Weekend Media Roundup: Platts Energy Week, National Review, and The American Spectator

by William Yeatman on April 21, 2014

in Blog

Platts Energy Week with Bill Loveless: On yesterday morning’s Platts Energy Week with Bill Loveless, Platts Associate Editor Bobby McMahon reported that utility industry sources are claiming that “80% of the [coal-fired power] plants that were relied upon in the winter months will be shut down next year” due to the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, a.k.a. the “utility MACT.” If true, this is a big deal.

Up to twenty-five perfect of the nation’s coal-fired power plant fleet is set to retire rather than comply with the Utility MACT. Because these power plants are all subject to the same deadline, we’re talking about a wholesale shift in the electricity industry, occurring literally overnight. Somewhat troublingly, we don’t really know what to expect when the rule kicks in. EPA performed a reliability analysis of the Utility MACT, but the agency’s work was shredded by an informal analysis conducted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

McMahon’s interview, reposted below, is eye-opening, insofar as it demonstrates the looming uncertainty that now plagues the electric industry as a result of the Utility MACT. As McMahon tells Platts Energy Week, the pipeline network for natural gas is limited in many markets, particularly in the northeast. These logistical constraints, in turn, engendered natural gas scarcity during last winter’s ‘polar vortex’ events, which precipitated price spikes. In the face of exorbitantly priced (or even unavailable) natural gas, utilities turned to coal. Next year, that might not be an option.

Perhaps EPA could justify such a threat to electric reliability, if the agency was actually protecting public health. Alas, this is not the case. The direct justification for the Utility MACT is the protection of a population—pregnant, subsistence fisherwomen—that does not exist. Aware that this original rationale for the Utility MACT is extremely weak, EPA suggests that the regulation’s “co-benefits” render it cost-effective, but this data also is dubious.

As I see it, the actual rationale for this all-pain, no-gain rule was the placation of anti-fossil fuel environmental special interests that had helped the President get elected.

National Review & The American Spectator: This fortnight’s National Review, which was published last Friday, features a cover story about climate scientist Michael Mann titled, “The Case against Michael Mann.” I’ve reposted the cover below.


The article, by Charles C. W. Cooke, is described thusly,

Climate scientist and opponent of free inquiry Michael E. Mann has built a noisy public career sounding the alarm over global warming. Secure as he appears to be in his convictions, Mann has nonetheless taken it upon himself to try to suppress debate and to silence some of the “irrational” and “virulent” critics, who he claims have nothing of substance to say.

I’ve not yet read Cooke’s piece, although I’m very much looking forward to doing so.

For whatever reason, more ink than usual was spilled discussing Michael Mann last week, as The American Spectator (National Review’s conservative rival) also published an article on the litigious climate scientist. The article, by Conrad Black, is titled “The Gospel According to Michael Mann.” I’ve read it, and it’s excellent.

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