Are Republicans Ready for Climate “Red Pill”?

July 19, 2017

Climate denial is a prison for your mind.

More on signs of reluctant awakening to climate threat and renewable solutions among Republicans. Are we seeing something analogous to the national turning on marriage equality of a few years back? or perhaps like what is happening in the Health care debate, where the once-deemed-radical idea of single payer seems to be emerging from the the smoking crater of Republican’s repeal-and-replace plans?

The ongoing crisis in American democracy could, if properly managed, become a clarifying moment, if we survive it.

Dana Nucitelli compares current GOP process to Neo’s choice in “The Matrix” – take the blue pill and remain asleep, or the red pill and wake up.

Dana Nucitelli in the Guardian:

In April, Trump’s energy secretary Rick Perry ordered a 60-day study of the nation’s electric gridto determine whether policies promoting renewable energy growth are undermining its stability by crowding out “baseload” power from sources that are always readily available (ie don’t rely on intermittent wind or sunlight). Perry’s memo specifically called out “regulatory burdens introduced by previous administrations that were designed to decrease coal-fired power generation.” He put Travis Fisher in charge of the study, who previously worked for the fossil fuel-fundedInstitute for Energy Research, where he published a report calling renewable energy policies “the single greatest emerging threat” to the US power grid.

In short, it appeared as though the Trump administration was putting together a biased report to support its pro-coal agenda. But a draft of the report was leaked to Bloomberg, and it didn’t follow the administration playbook. The report was drafted by career staffers at the Department of Energy, who are experts in the field and apparently didn’t bow to any potential administration pressure for pro-fossil fuel conclusions. The draft is now under review by administration officials and may change as a result, but the leaked draft ensures that the public sees the experts’ conclusions.

The report concluded that many recent baseload plant retirements “are consistent with observed market forces,” often being taken out of commission due to “low natural gas price-based electricity prices, low electric demand, environmental regulations, state policies, and competition from renewables”. Most of the coal and natural gas baseload plants that have retired are old, inefficient units that were no longer cost-effective. Increased energy efficiency has also curbed American electricity demand. The report concluded that environmental regulations and renewable energy subsidies “played minor roles” in accelerating baseload plant retirements compared to those other factors.

Most importantly, the draft report concluded that the electric grid remains reliable:

Most of the common metrics for grid reliability suggest that the grid is in good shape despite the retirement of many baseload power plants … The power system is more reliable today due to better planning, market discipline, and better operating rules and standards

These conclusions are consistent with the opinions of grid operators – including in red states where wind supplies a significant fraction of electricity (including Perry’s home state of Texas) – that renewables are not undermining grid stability. They’re also consistent with a major Department of Energy-funded two-year studypublished in 2012, which concluded:

renewable electricity generation from technologies that are commercially available today, in combination with a more flexible electric system, is more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050 while meeting electricity demand on an hourly basis in every region of the United States

It’s unclear why Perry thought his 60-day study would overturn the findings of that two-year report, or many other similar studies. Even some Republicans from states that benefit from cheap wind energy were critical of the report. For example, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wrote to Perry:

I’m concerned that a hastily developed study, which appears to pre-determine that variable, renewable sources such as wind have undermined grid reliability, will not be viewed as credible, relevant or worthy of valuable taxpayer resources

CleanTechnica notes that Energy Secretary Rick Perry, former governor of Renewable rich Red State Texas, has been “trolling” the Trump administration on renewable energy, beyond just the study mentioned above.

CleanTechnica:

CleanTechnica has been tracking the goings-on over at the US Department of Energy ever since former Texas Governor Rick Perry was tapped to helm the agency, and the mystery seems to deepen with each passing week.

Unlike his counterpart Scott Pruitt over at the Environmental Protection Agency, Perry has been steadily building on policies established under the Obama Administration.

Perry has occasionally stuck his foot in his mouth to support the Trump Administration position on fossil fuels, but he has also fashioned himself into the public voice of US renewable energy and clean tech innovation.

Yesterday’s tweet is a good example:

Another troll factor could be the Energy Department’s new grid study, a draft version of which leaked over the weekend.

For those of you new to the topic, Perry ordered the study in mid-April with the apparent aim of supporting the coal industry as well as baseload nuclear and hydro power plants.

A leaked memo about the study set the renewable energy industry on fire, and  the American Petroleum Institute also pushed back on behalf of natural gas stakeholders.*

On the other hand, ever since the study was ordered, Perry and his agency have continued cheerleading for renewable energy and clean tech.

Note: I’m at the Science Support Center in Kangerllussuaq, Greenland, waiting for a team that I’ll be working with to show up tonight. Sometime in the next couple days we’ll go off the grid for a while, but for now, still have access. Will update.

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2 Responses to “Are Republicans Ready for Climate “Red Pill”?”

  1. andrewfez Says:

    There are like 11 windbelt and NE states, most under republican control, running their grids on between 10 and 30% wind. Even the Koch state of Kansas is running like 18% on wind, or some similar number.

    The dynamic is changing on YouTube comment threads too. I was looking under Ben Shapiro’s climate denial video and there are an army of climate communicators debunking or just plainly rejecting his bs. Even the conservatives are like, ‘Sorry Ben, we’re with you on other things but you have to be pretty dumb not to accept human caused climate change.’

    • ubrew12 Says:

      It’s become increasingly clear that many Red States are on the immediate receiving end of Climate Change. Also, it’s finally getting through to many people that there is no ‘turning on a dime’ when it comes to Climate.


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