Planet Gore

What the FERC Is He Talking About?

So far, the Obama administration has been kind of fun in that you can at least watch his run-of-the-mill socialist mind at work. He’s going to raise taxes, spend our way out of a recession, redistribute wealth, nationalize health care, and make friends with Cuba, Venezuela, and Iran. You know sooner or later these things will blow up in his face and make him an easy target in four years.


But what happened Wednesday had the ring of cold terror (and not the kind that comes from overseas).
On Earth Day, Jon Wellinghoff — President Obama’s month-old pick as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — claimed that we may never have to build base-load coal or nuclear power plants again. Windmills are going to take care of everything. (“Base load” comes from power plants that run night and day, keeping the world running; “intermediate load” is added during the day when demand rises; “peak load” is the high point reached, say, on hot summer days when everybody turns on the AC.)


Here are Wellinghoff’s exact words:

I think baseload capacity is going to become an anachronism. Baseload capacity really used to only mean in an economic dispatch, which you dispatch first, what would be the cheapest thing to do. Well, ultimately wind’s going to be the cheapest thing to do, so you’ll dispatch that first.  People talk about, ‘Oh, we need baseload.’ It’s like people saying we need more computing power, we need mainframes. We don’t need mainframes, we have distributed computing.

Let me tell you, anybody who says this hasn’t the slightest idea what he’s talking about. This is just boilerplate picked up from a hundred handouts by environmental groups. (For an analysis of why wind won’t work, see here.) It’s almost superfluous to note here that Wellinghoff is a lawyer and not an engineer. 


What Wellinghoff has said is identical to what Jerry Brown — “Governor Moonbeam” — announced when he decided to put California on the “soft energy path” in 1980. The Golden State didn’t build any new base-load power plants for 20 years. It practiced draconian conservation, subsidized every conceivable form of so-called renewable energy from wind farms to solar collectors to burning old tires for electricity — and by 2000, it didn’t have enough electricity to run its traffic lights.
That’s the road we’re now going down as a nation. This isn’t some wild-eyed pamphleteer from Greenpeace talking. This is the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FERC has to give its permission before any new power plant in the country can be built.


Start laying in diesel generators. It’s going to be a rough ride.

William Tucker — Mr. Tucker is author of Terrestrial Energy: How Nuclear Power Will Lead the Green Revolution and End America’s Energy Odyssey.


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