Power plant put on back burner


Global warming alarmists cheered wildly Monday when NV Energy, the state's largest electric utility, announced it would postpone the development of a long-planned, $5 billion coal-fired power plant in Ely.

The decision certainly provides talking points for far-left agendas -- A blow to climate change! Green power! -- but the obstructionists who brought NV Energy to its knees after a three-year shakedown shouldn't flatter themselves. The utility backed off not because of a conversion to radical environmentalism, but because of that awful buzzword made so popular in today's crippled economy: uncertainty.

The Democratic Party runs the show now, both in Washington and across most of Nevada. And before loyal partisans crawl into bed each night, they plant a big, fat wet one square on the lips of the alternative energy lobby. No one can be sure how far Democrats will go over the next four years to realize their dream of wiping out coal-fired electricity in favor of taxpayer-subsidized "green" power, but everyone knows whatever they settle on is going to be prohibitively expensive.

NV Energy saw the writing on the wall. It could have poured up to $4 billion into the Ely project, only to witness the passage of heavy-handed legislation that would require an additional $10 billion to be spent on technology to capture carbon dioxide emissions -- or worse, suspend the project until more affordable technologies are invented. Or maybe the Democrats will finally pass a "carbon tax" so high it can't possibly be paid.

Last year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promised he'd do everything in his power to kill the Ely project. How can any business, especially one with responsibilities to shareholders and an entire state's economy, move forward under that kind of threat?

Amid the shrieks of delight from the left, as always, there are real-world costs. Economically stagnant White Pine County loses an expected 1,600 construction jobs, plus the 200 permanent jobs that would have been created upon the plant's completion. NV Energy has nothing to show for the undisclosed amount it has invested in the project -- the Public Utilities Commission authorized up $135 million in development costs. And, long-term, as this region's demand for electricity continues to grow, power customers can look forward to the higher bills that always result from diminished supplies.

Replacing the 1,500 megawatts that would have been produced by the Ely Energy Center with renewable sources of electricity will cost between two and three times as much money -- money that will be recovered through higher utility and tax bills.

And let's not forget that most of the arguments employed to kill the Ely project and other coal plants across the country are fallacious, at best.

The greens claim coal-fired power, our most economical, reliable and productive energy source, causes global warming. Switching to more expensive renewable energy sources, despite their inability to meet peak electricity demands or generate the baseline power needed to allow customers to turn on the lights at all hours of the day, can be justified only if the masses can be convinced that doing so will save the planet from certain catastrophe.

But the same scientists the greens trot out to back up their claims will begrudgingly point out that not only is the planet 10 years into a global cooling trend, but that if all carbon-based emissions ended tomorrow -- if every internal-combustion engine and coal-consuming plant were shut down at once -- it would do nothing to halt predicted warming over the next century.

So the years of posturing, the years of squealing, the years of wasted work that have all but killed off a multibillion-dollar, economy-stimulating, job-producing, infrastructure-improving energy project are based on nothing more than a doomsday vision that assumes mankind will cease to adapt.

We're another step closer to the green environmental and economic dystopia, the one where investors and employers yank whatever assets they have left and bury them in their yards until they can be absolutely certain about the financial consequences of the next great punitive, regulatory scheme.

 

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