Polar Vortex Exposes Dangers of Natural Gas Dependency from Obama’s War on Coal

The recent Polar Vortex exposed the risks of natural gas dependency being driven by President Obama’s war on coal.

Certain regions in the U.S. are now disproportionately dependent on natural gas because EPA regulations have forced the closing of coal-fired power plants.

The lack of energy diversity is hitting the Northeast particularly hard where demand for home heating and electricity surged during the recent plunge in temperature causing natural gas prices to spike.

New England states are especially vulnerable because the region depends on natural gas for over 50 percent of its electricity. Exacerbating the natural gas problem is the fact that surging demand is outstripping the pipeline capacity.

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Going forward, the lack of energy supply could threaten the dependability of the region’s power grid resulting in brownouts and blackouts, as well as resulting in skyrocketing electricity prices.

Last year, Matthew Wald’s New York Times story, “In New England, a Natural Gas Trap,” described the risks associated with the regions dependency on natural gas:

Frigid temperatures and the snowstorm that hammered parts of the Northeast last week have revived concerns about the lack of alternatives to natural gas. Many plants that ran on coal or oil have been shuttered, and the few that remain cannot be put into service quickly enough to meet spikes in demand. The price of electricity is determined by the price of gas.

Last year, natural gas provided 52 percent of New England’s electricity, and that share is expected to grow. Gas is generally cheaper than other energy sources, and the lower costs have spurred the retirement of aging coal generators and nuclear reactors. The six-state New England region and parts of Long Island are the most vulnerable now to overreliance on gas, a vulnerability heightened by a shortage of natural gas pipeline capacity, but officials worry that similar problems could spread to the Midwest.

The problems highlighted last year are reoccurring in 2014 and the region is seeing exploding natural gas prices, causing the industry to reduce production.

From The Boston Globe:

Limited pipeline capacity, combined with frigid temperatures, has sent demand for heat and electricity soaring this winter, leading to spikes in the wholesale price of natural gas in New England.

The sharp increases in the cost of power have forced paper mills in Maine and New Hampshire to cut operations or shutter temporarily, and could potentially mean higher prices for consumers. Nearly three-fourths of Massachusetts’ electricity, and half of New England’s, comes from natural gas, according to Energy Department data. Roughly half of Massachusetts homes also heat with natural gas.

“Price spikes don’t have an immediate effect on our customers thanks to long-term contracts and local supplies that we purchase in the off season,” said Caroline Pretyman, a spokeswoman for Northeast Utilities, the parent company of NStar and Western Massachusetts Electric Co. “But if prices stay high for an extended period of time, then we could potentially see rates go up.”

Another round of arctic air in the Northeast expected this week could threaten the reliability of the electricity grid, thereby exposing the foolishness of Obama’s command and control energy policy that seeks to bankrupt the coal industry.

Only progressives would ignore the predictable consequences of disrupting energy markets by eliminating a cheap and reliable source of energy.

It would be ironic for liberal Democrats in Massachusetts to suffer first hand from the consequences of their support of Obama’s left-wing agenda including his war on coal.