We can all take a deep breath now, the disaster has been averted.
Disaster? What disaster?
Just a few months ago the U.S., and in particular the eastern part of the country, was much closer to a disaster than anyone was led to believe. As the arctic cold and winds of the Polar Vortex pounded America, leaving us with 20-degree below zero temperatures and 50-degree below wind chills in Van Wert County, the strain on the country’s electrical grid and power supply was massive. In fact, reports released earlier this week show if only one more power plant had gone offline for repairs, blackouts for large portions of the East Coast would have occurred.
Let us say that again: No electricity in 20-degree below zero weather.
Whew. We were lucky, but why are we mentioning this now?
Due to Environmental Protection Agency regulations enacted five years ago, 20 percent of the nation’s coal-fired power plants will be closed started January 1, 2015. These plants are primarily located in the eastern half of the country.
Those closings mean the problems are just beginning for a reliable electricity supply in the U.S. As was pointed out in a Senate committee meeting earlier this week, 89 percent of the coal electricity due to be shut down was used last winter to meet demand. In other words, if those plants had closed down on January 1, 2014 instead of next year, hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses would have been left without power during the worst of the arctic weather.
Some of those dire warnings come from the electricity producing companies themselves. A spokesman from American Electric Power, Nick Akins, said, “I worry about the potential of brownouts and blackouts if we’re actually depending on this generation that’s going to be retired.” Industry analysts also said the country is not close to being ready for the plants to shut down and maintain current levels of usage.
The threat is about to get even worse. New, more stringent regulations are being introduced by the Obama administration that would close another estimated 20 percent of coal-fired plants. At that point, U.S. power production could not keep up with normal demand, let alone usage in an extreme case.
Imagine how many people will die in America if they are stuck in homes with no power and heat next February. Think of the numbers who will perish next summer without air conditioning, especially in the cities, when the heat and humidity top 100 degrees.
We are not arguing against the country attempting to move to cleaner power production. We are not arguing coal is the cleanest of fuels or that it does not pollute the air.
What we are arguing for is some common sense. If the country is not in position to replace the lost electricity supply, then the regulations must be delayed. The Obama administration has already imposed more than 30 delays to the Affordable Care Act because of the ineptitude of a website. How much more important is a safe and reliable power supply than a website?