MINOT, N.D. — According to certain blinkered political commentators, who see America's energy grids as yet another venue for team-sports partisanship, coal-fired electrical production ought to go away already.
Their simpleton's view portrays nothing more than pro-coal Republicans facing off with pro-renewables Democrats.
They cast efforts to improve coal for modern energy markets, stuff like carbon capture technology, as something akin to that band which kept playing as the Titanic sank.
They're using "research" from groups like the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) which, though it masquerades as an academic endeavor, is really an advocacy outfit.
It's right there in the group's mission statement as posted on their website. Their goal is "to accelerate the transition to a diverse, sustainable and profitable energy economy." In other words, they're out to get rid of traditional energy, like coal, and replace it with something else. Their report attacking Project Tundra, a carbon capture project here in North Dakota that's backed by coal-fired energy producers and research dollars from the government, was a given. They see it as their job to kill coal, and their "research" is going to support that mission.
The truth is that carbon capture is important.
It's a necessity, in fact, according to the International Energy Agency.
The IEA is an intergovernmental organization founded in 1974 in the aftermath of the oil crisis. In more recent years, it has become an advocate for protecting the globe from climate change.
They say carbon capture must be a part of that. “Reaching net-zero will be virtually impossible without CCUS,” a recent report from the group concluded, referring to carbon capture, utilization, and storage.
The reality of that statement is apparent to Americans. Millions of Californians have suffered through blackouts because that state's aggressive push toward renewables and away from more reliable energy sources like coal has destabilized their regional grid.
North Dakotans and others in the upper midwest have no cause to smirk. The only thing which has kept us from a similar fate so far has been luck. The aggressive push toward wind energy in our region, flamed by heavy government subsidies and an army of arm-twisting lobbyists, has caused the amount of baseload power on our grids from coal sources to decline.
That has consequences. On at least three occasions since 2018, two of them heatwaves, and the other a deep freeze, our power grid ran dry and had to borrow electricity from neighboring grids. That those grids had it to spare is all that kept us from dangerous blackouts in the middle of extreme weather.
That's not acceptable.
That's why initiatives like Project Tundra are a necessity.
They have the potential to make cheap, reliable coal, the emissions of which have already been improved over the decades, considerably cleaner than it is now.
That's something worth pursuing, despite the political antagonism.
To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com
Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.