Tomlinson on Texas Electricity: Houston Chronicle Editorialist in the Wrong Paradigm

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From Master Resource

By Robert Bradley Jr.

When it comes to energy, Chris Tomlinson is about as anti-consumer and anti-taxpayer as one can get. And he is about as pro-industrial wind and pro-grid solar as possible.

The business editorialist does not see Texas’s $65 billion investment in parasitic, dilute, intermittent energies as the villain in destabilizing a once reliable, secure electric grid. He wants 1) more wind and solar; 2) enormous grid batteries, as if they were off-the-shelf and cheap; and 3) Big Brother demand-management in the home and business.

Chris Tomlinson is a committed climate alarmist without a care to doubt himself. He is unable to be neutral in his business columns: to present the best arguments on each side and let you, the reader, decide. No, he has decided for you in his Church of Climate.

And don’t forget his boner prediction made just before Storm Uri: :“Fossil fuel-supporting Chicken Littles have done their best to spread fear of renewable energy, warning that relying on wind, solar and storage would lead to blackouts and economic devastation.” Yes, it happened just as predicted.

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Tomlinson’s latest, “Texas to spend billions to boost its dependency on fossil fuels,” is rebutted below.

The top regulators of the Texas electrical grid confirmed last week that they will put short-term profits for the state’s largest Republican donors over the future of life on Earth by misleading the public about the clean energy transition.

Comment: Tomlinson immediately smears the opposition for a conflict of interest and bad politics. But Tomlinson enjoys the millionaire lifestyle because … his spouse is a renewable multi-millionaire! Chris, why not deal with the substantive arguments as a serious business editorialist?

Public Utility Commission Chair Peter Lake proved himself to be a politician’s tool by declaring that reliance on clean energy threatens Texans. In one breath, he swears to the Legislature that he is agnostic about the technology used to generate electricity and in the next misleads Texans about grid reliability.

Comment: “Politician’s tool” is what you get when you politicize any industry–and a reason to promote government-neutral free energy markets. Second, one can be “technologically neutral” and not support wind and solar on economic grounds, because both those industries would largely collapse without special government favor that penalizes ratepayers, current taxpayers, and future taxpayers. Duplicating and weakening the grid is the fault of government wind and solar.

At last week’s press conference, Gov. Greg Abbott’s appointee said he wants to burn more coal and natural gas and ignore climate concerns. While the rest of the world is successfully transitioning to primarily renewable energy, Lake made Texas’ success sound like a failure.

Comment: No, Peter Lake wants to employ the best energies to prevent a debacle and stop the recurring “conservation alerts” given to Texas from wind and solar. In case Tomlinson hasn’t noticed, the world is in a tripartite global fossil fuel boom: oil, natural gas, and coal. And despite government mandates and subsidies to duplicate the electricity grid (and, now, the transportation network).

Texas is the Poster Child of wind and solar run wild–and the State paid a very high price for replacing the reliables with the unreliables, a story told told elsewhere at MasterResource.

“For the first time, the peak demand for electricity this summer will exceed the amount that we can generate from on-demand, dispatchable power, so we will be relying on renewables to keep the lights on,” he said ominously. “On the hottest days of summer, there is no longer enough on-demand, dispatch-able power generation to meet demand in the ERCOT system.”

Comment: And imagine if just some of the $65 billion wastage had gone to reliable capacity. Wounding the supply side with dilute, intermittent, weather-fickle supply is a political fool’s errand.

What are the odds of a blackout due to the wind not generating enough electricity at night? Less than 1 percent, ERCOT CEO Pablo Vargas explained, about the same odds of a blackout from the failure of natural gas and coal power plants, such as the one that killed hundreds of Texans in 2021.

Comment: Studies, estimates … This is a sign of a politicized, centralized market, not a consumer-driven free market. Let the market decide and be done with duelling studies and editorialist opinions.

“The grid is as reliable as it has ever been,” Vargas said, trying to inject some reality into Lake’s fearmongering. “We expect the grid to be reliable this summer.”

Comment: End the wind and solar penetration and we will believe you. But natural gas is coming to the rescue.

The biggest donors to Texas’ Republican party own or work for fossil fuel businesses. Despite data and a half-dozen engineering reports showing the natural gas network triggered the 2021 blackouts, political appointees like Lake have tried to demonize wind energy.

Comment: If you want big money and big corporations out of energy politics, remove government from energy. Any government rearrangement of profit opportunities will attract political activity from the regulated.

One example of his ignorance is that Lake keeps calling them “windmills,” which no energy professional would ever do. The devices that turn wind into electricity do not mill grain; they spin turbines large enough to electrify dozens of homes.

Comment: Small potatoes, Chris. And Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary supports his use of the term: “windmill”: “a wind-driven … electric generator.” This nitpick could have freed the space for a more substantive treatment of the central issue: how to deal with a wounded grid.

Lake is not alone in his desire to keep warming the planet with carbon dioxide; he is only a cog in a Republican machine seeking to raise natural gas demand.

Comment: Vague and unpersuasive, Chris. A qualitative change toward warming begs the question of specifics. Global lukewarming and CO2 fertilization negate the alarmist narrative. IPCC scare-model scenarios need a big haircut. And show me your time series data on weather extremes to see about the trends.

If successful, Republicans will ensure Texas consumers will over-invest in a fading technology that will weigh on their electricity bills, contribute to a hotter planet, trigger more drastic climate action later and massively under-invest in the clean technology that will dominate the next century.

Comment: Natural gas combined cycle is “fading technology”? It is the technology to beat!

The fossil fuel industry’s mojo remains powerful at the Legislature, if not totally unchecked.

Comment: Politics begets politics. The government-enabled takeover of the Texas grid by wind and solar started this. Ken Lay, George W. and Rick Perry.

A plan to spend $18 billion on 10 natural gas power plants that we should never need is foundering. Insiders say Senate Bill 6 will die in the House after almost every industry group opposed it, though resuscitation is possible before May 20. Another plot to give for-profit corporations $10 billion in interest-free loans to build more natural gas power plants is alive and well. Senate Bill 2627, which a House committee will consider today, would also provide generators with a completion bonus for putting new megawatts on the grid.

Comment: Texas has a wounded grid thanks to government policy. Now what? Don’t like this recipe for reliability? Then support the obvious policy: ending the wind/solar takeover of the grid. No new capacity, retire existing capacity. Improve margins for the reliables via a free and fair market.

Last year, fossil fuel generators told lawmakers they wanted more money, and they’ll likely get it. But bigger issues around the wholesale electricity market remain undecided.

Comment: That’s right. Screw thermal generation with government here, expect to pay for reliable service there.

Lake and Vargas claimed their press conference was to keep Texas consumers informed, but it appeared designed to save their favored market plan. Senators and House members both hate Lake’s cockamamie Performance Credit Mechanism, and the current version of Senate Bill 2012 would kneecap it….

Lake and Vargas are right about one thing. The hours between when the sun sets and the night winds begin will be the tightest this summer. But other grids with the same problem have found better solutions that Texas’ leaders intend to ignore: managing demand and storing energy. New technology is the answer, not more crony capitalism.

CommentCrony Capitalism? Wind and solar got there first and in spades. And two decades ago, right up until today. New Technology? Wind and solar are old failed technologies with proof-of-concepts in the 1880s, another story.

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Chris Tomlinson, named 2021 columnist of the year by the Texas Managing Editors, writes commentary about money, politics and life in Texas. Sign up for his “Tomlinson’s Take” newsletter….

Comment: The establishment newspapers and their associations reward each other for their shared narratives. The Houston Chronicle (Hearst) refuses to answer the simple question: Have environmental groups donated funds, directly or indirectly, for “environmental education” or “environmental reporting” (climate alarmism/forced energy transformation)? Color me suspicious….

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