Environmentalists Want You Powerless

Published August 19, 2013

The power plant closures are coming; the power plant closures are coming; the power plant closures are coming; and while no one is riding through town to announce the news, the results to America could be nearly as dire as the coming of the Redcoats. Despite millions already spent on modifications, fully functional coal-fueled power plants are being shut down—not because they are not needed but due to ideology. In fact, the Energy Information Administration predicts that electricity demand will continue to grow 0.9 percent per year until 2040 as we plug in to electricity that is becoming increasingly expensive.  

One such example is the San Juan Generating Station in New Mexico’s Four Corners area that provides about 60 percent of PNM’s (New Mexico’s primary electricity provider) total electric generation in the state. The coal-fueled plant has four generating units—two of which are being shut down due to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. The Albuquerque Journal reports that there will be “rate hikes to allow PNM to recover costs associated with the changes at San Juan.”  

The San Juan Generating Station is scheduled for closure in 2017, but the process of replacing the 340 megawatts that will be lost has already started. PNM wants to fill the need with a new natural-gas plant at the same site and by bringing in more nuclear power from the Palo Verde Generating Station in Arizona, in which PNM is already part owner. Environmentalists oppose PNM’s plan and are pushing for more renewables such as wind and solar—which will “drive costs way up.”  

But the problem with renewables isn’t just the cost or the intermittency. The problem is that environmentalists also oppose what it takes to get the natural resources needed to build, for example, a wind turbine.

The Northwest Mining Association, lists the metals and minerals needed to build one 3 megawatt wind turbine, which includes: 335 tons of steel and 4.7 tons of copper. (To replace the 340 megawatts of electricity generated at San Juan with wind would take 113 three-megawatt wind turbines—or 37,855 tons of steel and 1598 tons of copper. Since each megawatt produced requires 198 acres, 67,320 acres would be covered with wind turbines. And these figures assume “nameplate” capacity—which means they are producing electricity 24/7. Realistically, wind turbines produce power at 25-30 percent capacity. Real numbers for steel, copper, land, etc., would be 3 to 4 times higher.) Most people don’t think about where the metals and minerals come from or what it takes to recover or shape them.

Steel is an iron-based alloy that requires coal in the production process. It takes about 400 pounds of coal to produce a ton of steel. Unfortunately, the Obama administration—which is closely aligned with the environmentalists’ agenda—doesn’t seem to understand this. They are pushing for more wind turbines—with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel, “gearing up to make offshore wind energy a hallmark of her tenure,” according to the Washington Post. At the same time, environmentalists are coal’s adversaries. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), following an August 1 meeting with EPA administrator Gina McCarthy and White House legislative affairs director Michael Rodriguez, stated:  “You cannot describe this any differently than as a war on coal, and not just in West Virginia or the U.S. but on a global scale. They’re using every tool they have to destroy the most abundant, reliable and affordable resource that we have.”

In Wisconsin, a company has begun soil testing with the goal of mining iron ore in a four-mile open pit mine. Gogebic Taconite, or G-Tec, has begun exploratory drilling and is gathering samples to send to government agencies. If results show the process is safe, G-Tec will be allowed to go ahead with its plans to construct the mine in a region where mining was once the main source of revenue. “Many of those who live in the economically depressed towns nearby,” many of them are descendants of miners, according to a Fox News report:  “support the company’s efforts and look forward to the potential for much-needed jobs and growth in the region.” Yet, environmentalists are intent on blocking the project and have gone to such extremes as death threats, destroying equipment, attacking workers, and barricading roads. 

An attempt to mine copper in Alaska is facing similar opposition—albeit this time through the EPA rather than acts of eco-terrorism. The proposed Pebble mine would potentially bring up to $180 million in annual taxes and revenues to the state of Alaska. A mine plan has not been put forward, nor have the companies behind the Pebble Partnership begun the permitting process, but the EPA has spent more than $2 million in an unnecessary and controversial draft watershed assessment of the Pebble Mine. According to the Daily Caller, the EPA and environmental groups argue that the agency has the authority to preemptively veto a permit. The Pebble Partnership has spent ten years and more than $400 million in research, studies, and fieldwork but has not yet submitted any plan. Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council reports that Pebble Mine opponents urged the EPA to conduct the assessment. She states: “The EPA has the authority under the Clean Water Act to stop Pebble Mine.”

Abraham Williams, president of the pro-development nonprofit Nuna Resources, says environmental groups are active in the region. “They have people on the ground and they move around the communities very well. They are well funded. It’s amazing. They are like ants—they work everywhere.”

The war on coal, the proposed G-Tec iron ore mine in Wisconsin and on the proposed Pebble Partnership copper mine in Alaska are just a few examples of environmental opposition to extracting the metals and minerals that are needed to build the wind turbines they want installed in New Mexico—and throughout the US.

With the volume of power plants scheduled to be shut down in the next few years—nearly 300—and the combination of opposition environmentalists have to any form of electricity generation that is effective, efficient and economical, and their opposition to mining what is needed to build the renewables they want—only one conclusion can be made: environmentalists want you powerless.

When Paul Revere made his famous ride announcing that the British were coming, the pending battle was over high taxes, and the consequences threatened America’s future independence. Likewise, today the battle is over higher-cost electricity which impacts all aspects of modern life and threatens America’s economic independence.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.