A Free-Market Energy Blog

Getting in the Houston Chronicle (back window better than nothing, I guess)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- July 28, 2021

I have noted many times how the old hometown Houston Chronicle had gone from Left to Hard Left on energy and climate policy in the last decade or more. (Also see here and here.)

I am been a victim, with enough op-ed rejections (as in no response) to discourage me from submission.

But from time to time, I write a letter-to-the-editor on some egregiously biased energy piece. Chris Tomlinson, whose mind is about as closed and pen as vitriolic as they come (bitterness?), gets my goat in particular.

Dry Hole

And so several weeks ago, I sent this letter in, which got no response or publication regarding: “Conservative group takes on climate change” by Chris Tomlinson (Houston Chronicle, July 5, 2021).

The latest Republican interest in climate change activism remains a far cry from 2008 when a televised commercial had Newt Gingrich on a couch with Nancy Pelosi extolling cap-and-trade “to address climate change.”

The lack of interest is not because conservatives are anti-science or uneducated. It is because of real doubts about mankind’s influence on climate being catastrophic or potentially so.

Republicans are more concerned about climate policy than physical-climate change. Making energy less affordable and less reliable has negative social costs at home and abroad—costs that are real and Day 1.

The “energy transition” must be affordable and practical—or the global oil, natural gas/LNG, and coal boom can be expected to continue.

Tomlinson wrote a sub-part column because he either did not do enough research or just wanted to have a rah-rah message without complication. Republicans or conservatives–outside of the fake, Left-funded ‘Republican’ or ‘conservative’ groups–are no more on board with the climate agenda than they were back in the Obama era.

And those R politicians who talk a big climate game are in Districts that lean Left. Getting elected as an R over a D by faking it on climate is something that makes the Left confused, in fact.

A Hit

Another Tomlinson piece raised my ire, so I tried again with a letter. Lo-and-behold, it was published (July 14, 2021). But it was buried down in a stack of letters headlined, “Opinion: Bring Christian love to commonsense gun reform” and with a rebuttal published the next day. (And you don’t think the Left in an organized way has the paper in its mittens on energy and climate?)

Here is my published letter on the February 2021 electricity blackout:

Chris Tomlinson’s narrative about Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas’ electricity problem does not mention the dual negative effect of renewables on the Texas electricity grid.

The first problem with wind and solar is intermittence — disappearing supply that often occurs when it is needed the most to meet the peak. The other problem is when wind and solar are in full contribution, supplying around half of the state’s electricity. At such times, idled fossil fuel plants are losing money.

With bad economics, reliable capacity is retired, new capacity is not built, and existing capacity is poorly maintained. All because of a variety of special subsidies that allow wind and solar capacity to be built in the first place. Texas is the national leader in renewables. California is next. And which state grids are the weakest in the country? To ask the question is to answer it. Robert L. Bradley Jr., founder and CEO, Institute for Energy Research

That letter, interestingly, was followed by a bottom letter from my old Enron colleague and friend, Bruce Stram, a PhD economist. He wrote:

Regarding “Abbott’s attack on wind and solar only makes the Texas power grid even weaker,” (July 13): Without necessarily defending Gov. Greg Abbott’s points, I must take issue with this editorial.

It’s not just that solar doesn’t provide power at night. That’s dependable in a negative way and can be easily planned for. Rather it is that both wind and solar are intermittent, a big word for not dependable.

Your idea seems to be that somehow such sources deployed in a system on which we are critically dependent don’t cause problems. They do.

To use your analogy of a sea captain who doesn’t stop a tank attack, it is rather a sea captain who may or may not show up to help at sea. Bruce Stram, Houston

And then came a rebuttal to my letter the next day:

Regarding “Power play,” ( July 14): Robert Bradley from the Institute for Energy Research believes the challenge with renewables is the “special subsidies that allow wind and solar to be built in the first place.” Subsidies are the problem, I agree. The problem is the decades of subsidies given to energy companies to deceive the public about the harm of fossil fuels on our lives, handsomely paying lobbyists to continue the big lie and millions to reward the CEOs. Subsidies are the problem. It’s called “fossil fuel corporate welfare.” Patricia Garris, Spring

So maybe my point about subsidies enabling wind and solar passed muster with Ms. Garris. But subsidies to fossil-fuel companies are quite distinct from those received by the unreliables for several reasons:

  • Oil and gas subsidies did not create or enable these businesses, they just created a bit more of it.
  • Oil and gas subsidies in the US are mostly gone, many eliminated in the 1970s for integrated majors.
  • Wind and solar subsidies are essential to the continued operation of these businesses, as readily admitted by the same when expiration is at stake. (Wind PTC; solar ITC; CREZ transmission line, etc.)

Finally, I would emphasize to Ms. Garris that the best way to end lobbying and other waste in the industry is to end any and all preferential subsidies and depoliticize the industry otherwise. Dial back the climate alarm, in other words, and demote “green” energy that is more expensive, less reliable, and a blight on the landscape.

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