Thursday, March 01, 2012

Switching off the lights

Today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette contains an article about the planned closure of three power generation plants in western Pennsylvania, and eight overall, over the next several years. The three coal-fired plants in my area represent 1,387 megawatts of capacity. They are owned by GenOn Energy.

Yes, these are old facilities. Some of the generating units are as old as 60 years. According to GenOn's own press release the closures of the eight generating stations is "because forecasted returns on investments needed to comply with environmental regulations are insufficient." These regulations are ones enacted since the beginning of the Obama presidency.

Naturally, environmentalists are cheering. These "dirty" coal plants are going the way of the dodo. Their thick black belching smoke won't be poisoning us anymore. As coincidence would have it, I had to drive past GenOn's New Castle Generating Station today; it's a 330MW capacity plant, and is on the closure list. What did I see?

New Castle Generating Station, West Pittsburg, PA, 3/1/2012
own work; may use with attribution & link back to Their  Finest Hour
Oh my gosh! Just look at that thick, black, poisonous smoke pouring out of the chimney...oh, never mind. Nothing to see here! Yes, the plant was in operation. Yes, you could hear machinery noise. Yes, if you looked very, very closely at the top of the chimney you could see the exhaust fumes against the overcast conditions, but only barely. It shows up as a hardly noticeable "heat blur" on the original 2592x1936px picture taken by my iPhone. This is the dirtiness of coal power generation? This is what environmentalists get their knickers in a twist over? Give. Me. A. Break.

40 people work at the station. They will lose their jobs - at least locally - when the plant closes. We will lose the electricity they produce. Yes, the Post-Gazette article does talk about how Pennsylvania has a generating surplus now, but isn't that a sign of economic downturn? Isn't reducing - and praising - a reduction in generating capacity an acknowledgement that demand will not come back?

And what of the effect on other businesses? While I stopped to take my picture, three large dump trucks carrying coal passed me on their way to deliver fuel to the station. I'm pretty sure that came from a local, nearby deep or strip mine. Are you listening, United Mine Workers? Your jobs are under attack too.

We need more energy production, not less. We need more coal-fired power plants, not fewer. We need government to take the regulatory burden off of business and industry.

Would GenOn continue to operate the New Castle station past 2015 regardless were stricter environmental regulations not imposed? Who knows, but that is not the point. GenOn is having the disposition of their private property and production seized from them because the cost of compliance with government dictates makes their continued investment worthless.

That is a loss of liberty, freedom, and economic opportunity - for all of us.

P.S.: It is with sorrow that I dedicate this post, containing my own original on-site reporting, to Andrew Breitbart. Mr. Breitbart, of course, passed away earlier today. His dedication to the conservative movement and the cause of liberty was unequaled. All patriots need to help fill the void left by this true pioneer of conservative new media. I will endeavor to meet the challenge and do my part in his memory.

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