The Herald-Dispatch. December 28, 2022.
Editorial: Fossil fuels unwanted by many but still vital
Tri-State residents woke up Christmas morning to a frigid 9 degrees outside and requests from their power companies to keep their Christmas lights off until afternoon at the earliest.
The arctic air that had hovered over much of the United States since the previous week had put so much strain on the regional electric grid that more than 60 million people from New Jersey to Illinois were asked to cut back on unnecessary use of electricity. The request showed the folly of destroying much of the power generation infrastructure that had supplied the region for decades in favor of relying on distant and unreliable sources of renewable energy.
As of 9 a.m. Christmas morning, electricity users on the PJM Interconnection regional grid were using 120,846 megawatts of power. About 33% of that came from burning natural gas. Nuclear power plants supplied 27% and coal — the pariah of the electric generation industry — another 27%. None of the other sources — oil, hydroelectric and renewables — provided more than 10%. Wind generated a measly 6,341 megawatts, or about 5%. At that time of day, solar power wasn’t a factor.
In the cold dark of winter night, fossil fuels and nuclear power kept the lights on and homes warm.
As the weather moderated slightly Sunday and Monday, demand on the power grid eased a bit. As of 9 a.m. Tuesday, usage was down to 112,391 megawatts. Coal was the source of 28% of that, gas and nuclear about 30% each and renewables about 8%.
Engineers and others continue to work on renewable sources and more economical nuclear power, but those sources are at least a decade away from being able to support the baseload needs of millions of people and businesses in normal times, let alone during a cold spell in December or a heat wave in July. And that doesn’t count the increased demand on the grid if the federal government and others are successful in converting much of the motor vehicle market over to electric vehicles. Imagine how people would or wouldn’t get around in the electric vehicles if electricity use was cut back during a cold snap.
This past weekend was cold. Arctic cold. It’s been this cold here before, and colder. It will be again. So why are the government and green energy proponents so eager to push us toward energy sources that can’t get us through this kind of weather?
Fossil fuels keep the lights on, buildings warm and people moving. It’s not wise to destroy the sources of energy that keep us warm and active in the kind of weather we had this past weekend. Or ever. But that’s what we’re doing.
When bad weather strikes, we rely on fossil fuels despite how a large number of people — mostly in heavily populated urban areas far from where those fossil fuels are collected, processed and turned into electricity — feel or think about them.
The decarbonization of our energy infrastructure sounds great in theory, but in reality we’re still far from that goal. We should only move as quickly as technology allows while also recognizing that there may be limits to implementing our dreams of a carbon-free society.
The Intelligencer. December 26, 2022.
Editorial: Making Difference for Those in Need
You can’t argue with Gov. Jim Justice’s sentiment that “The bottom line to the whole thing is we don’t need people going hungry in West Virginia.”
And it’s encouraging to know the governor does seek to include in his budget funding for two of the state’s larger food banks: Hunger Foodbank in Huntington and Mountaineer Food Bank in Gassaway. Each is getting another $500,000 from the state to continue the work of supporting other agencies. The two of them partner with hundreds of other agencies across the state. Some of the money these groups get is for food, of course, but some of it is used for purchasing items such as freezers or improving the distribution process.
And there is a lot to distribute. Last year, the two food banks distributed approximately 30 million pounds of food.
The need is only growing. Think of it. Thirty million pounds of food (and those in need of the help provided by food banks are often also in need of toiletries and other necessities, clothes, shoes … ) needed by struggling individuals and families.
If you do not know what it feels like to be hungry, or to not have enough clothes in your closet, count yourself blessed. And consider whether you could be doing something to help these folks, too. Yes, state government is doing what it can — and certainly lawmakers could be working harder to provide the economic diversification and growth our state so desperately needs — but we can do our share as well.
Next time you make a grocery run, consider whether you could add nonperishable items to your cart that could be dropped off at the local food bank on the way home. Consider whether the items in your over-filled closets could be doing more good for someone else. Consider whether you can be doing something to make a difference for those in need.
Parkersburg News and Sentinel. December 28, 2022.
Editorial: Energy: Storm shows need to expand power sources
Over the weekend, customers in both West Virginia and Ohio were asked to conserve electricity, as a bone-chilling temperature plunge was putting a strain on our power grid. PJM Interconnection, First Energy and Appalachian Power asked customers to do what they could through Christmas morning.
“Demand for electricity is expected to increase through the day as the cold temperatures continue and families gather to celebrate the holiday,” the company said. “PJM will continue to monitor conditions and will take additional actions if necessary, which may include the potential for short, rotating customer outages. Taking action to conserve energy now can help offset the need for additional actions later.”
Yep, for all our boasting about how energy rationing and rolling blackouts don’t affect us here in coal country, it took only one winter storm to show we’re not as far from all that as we think. Suggestions included lowering the temperature on thermostats, turning off non-essential appliances, equipment and electric lights (yes, even Christmas lights), postponing use of major household appliances such as dishwashers or stoves, and closing curtains and blinds to help retain heat.
Frankly, some of those tips already apply to those who worry about the size of their utility bills.
“We understand that cutting back on electricity use can be inconvenient and uncomfortable, especially during the holidays,” said Aaron Walker, Appalachian Power president and chief operating officer. “This is a necessary step to prevent broader power interruptions, and we appreciate our customers’ efforts.”
It’s also a necessary reminder that the last thing we should be doing here in Appalachia is relying on one or two sources of energy or neglecting the expansion and improvement of our power grid. This was a single, particularly ill-timed winter storm. There will be more. Let’s use it as a reminder that the all-of-the-above energy approach some lawmakers say they are taking is essential, and must not fall victim to backward-looking devotion to “the way things have always been.”