On Energy, Finally Some Good News

I see that everything I have written today is about energy, which makes sense given that, along with general civilizational collapse, it is the defining issue of our time. So let’s finally have some good news: Duke Energy, one of America’s largest utilities, has announced that it has shifted course and will replace a retiring coal-fired power plant in North Carolina with nuclear energy rather than expensive and unreliable wind turbines. American Experiment’s Isaac Orr has the story:

Duke Energy recently made a smart announcement, outlining plans to replace one of the company’s coal-fired power plants with new small modular reactors at the Belews Creek Steam Station. In doing so, Duke is taking a “replace the existing coal plants with nuclear before retiring them” approach to ensure reliability is maintained or improved as required by [North Carolina statute] HB 951.

This is the exact strategy American Experiment and the John Locke Foundation have suggested for North Carolina and Duke Energy over the last three years, and it is a major win for our organizations.

John Locke and American Experiment collaborated on three reports on energy policy in North Carolina. American Experiment furnished the technical analysis. It is good to see that sometimes, at least, facts and logic can prevail.

Among these reports was our analysis of Duke Energy’s Carbon Plans, a report in which the utility laid out four different ways to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions in compliance with the state’s 100 percent carbon-free mandate, HB 951. Our modeling found the plans that relied heavily on wind and solar would be expensive and result in capacity shortfalls, i.e., rolling blackouts.

We also presented an alternative plan, which we called the “Least Cost Decarbonization” scenario, that relied extensively on the idea that existing coal plants should not be retired until there is a suitable, reliable nuclear plant built to replace them, as we wrote in our 2022 report:

The LCD [scenario] would utilize existing coal plants to mitigate rising natural gas prices and keep these units online until the mid-2030s, when new nuclear power plants would be brought online to replace them. This strategy is consistent with the letter — and the spirit — of HB 951, which seeks to optimize low costs and reliability by providing flexibility on the timeline for coal unit retirements. This approach would also minimize fuel supply risks for natural gas, which could be constrained by a lack of pipeline capacity.

Gradually replacing coal plants with new nuclear facilities will save hundreds of billions of dollars compared to attempting to replace them with wind, solar, and battery storage and provide a superior reliability value to North Carolinians.

Emphasis added. It is a big win, and I hope many more will follow.

Still, one has to wonder: why are these victories so hard to achieve? Why would utilities and politicians not want to save hundreds of billions of dollars? And why would they not want an electric grid that can keep the lights on?

Of course I understand the financial motive: the Democratic Party is trying to shift trillions of dollars into industries that reliably support that party’s politicians, including utilities that dance to the “green” tune. But I think the truth is darker than that. I think the Democratic Party is trying to destroy the middle class, an idea first brought to my mind by Glenn Reynolds.

Energy costs account for around 8% of the average American family’s budget, but that doesn’t include the energy costs incorporated into every good and service that we buy. And of course, it is an average. If you are a limousine liberal, the percentage is probably negligible. Whereas, if your family is living on the edge, it is much higher. But take the average: what will happen to a typical middle-class family if energy costs triple or quadruple, as current policies imply? Middle-class families will be struggling to stay viable.

I think this is not a bug, but a feature–the main feature–of liberal energy policies. For most of human history, societies have consisted of a small oligarchy at the top, a middling group–doctors, lawyers and such–scrambling to curry favor with the oligarchs, and a vast peonage struggling to get by. For a brief shining moment, America left this pattern behind, and our country consisted mostly of a prosperous and independent middle class. That situation is intolerable to liberals, and they are trying to bring it to an end, and to restore the historic, oligarchic norm. Energy policy driven by “climate change” hysteria is how they plan to get there.

So we need many more victories like the one in North Carolina.

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