I wrote a piece a bit back about the volatility in natural gas prices. These were seized upon by proponents of natural gas pipelines, whether Gordon von Welie from ISO-NE, to various representatives of petroleum and power generators councils, or even that recurring denizen of the Commonwealth Magazine comments, NortheasternEE to, once again, argue that New England (read Massachusetts) needs new natural gas pipelines because cold pinches such as the most recently experienced caused huge financial harm to residents by spiking the prices of electricity and arguing, once again, that only bringing additional explosive methane by new pipelines could offset this. They, and even the editorial staff at Commonwealth claimed the generators of electricity had to switch to oil because of natural gas shortages.
Well, none of that is true, and turned out not to be. It was pretty self-evident that, at least, they did not know, since fuel mix used for generation is not something which is known at high aggregations of geography for a couple of days afterwards. And, as it turns out, little or no additional oil was needed, that even though Pilgrim nuclear went offline, renewables picked up the slack, driven there probably by the relatively high winds of the nor’easter. Indeed, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) reports that, for a time, New England was getting as much electricity from renewables as it did from natural gas generation.
The details are, as I mentioned, at the blog post which has been updated a couple of times.
But I also want to take a moment to underscore how certain online media outlets are controlled by ensconced fossil fuel interests, like natural gas, the pipeline companies, and big utilities like Eversource, who are using heavy-handed legal threats to quash reports they do not like the public to know about. In particular Commonwealth Magazine appears to be a favorite mouthpiece for opponents of decentralized renewables, ranging from Associated Industries of Massachusetts to the New England Petroleum Council to Eversource. And, sure, they have run op-eds by individuals in favor of them from time to time, I’d say, to maintain the illusion of “balance”. But when their own editorial staff misrepresents matters of electrical generation as in the above, and do not get the story straight on the Marks, Mason, Mohlin, and Zaragoza-Watkins conference paper in terms of what it says, taking the pipeline proponent line and misrepresenting it as a product of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), then there’s something wrong with that source. I will not read or follow Commonwealth Magazine any longer. They even deleted two comments I made on these matters after their being posted for a half hour each.
While I have also let be known my view of the recent DPU demand charge decision, and I have listened to and attended presentations by officers of Governor Charlie Baker’s administration regarding energy policy and climate adaptation, in fact, there is little concrete evidence that what this administration is doing is but fig leaves and tokenism. Beginning with Governor Patrick and continuing under Governor Baker, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has seen its staff and budget repeatedly cut. The funding of the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program is pathetically small, and Governor Baker shows no willingness whatsoever to increase taxes to pay for any such plans, programs, or policies. Speaker of the House DeLeo probably contributes to that reluctance as well.
So, whatever happens to Massachusetts and to Boston, in terms of flooding and the like, can be put on Governor Baker’s head, and on Speaker DeLeo. They have heard about the urgency for over a decade, even if Baker was not Governor at the time. DeLeo has been Speaker since the time of the dinosaurs.