Knowing their system is based on predatory capitalism, I’m not sure how “dirt cheap” their power bills were before this disaster. Having interacted with quite a few Texans here at different jobs, I’m not fond of most of them, but lets not forget it’s not all of them. Just like my strong right leaning state, there are still many people who don’t subscribe to the gop BS.
‘BODY UNCLEAR?’ No, in fact, it’s a complete sentence.
WHY does Common Dreams programming waste its time with this nonsense?
GOOD SOLUTION TO THIS WOULD BE
WINDFALL PROFITS TAX –
You have the guaranteed profit right but the rest is erroneous. Publicly owned utilities like Sacramento Municipal Utilities District are owned by the rate payers. The privately owned public utilities like PG&E are stockholder owned. SMUD’s mission statement is to provide a service. PG^E’s is to make a profit. The rate payer versus stockholder ownership argument has been going on for 100 years. Rate payer owned utilities have provided better service at cheaper prices for that entire time yet we still hear arguments that the market can do a better job. What has happened in Texas and in Califonia should put an end to that argument but you will not get the full story. California has two large rate payer owned utilities, SMUD & LA Water & Power neither of which has had any blackouts or brown outs and neither of which has been responsible for wild fires. California has two stockholder owned large utilities, PG&E & Southern California Edison. both of which have had blackouts and fires. Now which would you rather have?
The laws are already in place to change all utilities to rate payer owned but we are not told that. Every municipality could choose to incorporate its own rate payer owned utility. Municipalities own the right of ways the utilities use and pay little for. So start working with your city council or County Supervisors to take over the utilities.
Watch this space. I’ll have to get back with you tomorrow, probably around suppertime EDT. I had two unexpectedly L-O-N-G phone calls.
Yeah, it’s totally each individual consumer’s fault… that crooks and looters undermined Texas’ energy infrastructure and gamed the markets.
Your knee-jerk victim-blaming is simultaneously tiresome, and hilarious.
Henry Ford said in 1920 that ethanol was the fuel of the future. We would be using it now like Brazil if it was not for John D and his ilk. See How Big Oil Conquered the World at Corbett Report. Until oil and gas was discovered ca 1920 in So Cal all new houses in LA had to have solar hot water heaters. Some still exist. Even in the Northeast Winter that is still the most efficient. Anything that relies on battery technology is a dead end. I know of no battery system that is not extractive of a limited resource. Elon We Can coup anywhere Musk and his ilk are just as bad as John D and his ilk.
In human terms the only unlimited source of energy is the sun. It is free and plants do the hard part turning it into sugars, proteins and fats.
Induction cooking is the best especially with cast iron pans. Cheap and durable. My daughters are using pans used almost a hundred years ago by their greatgrandmother. Plus the added benefit of no toxins like teflon. People no longer know how to tend them so they end up rusting and in yard sales. From your comments I think you would enjoy David Blume’s book “Alcohol Can Be a Gas”.
All cars with fuel injection can run on 50% ethanol with no changes and any percentage up to 100% with a cheap download. Watch the movie “Pump”. Also very informative. Ethanol is very democratic. Every community could provide its own fuel from food and yard waste. Blume calculates that 30% of the US liquid fuel consumption can be provided by lawn clippings…
For example, i pay my bi-monthly combined water/sewer/trash/recycle/compost bill to Seattle Public Utilities, a municipal corporation operated on behalf of the people of Seattle - the public.
Municipally-owned, or state-owned, utilities, are public utilities.
You’re thinking of a “publicly-traded” corporation.
And recall that, when Enron went belly-up, they were in the process of putting themselves in position to game water markets in the same ways they were gaming energy markets.
Oh thanks very much and you have my appreciation as well.
I don’t agree with you on batteries being a dead end obviously but I should have brought up solar hot water which I do agree is worth doing. It doesn’t fit in with the the single set of pipes idea but with a solar hot water system, you either have water hot enough to use or if not, the electricity doesn’t need to be as strong to heat to final temperature.
I have followed alcohol a bit but from what I understand, growing so much sugar cane isn’t without problems in Brazil and of course sugar cane doesn’t grow in the lower 48 as well and I assume you’ve heard of general
Biofuels problems. Cellulosic ethanol looked interesting as it could take food waste instead of corn, but as far as I see, it hasn’t worked yet.
And having driven a BEV and a regular ICE car, the latter is really a pain in the ass and even with alcohol over gas, I prefer the BEV. If they had perfected the direct ethanol fuel cell that might have been interesting but that hasn’t worked out either.
30% of fuel from lawn clippings? Does that assume a better cellulosic process?
I’ll look for those films.
On pans: my kid is in cub scouts and I went to a training camy where one of the people speaking talked of getting can iron Dutch ovens that were rusted and using drill and wire brush and always bringing the pan back to life. I’ve never treated my cast iron gingerly and it’s never rusted-a few chips in seasoning here and there but works fine.
Thank you, always excellent comments. Sorry that we have to deal with these energy scoundrels, I’ve heard Duke is pretty bad too.
Thatcher and Reagan’s neoliberalism pushed the belief that there’s no alternative to our economic model it was based on nature, but Economics is a social science, not a natural one. It’s invented by people, and it can be changed by people.”
I lost your comment I was answering, not on this article, even. But apparently the same conversation is still happening:
You: “I may have a simplistic level of understanding of the grid, renewable energy and demand filling fossil fuel generation, but I still view us as almost completely reliant on fossil fuel systems currently. Now where renewable helps and I still want to see more rollout, is reducing the amount of fossil fuel actually consumed over a year in these systems. But outside of pumped hydro, we don’t have much renewable storage …”
A small part of a very complicated answer:
You’re right about fossil fuel (FF) dependence. The US is at 19% renewable energy (RE) electricity—7% hydro, 3% solar PV (⅓ distributed, aka rooftop) 7% wind, 1.4% biomass, .4% geothermal. Solar, wind, and geothermal could each power the country alone. It’s 20% nuke so 60% is still from FFs, mostly gas now. Total RE electricity passed grid coal in 2019 and I’ll be so happy in several ways when we can say we also passed gas… but we’re not there yet. To renewablize all our energy we have to electrify transport, heating, and industry, although eventually many buildings should be clothesline paradox energy—passive solar with built-in storage in the form of walls, eg. Most transport should be mass public transit and rail, including high speed rail to replace flying and long-distance driving. RE recharging systems for public and private EVs need to be set up to use RE.
But right now, only 10% of our primary energy is RE and of course none is nuke. Primary energy is maybe 3 times the size of the electrical grid, so the vast majority of US energy is still from FFs. Electrifying primary energy is so efficient it will save ⅓ to ½ of the energy used on it so the job isn’t quite as daunting as it seems and is doable, but still, a huge task.
Although it provides ancillary services (voltage regulation, etc.) there’s little need for storage until the grid has a lot more variable renewable electricity than almost anywhere in the US has now. Opinions differ but for the US it seems from studies and other countries’ experience  we could get up to at least 60% RE electricity, maybe 75%, with almost no storage—if we do it right. The ways to do well without storage are by:
- connecting into larger grids with an optimal mix of variable and dispatchable clean safe renewable sources; what Texas has refused to do so they could avoid federal regulation. That was a big part of the failure this time and others. Widely distributed generation draws power from different sources, time zones and weather patterns. And solar and wind’s different rhythms of peaking complement each other through the course of both a day and a year. (Hydro, too, somewhat, peaking in spring.)
So the US can draw power from existing or potential Canadian and NW US hydro, SW PV and 24/7 CSP, western geothermal, midwestern wind, west Texas nighttime wind, coastal and Gulf offshore wind for the duck curve—the quick drop and ramp up as people go home evenings and then switch everything on at once. There’s eastern hydro and offshore wind—almost zilch now but with enough potential to supply the whole east coast’s energy. Offshore wind has a marginal capacity factor of more than 60% and it’s still rising. (Gas is about 55% and coal is now 48%. 
There will also be west coast offshore wind. At the end of Jerry Brown’s term as gov. he pushed through a bunch of RE bills, but the legislature, for reasons passing understanding, didn’t pass the one that would have connected the state better to eastern grids. Now California’s stuck with lots of solar and even some wind, that could be sold east to flatten other states’ ducks, etc. but without the connections, renewable energy gets wasted—“curtailed”. California’s building some batteries, even bigger than Tesla’s big bat, the Hornsdale Power Reserve (150 MW), but connecting is, so far, cheaper and probably more ecological than storage.
There are 70,000 dams over six feet tall and 60,000 dams over thirteen feet tall not used for power in the US. (How many depends on what sizes are included.) We could improve stream ecology all over the country by knocking down most of them down and still add considerable amounts of near-dispatchable power to the grid.
Huge Global Study Just Smashed One of The Last Major Arguments Against Renewables
Study: 530,000 potential pumped storage sites worldwide; could total 22,000 TWh. World annual energy use is 18 TWh.
More Pumped Storage Than Previously Believed
April 2, 2019
“We just got some massive news in the ongoing drive to switch to renewable energy: scientists have identified 530,000 sites worldwide suitable for pumped-hydro energy storage, capable of storing more than enough energy to power the entire planet.”
"We identified so many potential sites that much less than the best 1% will be required.”
Geothermal has the potential to provide somewhere between several and several thousand times the energy we need, depending on what level of technology gets used. And it’s dispatchable without storage.
There’s a way to do all this that’s cheap, fast, efficient, and ecological, and ways that are less so. We have to have a national coordinating authority to take ecological and cultural factors into consideration as well as optimal power. The US WWII mobilization is a great model to start with but we can do even better.
Federal control and international treaties will be necessary, but for it to be any of those things we need, it needs to finally be a truly democratic and radically progressive federal government, which will take a peaceful revolution to create. It’s the only way for civilization to survive, so it’s not a question of anything but when.
Texas’ grid-isolationism to avoid federal regulation is like the states’ rights part of the southern (and not so southern) battle to preserve segregation. It’s part of their attempt to be warlords ruling over their own fiefdom and is not only leading to suffering by those not in the ruling group, but to fascism. It will get worse unless the US steps in and forces (grid) integration on them. It will be tough at this point with all the right wing judges, but it’s what we have to do.
- Demand response—lots of strategies to shift demand to peak supply times, starting with pricing structures.
Besides pumped hydro and grid batteries there are ice air conditioners and EV batteries already being used, and lots of different battery chemistries are either ready to be expanded or close to it, with different qualities that can be chosen to suit particular needs—light or energy dense ones for EVs, heavy or bulky but cheap and ecological for grid batteries.
 Canada 66% RE, Nordic grid 66%, New Zealand 82, Iceland 100 (and 81% RE primary energy) Iberian grid 46, Costa Rica, Belize, and 20 other countries at or near 100% RE grids based on hydro, as well as more than 40 other countries with mostly renewable grids. All this and more has been done with virtually no battery storage.
Thanks for the reply. I was aware of much of that information but not that new assessment of pumped hydro. I only knew of one pumped hydro installation along the eastern slope of I-70 in Colorado which was of course fresh water so I wasn’t thinking of pumping sea water which opens up a lot of options though I imagine costs go up to work with more corrosive water.
Some day I’ll have to look up a few statistics I need to understand things better:
what is the total peak power production of non-RE (nuclear + fossil fuels) relative to the peak of consumption? Hydro and geothermal don’t have to be load balanced so I can see how this number might be less than 100% but I’m thinking it isn’t much less. It could be less if one could absolutely depend on there being some wind happening somewhere in the US, but I had assumed they don’t do that. Numbers you provided were average production numbers but part of that comes from load balancing plants which ramp up and down in response to renewable and demand ups and downs.
What are transmission losses when you try to even out renewable energy across the country. We lose about 5% now from transmission losses now - does that not go up a lot if you try to move power from CA to NY? Is a move to high voltage DC for long runs going to help a lot?
Well, if I understand the first question, it seems to me I’ve seen the information in some of the 100% RE studies that looked at hourly needs. I don’t remember where, though it might be in one of these: ~https://grist.org/article/global-carbon-emissions-are-on-the-rise-but-dont-let-that-dash-your-hopes/#comment-4242165412
There absolutely IS always wind blowing somewhere in the US. In fact I’m sure there’s never been an hour in any single state in which there was no wind. There are figures and maps for potential capacity factors at various heights for the whole US; most common I’ve seen is 80 meters, considerably less even, than cutting edge onshore turbines, which are slowly converging on 499 feet because of FAA permitting hassles above that.
Peak load in most places and thus the US as a whole is summer afternoons most years; of course also peak supply for solar, so only backwards places where they let ALEC, Koch and Exxon have too much influence have to worry about that now. But even in those places there’s some solar now, so peak load always is less than 100%. That’s what creates the huge ramp up problem of the duck curve, but with the regional strengths I listed above combined with local resources of whatever SWWE is available (solar is big in Massachusetts, eg) long distance transmission wouldn’t be needed that much, and almost always would moves electricity only 1 time zone or weather pattern.
Transmission over 1000 miles loses about 2%. But you never have to push electrons from California to New York. It works like a bathtub; you run water in at one end and the water in each spot shifts a little to fill even the far end. The water coming out of the faucet doesn’t have to travel the whole 5 feet.
The 5% is system loss that I’m sure could be reduced quite a bit by the necessary updates and upgrades, as China has done to most of its grid to accommodate solar and even more, wind.
HVDC is definitely the way to go. The story of how we got where we are shows how insane a system we have, when the “war of the currents” between Edison and Westinghouse for control in the US degenerated into the horrific “stunt” of the first electric chair.
David Roberts—excellent at splaining such things—has a series of articles on transmission at his new site