional burning. But few are optimistic this, alone, will lead to significant change. We live with a deathly backlog. In February 2020, Nature Sustainability published this terrifying conclusion: California would need to burn 20 million acres — an area about the size of Maine — to restabilize in terms of fire.

Now, it’s not as if California lacks deep, ongoing experience with wildfires. And they do indeed know what to do. Here’s a blurb from the CAL FIRE website about plans submitted to the Governor in 2019. Emphasis mine:

Using locally developed and vetted fire plans prepared by CAL FIRE Units as a starting point, CAL FIRE identified priority fuel reduction projects that can be implemented almost immediately to protect communities vulnerable to wildfire. Socioeconomic characteristics were also considered, including poverty levels, residents with disabilities, language barriers, residents over 65 or under five years of age, percent non-white, and households without a car. [Decide for yourself which of those criteria are best addressed so as to prevent widespread conflagrations.]

Through this process 35 priority projects were identified, reducing risk for over 200 communities. Project examples include removal of hazardous dead trees, vegetation clearing, creation of fuel breaks and community defensible spaces, and creation of ingress and egress corridors.

As Governor, if you sincerely believed climate change was THE major factor in your well established wildfire problem, and knew you had little control over that, is it prudent to ignore the means of significant mitigation your advisors recommend, or is it better to have an excuse for having ignored the advice?

I’d like to assure you that all 35 CAL FIRE proposed fire break/prescribed burn/fuel reduction projects have been completed. CAL FIRE is nice enough to provide a link:

… which leads to the California Natural Resources Agency. Where we get this:

It’s usually easier for bureaucrats and politicians to find a reason not to take an action which requires a decision or represents any immediate risk to their sinecure. Sometimes, though, responsibility avoidance goes pear shaped: The Governor attracts an argument from Donald Trump about it because, you know, California is burning. Then, decisions avoided must be clumsily disappeared.

Back to the Propublica article:

“[P]lanning a prescribed burn is cumbersome. A wildfire is categorized as an emergency, meaning firefighters pull down hazard pay and can drive a bulldozer into a protected wilderness area where regulations typically prohibit mountain bikes. Planned burns are human-made events and as such need to follow all environmental compliance rules. That includes the Clean Air Act, which limits the emission of PM 2.5, or fine particulate matter, from human-caused events. In California, those rules are enforced by CARB, the state’s mighty air resources board, and its local affiliates. “I’ve talked to many prescribed fire managers, particularly in the Sierra Nevada over the years, who’ve told me, ‘Yeah, we’ve spent thousands and thousands of dollars to get all geared up to do a prescribed burn,’ and then they get shut down.” Maybe there’s too much smog that day from agricultural emissions in the Central Valley, or even too many locals complain that they don’t like smoke [Ed: Well how do you like the smoke you’ve got now?]. Reforms after the epic 2017 and 2018 fire seasons led to some loosening of the CARB/prescribed fire rules, but we still have a long way to go.”

It’s natural to want the beauty of nature to go undisturbed. In California it’s become natural to assume man’s limited mastery of nature is sufficient to create a wildfire safe space through the power of imagination. And you might well believe this if you aspire to effect a global change in the composition of the atmosphere from your San Francisco penthouse by forcing rolling blackouts on the unwashed.

The chemistry of fire is an objective fact, which probably makes it patriarchal and colonialist. Still, It Burns.

One thing we can say is that the extent of California wildfires have an anthropogenic origin. We can name names.

Update: 11:35AM, Sep. 16th
Sorry, solar panels won’t stop California’s fires

According to Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, climate change isn’t the issue in California’s wildfire problem.

Lomberg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, Cool It, How to Spend $75 Billion to Make the World a Better Place, and False Alarm, is a “lukewarmer”.

Lomborg thinks global warming is real, man-made, and a serious problem, which can be and needs to be tackled. But he disputes that it is an existential risk, or indeed our biggest challenge.“.

In other words:

“[C]limate alarm causes nothing but anxiety and bad policies, arguing we can do better with smarter solutions to the problem…. If climate change really could end the world, then perhaps this alarmism might be warranted, but that is simply not the case.“.

Climate change panic policy today boils down to limiting access to cheap energy, (women, children, and the poor hit hardest) and promoting alternative energy sources (subsidizing Warren Buffets windmills- he should pay more taxes by foregoing the subsidies). Since energy = wealth, opposing zero-emission nuclear power tells you all you need to know about the actual motives of Big Green.

We have always been at war with Thunbergia

For the people who read Orwell as an instruction manual it is not merely a question of whether 2+2=5, or whether “freedom is slavery,” or “silence is violence,” or memory holing contrarian commentary about BLM, or Trans activism, or Feminism, or the CCP virus – climate alarmism must also be made safe from debate.
On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare — Environmental Progress

That article appeared in Forbes for about 24 hours before being taken down.

Shame.

Planet Without Humans

My initial reaction to the release of Michael Moore’s Planet of the Humans was bemusement. Sure, it’s tittilating that some far left icon would point out the Green energy fraud. But, I was also conflicted. On one hand, some envirostatist heads are exploding. On the other, I expected an hour and forty minute exposure to an indictment of capitalism by a multi-millionaire who makes shit up.

Not exactly. Crony capitalism is the symptom here. The real problem is human beings.

If you’ve been paying attention to the windmill and solar panels flimflam, you won’t find very much new about the Green energy con men, though it is devastatingly presented, and many people won’t be aware of the details. The feature that has catastrophic global warming skeptics talking about the film is its condemnation of the corrupt public-pirate partnerships which Moore erroneously calls capitalism while eliding the fact that without the government’s “Green” subsidies this bullshit would stop immediately. Be careful about enjoying the ‘split’ on the Left. Because, while Green energy is a scam, that isn’t Mr. Moore’s end game.

The novelty of a far left critique of the Green energy cabal wears off fairly quickly. The film carefully sets up a no win ecological dilemma only to be solved by drastic reductions in human population and impoverishment of those who remain. Except for Extinction Rebellion leaders, of course, who will still be compelled to fly about in private jets making sure we conform.

Planet of the Humans is an extended public service announcement for Extinction Rebellion, whose goal is to reverse the industrial revolution. And, more broadly, drastically cut human population, “Corona is the cure, humans are the disease.

Now, ER has distanced themselves from this (bad PR), but it’s right in their wheelhouse, and isn’t a new or controversial idea. It’s simply an update of Malthus (1798), Paul Erhlich (1968), The Club of Rome (1972) and the Duke of Edinburgh:

“In the event that I am reincarnated, I would like to return as a deadly virus, to contribute something to solving overpopulation.”

-Prince Philip speaking to Deutsche Press Agentur in 1988.

The radical depopulation message is not expressed directly, but it is left lying face up on the table as our only hope. Yes, Michael, Big Green is a bunch of lying profiteers whose ruinous solutions to imaginary problems are magical thinking – which some of us have been telling you since forever – but that doesn’t mean we don’t already have a well developed technological solution for your CO2 concerns.

I’ve never seen a better argument for nuclear power plants. Nukes solve the CO2 ‘problem,’ create high paying jobs, provide secure energy, save destruction of wild places, strengthen the grid, are less expensive, cause less ancillary pollution than ‘green’ energy, and are an actually sustainable power source because we can recycle and reuse the fuel – even create it – as part of the energy cycle.

That nuclear power goes entirely unmentioned in a film calling out technological advancement as futile proves my oft stated point: It’s not about wildlife or CAGW. ER admits this. It’s about white supremacy, colonialism, patriarchy, racialism, Eurocentrism, hetero-sexism, and class hierarchy. Like every other Leftwing intersectionality cult: It’s about the power to dictate how, where and whether you live. Gretchen Whitmer is showing us the trailer here in Michigan.

I did learn one thing from the film; that radioactive waste from mining rare earth metals necessary for solar panels and windmills is simply spread over the desert, despoiling the ecosystem. So, even the nuclear waste argument from the anti-nukers fails.

I did laugh out loud at the company name the narrator used for the corporation formed by Al Gore and David Blood (Goldman Sachs’ Asset Management head), but this film is not a joke at the expense of the Left. It would be good if it resulted in the disappearance of the Green energy extortion industry, but Mr. Moore’s preferred policy replacement is far more draconian and portends a huge increase in human suffering.