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Who Can Solve the Mysterious Energy Cost Increases?

Ian Opaluch, of WPRI, provides the latest forum for local politicians to go after National Grid for seeking a 53% increase in its energy rates.  Says Democrat Lieutenant Governor Daniel McKee: “National Grid’s proposed 53-percent standard offer rate increase is unacceptable. Another rate hike is a step in the wrong direction when it comes to making Rhode Island a better place to live, work and own a business.”  Republican Senator Elaine Morgan calls the request “unconscionable.”  

But there’s a mystery:

… Laws in Rhode Island prohibit National Grid from making a profit on the energy supply itself, and the company said the price hike is necessary to deal with rising energy costs.

In addition, the price increase would not affect delivery fees, so the average bill would go up by about 19% if the rate hike is approved, according to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

In short, National Grid won’t profit from this increase, but rather is just passing increased costs along.  What could be driving the request, then?

Rhode Islanders should wonder how any reporters could cover this issue without noting the culpability of state governments.  Even with fracking holding down the price of energy worldwide, New England politicians are happy to cave to activists on actions like shutting down the Brayton Point energy plant, delaying and maybe stopping a new energy facility in Burrillville, forcing us all pay for expensive renewable energy mandates, imposing additional taxes on fossil fuels, and on and on.

Morgan is right; it is unconscionable for Rhode Islanders to be saddled with skyrocketing energy costs when our country is becoming a world leader in energy production.  But the people taking the unconscionable actions are those who work in the same building as Morgan and McKee.  Every year, they take many steps in the wrong direction, across a variety of issues.

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The New England-Based Energy Supply Shrinks

From an aesthetic and health point of view, Michael Holtzman’s Fall River Herald report certainly doesn’t bother me:

“The decision is irreversible,” a spokesman for Brayton Point Power Station, along 300 acres fronting Mount Hope Bay, told The Herald News in an hour-long phone interview.

It’s “the permanent retirement” of coal-powered Brayton Point, not “mothballing” the 1,488-megawatt plant, said David Onufer, external communications and media relations manager for Houston-based Dynegy Inc.

Still, we need energy.  Right now, thanks largely to fracking, we’re enjoying a period of relatively cheap energy, but that could change.  If it does, the effect will be analogous to the increase of interest rates after a household has put itself into a great deal of debt during a time of cheap credit.

As a society, we’ve let environmental concerns rise up on the scale relative to the production of energy and all of the uses to which we put it.  Some crisis may or may not shock us to the realization that we went too far, but clearing the landscape of existing energy sources while blocking anything that isn’t a fashionable, subsidized, “green” alternative seems reckless on its face.

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Reminder: Low Energy Costs Are Good!

Contrary to the implicit beliefs of environmentalist zealots, this is a good thing:

… rates for all of 2016 were generally low throughout New England. Mild weather and the lowest natural gas prices since 1999 drove overall wholesale energy prices to their lowest point since 2003, according to Gordon van Welie, president and CEO of ISO-New England, the operator of the regional power grid.

Despite the fact that low energy costs help people, especially the poor and working class, the Left wants to close down power plants, like the one at Brayton Point in Somerset and to prevent new sources of energy, like the proposed natural gas plant in Burrillville.

Unfortunately, it isn’t clear that the general public makes the connection between environmentalism and energy prices strongly enough for a reasonable balance to overcome heated rhetoric and numbers games.

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