Watch the renewable energy misinformation fly during the February 18 legislative hearing on SB 2313.
Contact senators. Demand no votes. Probably won’t do much good. But still.
North Dakota Senate Bill 2313 is willful ignorance at its worst.
In a nutshell, the bill (read it here) seeks to protect the dying coal industry by seriously impeding renewable energy development in the state.
If this short-sighted, GOP-backed legislation passes, renewable energy development will only be allowed in North Dakota if it’s backed up by coal-generated electricity. No-one will be able to build a solar or wind farm unless the developer or subsequent owner has a contract with a coal-fired plant to provide power during periods of intermittency, i.e., when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.
One might ask which fossil-fuel-fired plant is going to jump at the opportunity. The answer is clear – none. Those facilities’ interests are in maintaining the status quo of burning coal. Which means the ultimate result will be no new renewable energy development in North Dakota.
In addition – almost as a depraved afterthought – the bill will repeal chapter 17-01 of the North Dakota Century Code, which established a goal of generating 25 percent of the state’s energy using renewable resources by 2025.
This bill would hasten the costly effects of global warming and climate change, and it’s not alone; SB 2313 is only one of 22 coal-coddling bills introduced in the N.D. Legislature this session.
Coal is in its death throes, yet N.D. Republicans are determined to prop it up, even if that means cutting the state’s own legs out from under us before we’ve even had a chance to stand with the world in building the future we need to survive as a species.
GOP Tries to Blame Renewables for Texas Coal & Gas Weather Woes
Given what we’ve heard from GOP elected officials over the past couple of days, N.D. Republicans likely will argue in the February 18 hearing that the blackouts in Texas are due to renewables, and bills like SB 2313 are necessary to ensure North Dakotans don’t suffer a similar fate.
Which is bullshit.
In reality, only 10-13 percent of power distribution failures in Texas were due to issues with solar or wind facilities (the “frozen wind turbine” fallacy). The other 87-90 percent was due to equipment malfunctions at coal and natural gas facilities and distribution networks.
Furthermore, Texas secured its own fate years ago when it insisted on having its own grid, separate from the rest of the country, to avoid federal regulation. The disconnect has meant Texas has not been able to access available power from adjacent states or regions.
GOP elected officials are even trying to blame what’s happening in Texas on the Green New Deal. Given the fact that the Green New Deal hasn’t passed Congress, let alone become law, it doesn’t get any more absurd than that.
We can expect to hear more of this nonsense in the hearing.
“Stupid is as Stupid Does”
It’s important to understand that the GOP holds approximately 85 percent of the seats in the N.D. Legislature. Out here, what the GOP wants, by gawd, the GOP’s gonna get.
That’s why the rest of the nation, and indeed the world, should pay heed. One doesn’t dig coal or pump oil with no intention of burning it. Whatever comes out of the ground here is going to be in your air, your water and your atmosphere all too soon.
The buggers want every last filthy drop, too.
If there’s any doubt, listen to N.D. Petroleum Council President Ron Ness, speaking before the N.D. House Energy and Natural Resources Committee about HB 1452, one of the other 21 oil- and coal-coddling bills. He made the objective of the state’s Republicans and their out-of-state fossil fuel allies quite clear:
“What can we do as a state to ensure we do not leave 800 years of coal in the ground or leave one of the top 10 oil fields in the world undercapitalized and underdeveloped?”
Eight hundred years.
According to the science, humanity only has nine or 10 years to reduce carbon emissions by at least 45 percent to avoid catastrophic tipping points. We’re already seeing localized catastrophes that repeatedly make the point with increasing costs, damage and loss of life.
Coddling Coal Makes Zero Sense
Coal simply cannot compete with renewable energy anymore. Why should taxpayers continue to prop up an energy source that is, first, more expensive than renewables, and second, is destroying the planet?
This, while the potential for renewable energy generation in North Dakota is practically unlimited.
Here the wind blows. Here the sun shines. Here the power can be generated less expensively, with less damage to Earth, more jobs and other economic benefits for taxpayers.
And with coming advances in battery technologies, intermittency will no longer be an issue.
But instead of getting ahead of clean opportunities, North Dakota’s GOP is clinging to a dirty past. In the process, it’s positioning the state to be even further behind other states and the rest of the world in the race to create a better, more equitable and sustainable future. Rather than “building back better” and reaping the rewards of renewables, it’s ensuring the state’s citizens will pay the price.
At best, the N.D. GOP is shoving its head in the sand, determined to avoid the lignite coal markings on the wall. At worst, it’s succeeding at willfully failing, making our situation worse in the process.
Either way, they’re taking North Dakota, the nation and the world for a filthy, destructive, coal-powered ride.
View recording of the Feb. 18, 2021 hearing on SB 2313 before the N.D. Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee. Ryan Warner, founder of Lightspring LLC in Bismarck, N.D., provided testimony in opposition to the bill. Pay close attention to the end of Warner’s testimony, when Republican committee members use fossil fuel industry talking points to counter his arguments.
The committee reconvened in the afternoon, and after accepting an amendment to the bill, issued a “Do pass” recommendation on a 5-1 vote. Sen. Merrill Piepkorn, D-District 44, cast the lone vote in opposition. He is the only Dem-NPL senator on the committee.
Coal, gas and oil pulled out of the ground in this state will soon be in everyone’s water, air and atmosphere.
Cover image via Shutterstock.