MINOT, N.D. — It's remarkable how many self-described progressives are against progress.
Is it progress for hundreds of thousands of Californians to go without electricity in blackouts power company officials say may be necessary for at least the next decade?
Our modern society, with all of its speed and convenience, is built on the back of affordable and reliable energy. Blackouts are not progress but a regress. One that's almost impossible to contemplate happening in one of the most prosperous states in the nation.
And yet the blackouts are very must the result of progressive policies. The sort of policies those sympathetic with left-wing activist Greta Thunberg are supporting.
The power company in California says the blackouts are necessary for public safety — to limit the potential for more wildfires, specifically — and will continue until they can make billions of dollars of investments in infrastructure upgrades.
Yet that same power company is spending billions of dollars every year to comply with California's renewable energy mandates.
Left-wing politicians of the ilk prone to an almost religious fervor over climate change alarmism dominate California's government. Yet, even here in North Dakota, where politics have a decidedly more rightward tilt, the progressive fight against sound energy policy is genuine.
There has been a boom in wind energy development in North Dakota as power companies seek to satisfy political mandates for renewable energy (not to mention collect on lucrative subsidies while still eligible). That boom, resulting as it has from the political most-favored status wind energy enjoys, has undermined the market for other cheaper and more reliable sources of electricity.
Like coal, to name one. Coal plants in our region are closing due to these politically-driven market changes.
Yet, when North Dakotans most need the lights on and the furnace running, it's still coal providing the energy.
Last winter, as folks in our region dealt with the to-be-expected bouts of arctic weather, the output from wind farms dropped precipitously.
Other sources of energy, like coal and nuclear, were still able to meet demand, but how long will that continue to be accurate as green politics push those energy sources out of the market in favor of things like wind and solar?
Californians might be able to handle blackouts, given their state's relatively benign weather patterns, but in North Dakota, a mid-winter blackout is dangerous. More than an inconvenience, it can mean severe property damage and, more troubling, even injury and death.
If you think I'm exaggerating, remember that hundreds of thousands of Californians now routinely go without electricity because their state's power policies are addled by the very same policies some would have implemented here.
We should always be open to a debate about how to meet our society's energy needs in as responsible a manner as possible.
We need more pragmatism in that debate than some zealots are willing to afford.
Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Plain Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.