It’s making the rounds. Today it’s John Kostrzewa, Assistant Managing Editor of The Providence Journal, arguing the necessity of natural gas and its pipelines with his “Why R.I.’s economy needs a natural-gas pipeline”. And my response, below, which allowed me to dig a little deeper into these matters than I had time to do yesterday with the same kind of response for Massachusetts. The thing about the response for Rhode Island was that the character count for a response is severely constrained, meaning I could not document as many of my assertions as I would have liked. I have included them in the post below.
Mr Kostrzewa piles on to the usual arguments supporting the expansion of natural gas in New England, this time focussing upon Rhode Island. Prices are high because there’s insufficient energy. Electricity prices are high, especially in winter because there’s insufficient natural gas. Businesses need energy for growth, and most importantly for creating jobs. Natural gas produces jobs.
All these are myths.
The fundamental fact about prices for a kilowatt-hour (“KWh”) of electricity in New England is that, per person, we use less electricity. The expenses of the inefficient and old grids dating from the 20th century are spread over fewer KWh, so cost per KWh is higher. If total cost of electricity paid per month is compared with other states, efficient New England and Rhode Island ride pretty low. The cost for Rhode Island is $107/month, the 11th cheapest in the entire country, compared with D.C. and New Mexico which pay $82/month and $88/month, respectively, and South Carolina and Hawaii which are tied for a whopping $177/mo. Massachusetts pays $115/month and is the 16th cheapest. (These figures are available here.) Natural gas friendly Wyoming also pays $107/month for electricity, and that’s not because electricity per KWh is expensive. It’s not. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (“EIA”) gives it at $.115 per KWh compared with Rhode Island’s $.18 per KWh. Wyoming uses more per person. (Massachusetts electricity costs $.1906 per KWh.)
One might as well argue that natural gas is responsible for the high electric rates, since it provided 94% of Rhode Island’s electricity in 2014 and 95% in 2015. Oil actually increased its share from 2014 to 2015 from 1.4% to 1.5%. Waste-to-energy facilities produce 3%, and renewables a mere 0.4%. How much more gas can Rhode Island use? At most 6%. (See EIA data for all these.) Think building pipelines in Rhode Island are to help Rhode Island? No. This is Spectra/Algonquin madly trying to make up for the setbacks they’ve received on their Access Northeast pipeline project, before FERC shuts them down.