Welcome to 2022, barbarians.
Let’s get after it.
Yung Nuclear ft. Aidan Swanson. One of my goals on the podcast is to talk to people all across the age spectrum. America has a lot of generational divides. That’s a shame for a great number of reasons. So, I was happy that young gun and current student at Creighton, Aidan Swanson, was willing to take time to talk to me about his research into RTOs, nuclear, and decarbonization. This interview brightened my day—and I learned a lot!
The Nuclear Titan Himself ft. Bret Kugelmass. Bret and I had a blast doing this one. I’m really looking forward to collaborating with him however we choose to do that in the future. He’s a wealth of knowledge and insight. If you haven’t listened to this one yet, give it a go.
Best Books I Read in 2021. Here’s a little listicle of the books I most enjoyed reading this year.
Reality Bats Last: Magical Thinking in Texas. George Angwin (yes that George Angwin) has a new blog. Here’s a post from it on ERCOT and winterization. George makes a good point: infrastructure talks, bullshit walks. And what we’ve seen in Texas seems to be a lot of bullshit that has, at best, provided marginal gains in resilience as it focuses on small policy issues rather than the actual physical durability of the grid. I’m writing this on Friday, you’re reading this on Saturday. If you’re reading this in the morning, know that the forecast for Texas this weekend is not good. Let’s pray ERCOT holds up or that the forecast is wrong. How long will we do this stupid dance?
New England is an Energy Crisis Waiting to Happen. In keeping with the Angwin theme, Meredith’s book is favorably cited in this helpful Doomberg piece on the fragility of the New England grid. I appreciate this piece explaining quite clearly what’s going on with the Jones Act and shipping LNG that has made New England dependent on overseas imports when a pipeline would solve the problem. I’ll be rereading this one. Lots to learn.
Power battle in the Tennessee Valley: Jackson solar farm sparks power battle. This piece is paywalled. Luckily, Fred Stafford has a thread walking through what’s happening. A local co-op wants to undercut the TVA by selling cheaper electricity from a solar project they intend to build. The TVA naturally opposes this action. Greens react in horror and feel oppressed by a monopoly. This kind of tale dates back to the seventies. I’ve been asked to write a long-form piece that’ll address some of this history. It’ll be out in the summer.
Solar’s dirty secrets: How solar power hurts people and the planet. Brian Gitt used to be a solar guy. Now he’s not. And he’s written this helpful piece on solar’s downsides. I particularly liked his policy recommendations at the end.
American Energy, Chinese Ambition, and Climate Realism. This piece by C. Boyden Gray in American Affairs has a lot of great stuff in it. I don’t agree with all of his prescriptions at the end—why focus on advanced alone when we could also deregulate traditional nuclear, for example—but this piece makes a point most people don’t seem to understand: adding renewables builds energy independence for China (they’re building nuke plants too of course) because they have those rare earth mineral supply chains on lock. That means adding more renewables in the US leads to energy dependence. That’s the politics of it.
As I write this, the German government is poised to close down three nuclear plants in the midst of an energy crisis. Earlier this year, New York state shut down Indian Point. Palisades in Michigan seems likely to switch off.
How did we get here?
For the last fifty or so years, there’s been a sustained war against energy and abundance. We have, instead, seen a flowering of “efficiency” and debt. Austerity has become a virtue rather than a crisis response. The bulk of this thinking and institutional restructuring was born during the energy crisis of the 1970s. Big is bad and plenty is dangerous.
Since then, it appears we’ve slid into what Bifo Berardi called the “slow cancellation of the future.” Most people have confined this trajectory to culture and politics. Few, if any, have considered energy in this light. And yet here we are: watching elite interest groups and various politicians and bureaucrats reckon how we’re going to provide less energy to people.
We can read this as a war on nuclear, or we can read it another way. I read it thusly: it’s a war on freedom. And that’s because energy is freedom. Without it, we can’t do much. The consequences of these actions will be felt by those with much to lose and administered by those with much to spare.
If we keep on this path we will enter into an energy oligarchy.
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