October 7, 2016 8 Comments
State governments are sheltered workshops for mediocre politicians rarely good enough to make it in the Canberra big league. They have just one basic task in the Australian federation: to maintain basic public infrastructure that keeps communities going. Roads, rail, schools, hospitals, police, fire, emergency services. And electricity networks.
Last week, the South Australian Labor government of Jay Weatherill delivered an unenviable energy efficiency target: a 100 per cent reduction in the state’s electricity supply. The catastrophic failure of his state’s power grid forced Crow-Eater Mr Weatherill to eat a huge helping of crow.
To be sure, South Australia was hit by a huge weather event. Extremely high winds twisted steel electricity towers like flimsy tinfoil, bringing down key power lines interconnecting the South Australian grid with the Victorian network supplying the majority of its power, especially when demand surges.
True enough, but Andrew Bolt tells us the winds never exceeded 100 km/hr (about 62 mph for Americans). A distribution line that fails to stand up to sixty mph winds is defective, either in design, execution, or maintenance. I note that I once helped replace about 10 miles of heavy distribution after an ice storm because one clamp either wasn’t tightened properly or had vibrated loose. Details matter, and so does competence and honesty. Crony built infrastructure lacks both of the latter.
But South Australia’s internal power generation capacity failed to take the strain for one simple reason: its utter dependence on renewable energy. The irony of wind power is those landscape-dominating wind turbines have to be shut down for safety in high winds. And when there’s no sun and insufficient storage of solar energy, rooftop solar panels and newfangled solar farms are as useful as a tit on a bull.
Bizarrely, just this May the Weatherill government proudly shut down (and blew up) South Australia’s last coal-fired power station, making the state’s dependence on wind and solar for its home-grown energy almost absolute. Adelaide’s basket-weavers deliriously welcomed a new Green Age of progressive power generation and the banishment of Old King Coal.
The Spectator also tells us that the Australian coal industry has a pretty good future, mostly in exporting to China and India, if the greenies don’t kill it, and several million Asians along the way.
I believe in progress devoutly, but I also believe in reality. And carbon-free energy is a drug induced dream. It can happen if government forces it, but it will force us back at least a century, more likely to the age before electricity, and if we can’t burn wood or coal, well, there always one option. Freezing in the dark.
I hear many of you saying, “So what, that’s Australia, nothing to do with us.” But it does, we’re the people that have bankrolled any number of pie-in-the-sky ideas without a hope in hell of them working, except, of course, to put taxpayers money into the the scammer’s pocket. Anybody remember Solyndra? I have no problem with renewable energy, as long as it is developed by private capital, and can compete on a level field with coal, and gas. It can’t, and I doubt it ever will.
Then there is this from The Weekly Standard:
Last week the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia heard arguments challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. The Clean Power Plan, as it is called, is central to President Barack Obama’s overall Climate Action Plan. West Virginia and Texas are leading the 27 states and state agencies now in opposition to the CPP regulations, and some 120 companies and organizations have filed in support of the coalition’s complaint.
CPP is designed to bring about what the EPA calls an “aggressive transformation” of electricity generation throughout the country. It would do this by systematically “decarboniz[ing]” power generation and ushering in a new “clean energy” economy less reliant on carbon. CPP requires that, by 2030, power-plant carbon emissions be reduced by a third from what they were in 2005.
According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the plan would drive up electricity costs for businesses, consumers, and families, impose tens of billions of dollars in annual compliance costs, and reduce America’s global competitiveness—without any significant reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions.
But whatever you might think of the rule as energy policy, the biggest problem with it is this: The rule is illegal, indeed unconstitutional.
Under the Constitution, Congress makes law, and the executive enforces it. Unfortunately, over the past 80 years Congress has delegated to executive agencies the power to regulate in many areas. But that is not a blank check to the executive: If Congress has not made a specific delegation, then regulations in that area created by the executive branch are not valid. And that is what has happened here.
As Chief Justice John Roberts said in his dissent in City of Arlington v. FCC (2013), “Agencies are creatures of Congress.” He then quoted what the Court said in an earlier case, Louisiana Public Service Commission v. FCC (1986): “an agency literally has no power to act . . . unless and until Congress confers power upon it.”
True enough, and hopefully The Court will recognize that it is so. But my read of it as energy policy is that it will put the United States in exactly the same place as South Australia visited last week. Given the other things that so-called environmentalists support (and oppose) these days, I’m not too sure that is not the goal.