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Global warming presents more danger than guns


Global warming presents more danger than guns

Mar 31, 2024 | 6:54 am ET
By Mary Catherine Dunphy
Global warming presents more danger than guns
The Laurel Generation Station power plant in Laurel Montana as seen in September 2023. (Aerial photography by Ed Saunders)

In a recent PBS documentary about energy production in Montana, Montana’s very own Nobel Peace Prize winning climate scientist, Steve Running said when discussing the adverse effects of climate change:

“We had this naive expectation that when we as scientists pointed out what was going on, everybody would get real, quick, and the politicians would line up at our door to ask what needs to be done.  And here we sit 20 years later and some things are going, but everybody widely agrees, not nearly at the pace that’s needed.” 

The same PBS program reported about NorthWestern Energy “new technologies, will displace carbon-intensive generation eventually but Northwestern won’t be ready to stop adding fossil fuel resources, until 2035. And for what’s left of emissions after 2050, NorthWestern plans to buy carbon offsets.”  

NorthWestern’s CEO, Brian Bird, even had the audacity to say, “Yeah, but the reason it’s a bit of a wait and see, it’s these dispatchable, long duration resources that aren’t yet developed.  We’re going to get there, but honestly, it is gonna take time.”   

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I thought Mr. Bird seemed to be gravely misinformed about dispatchable, long duration resources.  For example, back in 2022 when Pacific Gas & Electric in California, opened its Elkhorn Battery storage facility, the Chairman of the California Energy Commission, David Hochschild, said: “Last year in California, we installed over 2 gigawatts of battery storage.  That’s equivalent, basically, to the size of Diablo Canyon, (a nuclear power plant).  We’re going to add another 2 gigawatts and more this year.” 

That was happening in 2021 and 2022 in California — 3 years ago.  And, it’s still not happening here in Montana in 2024. 

Then, distressingly, we found out why it’s still not happening in Montana (thanks to reporters Tom Lutey and Darrell Ehrlick) – and Mr. Bird did not deserve the benefit of the doubt about being misinformed.  It turns out for the last decade NWE, with their accomplices at the Montana Public Service Commission, has been actively and aggressively breaking Montana law by sabotaging numerous renewable energy projects (with battery storage) by imposing onerous and impossible-to-meet requirements on renewable energy developers thereby efficiently and effectively thwarting renewable energy development in Montana.  It’s the old “make it impossible for these developers so they will go away” tactic – which besides being unethical was illegal.  

This week both NWE and the PSC were exposed and reprimanded by the Montana Supreme Court.  (Don’t you just love our legal system? Thank you MEIC for bringing the lawsuit.)   

But here’s the hitch: Now, the Montana Supreme Court wants the PSC to solve the problem and impose a fine on NWE – which, of course, NWE is against.  Are you kidding?  Am I deluded in wondering if the same dirty dealing PSC Commissioners will solve the problem and penalize their criminal cohorts at NWE?   Personally, I feel like calling the police and having the lot of them arrested for business fraud and attempted murder.  Why attempted murder you ask?  

Because as the planet continues to warm (even as CEO Brian Bird blithely says on TV that NWE’s business plan is more in line with 2 degrees of warming) there are already 489,000 annual worldwide deaths from extreme heat – and it is only going to get worse.  I’m thinking Brian Bird hasn’t read Jeff Goodell’s book, “The Heat Will Kill You First” which should be required reading for Brian Bird and all members of the PSC – or anyone interested in what 2 degrees of warming portends for our world.  (For comparison purposes, annual worldwide firearm deaths are 250,000.  You decide which is more dangerous heat or guns.)  

In the meantime, NWE’s captive Montana’s ratepayers will continue to pay exorbitant rates for the electricity to run their air conditioners in the hot summers because renewables with battery storage generate electricity between $30-$60 per megawatt hour, as compared to the $184.21 per megawatt hour it costs to create electricity at methane gas plants like NWE’s $275 million Yellowstone Generating Facility currently under construction in Laurel. Just wait for the bigger utility bills when that facility goes online.  

What a world!