I absolutely love me some Tom Davis. The fourth-term state senator from Beaufort, South Carolina was in my wedding, he’s been one of my best friends for the past twenty years and he is hands-down the smartest, most honest, most principled lawmaker in the Palmetto State’s General Assembly.
And yes, I realize that last line is not exactly a compliment given the intellectual incuriousity/ ethical delinquency of the typical member of South Carolina’s left-of-center “Republican” legislature … but Tom would be a pillar of virtue and a tower of intellect in any setting.
Davis is the definitional good guy in our current climate – a rare statesman in search of solutions as opposed to a typical politician in search of plaudits. My media outlet has expended megabytes of bandwidth extolling Davis’ virtues over the years – and will no doubt expend megabytes of bandwidth extolling his virtues in the years to come.
It is not often I find myself having the occasion to criticize my friend, but his recent self-styled “alarmist” column in The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier does warrant a response.
In contrast to his advocacy on so many other issues, Davis’ Post and Courier diatribe is a deliberate conflation of the ongoing energy debate in the Palmetto State – one which ignores the fundamental problem of inadequate capacity generation in the name of bashing all investor-owned utilities (including one, Duke Energy, which absolutely deserves the criticism). More ominously, though, Davis’ column is a see-through shill for a self-serving special interest – one threatening to materially exacerbate South Carolina’s energy and water shortages in exchange for a handful of jobs (all while asking Palmetto State taxpayers to shell out millions in “economic development” incentives at a time when small businesses are getting shafted).
Is that really the free market you’ve been preaching all these years, senator Davis?
Davis is promoting “energy freedom.” The problem? He’s gotten in bed with Google, a company that is less concerned with the aforementioned energy liberty and more concerned with ensuring its access to market-distorting subsidies in South Carolina – and beyond.
All while eroding liberty all over the internet …
Davis’ blame game included a demonstrably disingenuous assessment of the current energy situation in South Carolina as being solely the fault of “our state’s monopoly electric utilities” and its “antiquated electricity market structure.”
“It is incumbent upon the General Assembly to reexamine whether an electricity market model that produced the V.C. Summer nuclear debacle, rolling blackouts on Christmas 2022 and lost economic investment opportunities is still viable in today’s dynamic energy environment,” Davis wrote.
Wait … what?
Forgive me, senator Davis, but the V.C. Summer nuclear debacle – a.k.a. NukeGate – was entirely the product of the S.C. General Assembly. From start to finish. As my media outlet meticulously documented at the time, the botched construction of a pair of next-generation nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville, S.C. was the definitional command economic failure – one recklessly pushed by lawmakers who then fled accountability for the fiasco when it imploded.
And let’s not forget that nearly half of that botched project wasn’t owned by an IOU, it was owned by – wait for it – a government-run utility, one which just got a $450 million bailout from state taxpayers last fall.
All told, more than $10 billion was spent on these two abandoned reactors – which were supposed to have come online in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
As for Duke’s rolling blackouts? Last time I checked those were due to the utility’s catastrophic mismanagement of its energy mix – including arbitrary “zero carbon” goals which led to more than $5 billion in stranded assets which the utility attempted (successfully, in the end) to pass off on South Carolina ratepayers.
RELATED | DRILL, BABY DRILL
So while Davis is correct in slamming the utility for its elevated costs, Duke’s braindead decisions were not attributable to any “market model” – they were attributable to a failed attempt by its corporate leaders to kowtow to the eco-radicals you are currently in bed with.
As for “lost economic development opportunities?”
Again, I’m sorry senator, but the real reason these opportunities are being lost is because eco-radicals (like your friends at Google) are refusing to allow the construction of natural gas pipelines – making it harder to connect new and existing sources of carbon-reducing power to the grid. Remember, it is natural gas – not renewables – driving the reduction in carbon emissions in the United States in recent years.
Davis’ allies are now blocking further reductions and impeding new power generation … while simultaneously empowering government to dictate the terms of extended solar contracts between private providers in South Carolina.
Now that we have dissected the many ways in which Davis has conflated this debate, let’s look at his proposed solution – plugging the Palmetto State up to a regional transmission organization (RTO). Davis and his Google coalition (which is based out of North Carolina, incidentally) are pushing for South Carolina to join an RTO known as PJM. Named for the three states it first served – Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland – PJM currently “coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in all or parts of thirteen states and Washington, D.C.” According to a recent study (.pdf) commissioned by state lawmakers, joining it could result in more than $362 million in annual savings to the Palmetto State.
That’s all well and good … assuming the lights stay on.
According to the findings of an internal “energy transition” report (.pdf) released by PJM in February of this year, the RTO is struggling to keep up with a rash of “generation retirements” that could result in rolling blackouts for its customers.
“The amount of generation retirements appears to be more certain than the timely arrival of replacement generation resources,” the report bluntly stated.
(Click to view)
This summer, PJM declared a level one emergency for its 65 million customers – noting that “system conditions might require the use of PJM emergency procedures” given that “all generating resources are online or have been scheduled.”
A crisis was averted because PJM had “natural gas, coal and nuclear doing most of the heavy lifting,” according to our friends Zero Hedge. In other words … it relied on all of the energy assets Davis, Google and their eco-radical allies are trying to take off the board.
Is this seriously the wagon to which South Carolina wishes to hitch its energy future?
Thanks to climate “science” – a doctrine drilled into our heads by Google and its fellow eco-radicals – the federal government is forcing investor-owned utilities, RTOs and other power providers to dramatically scale back conventional generation in favor of renewables even though it is painfully clear these new energy sources are not bridging the gap in capacity fast enough.
Power is being taken off the grid more rapidly than it is being added … while natural gas and offshore drilling continue to face withering bureaucratic resistance.
I understand Davis’ conception of energy freedom, but my conception of energy freedom is the lights coming on when you flip the switch and your motor purring when you turn the key (or press the button). I am – and will remain – unapologetic in my support for an “all of the above” approach to the marketplace. Similarly, I have consistently maintained that adding renewables to the mix – while advantageous – “must never subject ratepayers or taxpayers to needless price increases“ or “subject them to blackouts or worse.”
This is not about one energy model versus another – it is about sources of power and the access of all providers to those increasingly scarce megawatts. I have stood up to investor-owned utilities in South Carolina. Aggressively. And I have spent years going after our failed state-run utility. Make no mistake – I will continue to do so.
This is not about any one structure versus another, it is about the responsible management of our energy mix … something that is critical under normal circumstances but absolutely imperative to our national future in light of events unfolding in the Middle East.
Tom Davis knows this … and I have no doubt he will eventually come around to the mathematical reality we see expressed daily in the flipping of millions of American light switches and the turning of millions of ignition keys. Unfortunately, I do not see him coming around to that reality so long as Google has its eco-radical, crony capitalist, grid-assailing hooks in him.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
WANNA SOUND OFF?
Got something you’d like to say in response to one of our articles? Or an issue you’d like to proactively address? We have an open microphone policy here at FITSNews! Submit your letter to the editor (or guest column) via email HERE. Got a tip for a story? CLICK HERE. Got a technical question or a glitch to report? CLICK HERE.