Lessons from the Stupid States: Both Red and Blue States Have Compromised their Power Grids.
Idaho Power’s move away from coal need not cripple Idaho’s Power grid.
America’s electrical grid is one of our nation’s greatest achievements. Few people in history have enjoyed the regular delivery of electricity to all citizens. More than 3 billion people across the globe have either no electricity or very limited access to electricity. Those peoples are stuck in poverty and squalor. Yet in America, we every time we turn on the light switch the room is illuminated. The power grid fosters our prosperity. Our low energy costs make our economy boom, compared to most other places.
Yet American states are compromising the power grid with local regulations and foolish dreams. Our power grid is not increasingly fragile because states are decommissioning coal and natural gas plants, while also opposing many supposedly carbon-neutral, unreliable energy producers in their back yards. Small disruptions now yield rolling black outs and much higher costs.
Red states have generally lower costs—places like Kentucky and Utah pay about 10.5 cents per kilowatt hour for residential energy, while California and Massachusetts pay over 20 cents for the same energy.
How has this happened? Many states set targets for renewable energy. Iowa was the first such state, and its goals were modest. Wisconsin, Montana, Michigan, and Missouri aimed to generate 15% of their energy from so-called renewables. Blue states like California, Oregon, Nevada and Virginia have begun to push insane policies of generating 100% of energy from so-called renewables by 2040 or 2050.
Two problems. First, this is impossible. Second, people do not like renewable power projects. More than 300 renewable projects have been spiked by public opposition since 2015. Local governments often stop such projects. This does not even take into account the ways in which regulators stymie projects and environmentalists delay and deter such projects through the courts. Yes, that is right: environmentalists oppose renewable energy projects. Why? They oppose America’s energy grid.
Many American states thus have a combination of impossible goals and a decreasing number of ways to meet them. This is a recipe for disaster.
Take Texas, one of the ultimate red states. Texas had not modernized or winterized its natural gas plants. There was a severe winter storm, which froze its wind turbines (which supply about 1/5th of Texas’s energy). Transmission lines were felled. Widespread blackouts proceeded. Many died. The disruption lasted days. Other states may soon have these problems. Rolling blackouts happened in 2022 in Arkansas, Indiana and Arizona (among red states) and are becoming common in blue states. Grid operators are issuing more and more warnings, and asking for policy changes. Power companies ask people to cut back on usage.
What is happening in Idaho? Idaho has not adopted any silly energy mandates, though some localities like Boise have.
Idaho Power, however, has announced plans to go away from coal energy. Currently, Idaho gets its power from a diverse set of sources. About 33%
comes from hydroelectric power, 12% from wind, 4% from solar and 2.5% from Geothermal—about 50% of Idaho’s power comes from so-called renewables. Coal and natural gas make up about 32% of Idaho’s
energy production, while the state buys about 17% of its energy on the open market.
Idaho Power is, however, inching away from coal. The share of Idaho’s power produced by coal has decreased from 39% in 2005 to 24% in 2022. It buys coal from sources out of state in Oregon, which is closing its plants. Idaho Power partly owns the Jim Bridger plants in Wyoming but those are converting from coal to natural gas in a few years. Its movement toward “no coal” by 2030 is part of a move to natural gas.
Pres. Barack Obama was once asked to summarize his foreign policy. “Don’t do stupid shit,” answered the author of our Libya invasion. Whatever.
Not doing stupid things is a good start when it comes to energy. So far, Idaho should learn a lesson from its old self. Stay away from public mandates on goals and prevent private companies from imposing the impossible, stupid dreams of the Green Lobby—who really want to take us back to the stone age—from bubbling up through the private sector too.