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Port: 'All of the above energy' is a great talking point for those who get paid to say it

The markets are so distorted by government policies, coal in North Dakota may not be able to survive. That will be devastating. Schools will close. Businesses will board up. People will move away. Whole communities will be wiped off the map. But the folks cashing checks for touting the "all of the above energy" line will have got theirs.

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Wind turbines as seen July 7, 2014, south of Wilton, N.D. Forum file photo

MINOT, N.D. — Last week talk show host Scott Hennen organized an "energy town hall" at the Civic Center in Bismarck, pitching it as a bit of a peace summit between coal and wind interests.

Though given Hennen's pro-wind leanings, we might be forgiven for perceiving it as a propaganda session.

The event was a belly flop. In a room with a 200-person capacity, just "a couple of dozen" people showed per a report from the Western Dakota Energy Association .

That poor turnout could be the product of a weariness which has set in among the people of central North Dakota when it comes to being lectured about how heavily-subsidized wind power has nothing to do with the demise of coal jobs in the region.

One of the panelists at Hennen's event was Bob Harms, a lobbyist for the wind industry, who "said competition from wind isn't really causing the shut down of coal plants," according to the WDEA report.

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That's a big whopper to swallow given that Coal Creek Station, and the thousands of jobs it supports in communities like Underwood and Washburn, will be replaced, not by natural gas or nuclear power, but wind turbines which will receive about $1 billion in subsidies over the next decade .

Honest people acknowledge the politically driven distortions in the energy marketplace, ranging from massive direct-payment subsidies to strict mandates for the use of wind or solar power, are what's driving baseload energy like coal off of power grids.

"We agreed with your decision to phase out the wind credit by 2019 and were disappointed when credit eligibility was extended for an additional year," a July letter to the chair of the Senate's Committee on Finance, signed by Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer among others, reads. "The wind industry is now mature and does not need more taxpayer subsidies. This would only exacerbate the distortive effect of wind on electricity markets."

Let that sink in.

Continuing wind subsidies "would only exacerbate the distortive effect of wind on electricity markets."

People like Harms and Hennen want us to believe that subsidized-and-mandated wind has no "distortive" impact on coal.

That's not true, as Hoeven and Cramer acknowledge in their letter.

Here's Cramer saying it, explicitly, on Twitter:

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When Hennen promoted his event, he deployed the "all of the above energy" catchphrase.

North Dakota politicians and politicos have been using that phrase for a long time, and it's intended to describe an energy landscape based on competition — what works versus what doesn't work.

Yet many of these same people, like Hennen, who use the "all of the above" talking points are also dismissive of the corrosive impact policies like wind subsidies and green energy mandates have had on competition between energy sources.

When the government is shoveling out billions of dollars every year to subsidize your competitors, when the politicians are crafting laws forcing people to use wind energy, how can we act as if that's a level playing field?

We can only conclude that many of the people talking about "all of the above" energy are liars. They used the talking point as cover while simultaneously supporting, for reasons ranging from the ideological to the remunerative, a tilt in the playing field toward wind.

Now central North Dakota communities may pay the price. The markets are so distorted by government policies, coal in North Dakota may not be able to survive.

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That will be devastating. Schools will close. Businesses will board up. People will move away. Whole communities will be wiped off the map.

But the folks cashing checks for touting the "all of the above energy" line will have got theirs.

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 rport@forumcomm.com .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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