There are two constants in the world (besides the speed of light of 186,296 MPS), we don’t learn from history, and pick an energy source and there is an upset environmentalist somewhere. Before we get into the meat and potatoes of this month’s blog, a history lesson; and of course, it involves the actions of the state of California. I consistently find California as the most irresponsible financially/economically run state in the nation. In the early 1990’s, California made a very good life style decision: they would build no more power plants in the state and they would import their power needs from surrounding states and that power would be from clean hydroelectric power, Hoover Dam, Grand Coulee dam and numerous dams in Idaho (over 80% of Idaho’s electricity is from hydro). However California’s economic myopia in the 1990’s was paramount. They had already banned nuclear power in the state, and over the next decade, two power plants in the state closed, reducing the state’s ability for emergency power if the need should arise. The 1990’s was without a doubt, the best decade of the 20th century. It was the information age. Everyone bought, computers and cell phones, supplied by components made in California (very power intensive), people moved to the Golden state demanding more power, people’s income increased and they bought more appliances needing power, there was the Enron scandal which generated some fabricated outages, and the “Pierce de resistance” (assume a French accent), was a drought in the year 2000 that reduced power sent to California by 30%. As a result, during that summer, California experienced blackouts (imagine the financial section of Boston or New York with no power, and imagine traffic with no power to the stop lights) and rolling brownouts. Governor Gray, who had presidential aspirations, tried to put the entire blame on Enron, but that accounted for only a small portion. As a result, the state found the error of their ways and lifted the moratorium on building new power plants; however it required a painful lesson.
We now fast forward to the present day. The Cape wind project which was to produce 130 wind generators 13 mile off the coast of Hyannis, and would have supplied the Cape with 1/3 of its electricity needs was defeated by environmentalists. A gas line to Massachusetts and NH to supply cheap, clean natural gas (LNG has ½ the pollutants of coal) was defeated by environmentalists and the northern pass transmission lines across NH which would supply clean hydro power to New England from Quebec is in danger of being defeated.
Once again extreme mental myopia could lead to a minor disaster (and I consider blackouts and brownouts a minor disaster). If I was you, I’d buy a generator.
John Tommasi is a retired Senior Lecturer of Economics & Finance from Bentley University and the University of New Hampshire.