Reducing Carbon Emissions

For years, the U.S. has wrestled with the challenge of reducing carbon emissions in the electric sector. Coal is the largest polluter, and was the largest source of electricity, so it became the prime target. There’s been success – coal provides about half of the electricity it did a few years ago. However, there remains cause for concern.

The electrical system is predictable and plannable. A certain number of electrons must enter the system to supply electricity for the needs of those who use them. Use varies but does not change drastically from year to year. But legislators and regulators jumped in and said ‘let’s just convert everything to renewables.’ Unfortunately, they focused on wind and solar, which are intermittent.

The best resources for electrical generation are easily controlled. Turn them up when you need more power; turn them down when you need less. Controllable supply resources are nuclear, geothermal, battery and hydro. These fill in for intermittent power, making it reliable.

It would be logical to balance renewables with controllable power sources while decreasing fossil fuel resources. In Oregon, we spent millions of taxpayer dollars subsidizing wind farms with poorly managed grant programs. Wind turbines produce 20 to 30 percent of what they could because wind does not blow all the time. In California, they went ‘all in’ on solar. Yes, there is a lot of sun there during the day, but it’s gone at night. This has left California with a sizable deficit in the evening hours. Federally, renewable developers get production tax credits. This has caused legal problems for utilities that try managing intermittent power as they are not allowed to turn the renewables down when the power is not needed. Controllable methods of producing power are essential.

Coal plants have been pressured to close rapidly without proper development of controllable resources. This has resulted in the development of a number of NEW natural gas-fired plants, which pollute the air!

Fortunately, Oregon and Washington have had the benefit of the federal hydro system to act as the renewable and controllable resource. Right now, leaders in both states are actively fighting to have a large part of the system dismantled on the Lower Snake River and to make other dams less efficient by increasing water spill over them. Would everyone prefer to replace that power with gas-fired generators, or have blackouts? California has been dealing with blackouts the last few years as they can’t replace all the solar power after dark. This week they announced a new $5 billion plan to solve their blackout problem. They are going to keep old gas and diesel plants online instead of decommissioning them so the plants can be turned on when power demand is high. $5 billion spent – with worse emissions – now there is a government plan.

Are we headed there next?

-Curt Abbott
Subdivision 3: Mapleton, South Beach, Swisshome, Waldport, Yachats