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How to Kill Your Community With One Weird Trick

Welcome to the working week. Here's what we're looking at today: US inflation likely to spike again, Russia to supply more gas to China, Biden extends Trump's solar tariffs, the SLO Tribune sells out its own community, Connecticut lawmakers try to balance the energy transition. 


  • Afghanistan's health care system is collapsing under stress. (NYT)

  • Desert wildflower may halt Nevada lithium mine. (MM)

  • Scholz heads to Washington to shore up Germany's credibility over Ukraine. (FT)

  • Indian arrest of prominent Kashmiri journalist provokes outrage. (FT)

  • US inflation is probably about to spike yet again. (BBG)


  • US rig count rises for 15th week straight as WTI nears $93. (OP)

  • Russia to supply more gas to China via new pipeline. (OP)

  • US shale surge should worry oil markets, Conoco CEO says. (BBG)

  • European oil wells hit by ransomware attack. (S247)

  • A big Ugandan oil project is progressing at last. (Economist)


  • President Biden extends Trump-era solar tariffs, with several modifications. (CNBC)

  • Energy Vault raised another $100 million, and I still don't get it. (WD)

  • Connecticut launches "comprehensive" and "complex" charging program to support 500,000 EVs by 2030. (UD)

  • Ford, Sunrun to back up US solar homes with electric F-150. (PVM)

  • Sapura leaves offshore wind project mid-construction, cites delays. (OW)


  • Ukraine and Canada agree to closer nuclear cooperation. (WNN)

  • China and Argentina sign nuclear project deal. (WNN)

  • SHINE secures funding for Netherlands Mo-99 production. (ANS)

  • Alaska bill would simplify microreactor siting. (ANS)

  • With Diablo Canyon closing, this is not the time to jack up the cost of rooftop solar. (SLOTrib)


  • Eversource digs out of major snowstorm after 300k lose power. (UD)

  • FERC proposes internal monitoring requirements for bulk electric facilities to address security "gap." (UD)

  • Massachussetts approves $4 billion efficiency plan. (UD)

  • Lawmakers seek balance of energy reliability, cost, reduced emissions. (CTE)

  • ISO-NE's plan to delay MOPR removal wins out at NEPOOL. (RTO)

How to Kill Your Community With One Weird Trick

This week in sophistry: the San Luis Obispo Tribune's editorial board published a particularly slimy piece about Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant's closure and California's attempt to rework its rooftop solar panel program. It's hard to know where to begin with a piece like this. Normally, I'd say it falls under the "not even wrong" category. But what this piece lacks in engineering discipline it makes up for in mendacity.

Before I get into the editorial's argumentation, I'd like to provide some context about the nature of California's electricity grid and what's happening first and foremost. First, California's grid is fragile. The state recently approved four emergency natural gas plants running to stabilize the grid. FERC is even letting the state do whatever the hell it wants, including screwing neighbors like Arizona over by doing "take backsies" on already agreed upon power purchases. Add on top of all this the Golden State's persistent drynesswhich has sapped its hydropower. Now, Diablo Canyon (hosted by San Luis Obispo) provides 15% of CA's clean power and 8% of the state's power overall. This is baseload power, too, which means it's on regardless of the weather—unlike wind and solar.  Whether or not to re-up Diablo's license to run seems like a no-brainer.

Except it's California, so it's crammed with aging radicals who never recovered from the '70s, but who've reached the commanding heights of the NGO Industrial Complex and the political establishment and they've had it out for Diablo since the beginning. Why? Because they believe energy abundance is part of a toxic "growth" ideology that has put us out of harmony with nature and rows the boat of climate Valhalla closer to us each day. In short, they're rich people who think energy poverty is morally good—for you, of course. 

Now we can turn to SLO Tribune piece. Its main argument can be summed up thusly: Rather than worrying about Diablo, we should be worrying about rooftop solar. Diablo produces 8% of  California's energy, whereas rooftop solar produced 9% (I'll get back to this stat later).  But there’s one problem, which they're honest about: California's rooftop solar program has become a regressive tax where upper-class homeowners get paid by working renters for their panels. Even the big green groups admit this is a problem. A balance needs to be sought, the board urges. And given that no one aside from a few noisy hobbyists and wonks want to save the plant, but homeowners want solar, it's time for Diablo supporters to face the music and get practical. "Unlike the campaign to save Diablo Canyon," they conclude, "there’s a reasonable chance that public opinion could help persuade the CPUC to adopt a compromise."

So, let's get back to that stat they provide. To keep the grid humming, grid operators have to constantly balance supply and demand. If either goes out of wack, we get brownouts and maybe even blackouts. So when something provides power matters as much as how much it provides. Solar provides some power when it's sunny and nice out in the middle of the day. Diablo provides a lot of power whenever. So trying to do apples-to-apples here doesn't make sense. It's like saying the most moral person in the world only behaves virtuously when people are watching and second place goes to the guy who’s good all the time. 

Even if we could do an apples-to-apples here, let's check out this graph from Adam Stein (whose work, along with his co-author Zeke Hausfather, the SLO Tribune managed to misrepresent before chiding them as hypocrites for supporting Diablo.) 

But if you think that's bad, I want to get to the darkest part of this piece. The point I'm about to make goes unacknowledged because people like me, who type things for a living, generally don't know what work is and often feel comfortable co-signing the destruction of actually productive jobs. To quote Homer Simpson, "It's funny because I don't know 'em." They don't think about what will happen to SLO or to the workers at Diablo if the plant closes. But Diablo employs 1,500 people. A lot of these are solid, union jobs that cannot and will not be replaced by jobs in the renewables sector. Communities that undergo plant decommissioning never recover. Just drive through Zion, Illinois, or visit Mayor Knickerbocker in Buchanan, NY, whose town lost half its tax base after the Indian Point nuclear power plant got prematurely closed. The Tribune is coming out in favor of destroying its own backyard.  

I can't help but think back to the story of Cortland, NY, which hosted a Brockway Motors plant and a big Montgomery Ward up until the 1970’s. When the plant left, the Ward closed, and locals passed out bumper stickers that read, "Last person to leave Cortland please shut out the lights." Well, the last person to leave Diablo will be shutting out the lights: both for the California grid and for their hometown. But maybe SLO Tribune's editorial board will have an easier time sleeping at night—it'll be pitch black.