Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Michael Skelly, Clean Line Energy, Parking Lots, and Powerlines

Originality is the art of concealing your source.  

There is no attempt to hide the source of this Letter to the Editor.  

This letter has been shamelessly plagiarized  from Michael Skelly, the President of Clean Line Energy, and his recent Letter to the Editor in the Houston Chronicle about parking lots.  THis is worth reading! 

Again, I'd like to thank Mr. Skelly for his inspiration and his poignant comments about lots...whatever...the line between parking lots and powerlines can get blurry sometimes.  

All attempts at incoherent rambling is meant as a tribute to Jimmy's diatribe at NRO, and Heritage Foundtion.

The verdict is in. Georgetown Law Journal  recently documented that most Americans prefer energy companies cover their own costs through localized energy generation over cost allocation and building unnecessary Merchant Transmission Lines where consumers who do not receive the benefit are force to pay or sacrifice for energy they don’t need as it goes halfway across the nation.

But how do we get to this more distributed generation, energy efficient, and demand response energy generation? The answer is not more powerlines.

Recent proposals to increase the number of powerlines are a step in the wrong direction. While the proposal offers some relief to certain regions, like New England, the revisions miss the point. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Americans consumers should not pay for powerlines through other parts of the country that are not benefiting them directly. Many of these countless acres of aerial sewers are required by law. Our nation through FERC wants to mandates powerline for every class of energy - from wind energy to coal energy to nuclear to natural gas to hydroelectric. Implicit in every one of these rules from FERC’s Order #1000 is the presumption that government knows customers’ needs better than the local energy businesses that serve them. Why don’t we let local consumers and industry decide how to meet their own energy demands for themselves?

Government regulation and Renewable Portfolio Standards inevitably leads to too many powerlines, since one-size-fits-all rules mandate the same requirements for the Great Plains as for the Appalachian Mountain regions or New England, regardless of wind availability, resources available in the region, the cost of transportation, and the actual value added.

If the energy industry believes its customers need and demand more energy, it will have every incentive to figure this out and provide the energy locally. On the other hand, a business that is forced by law to provide more powerlines than it needs will pay a significant cost. An aerial powerline costs many millions to acquire and billions to build, and local energy generation still costs millions but without the unnecessary additional powerlines.  The space that is occupied by that these powerlines that are not needed can’t be used for money-making purposes such as more agriculture production, industrial development, or housing.

It’s not just the business that pays the cost for providing unnecessary powerlines - we all do. Every mile of excess powerlines means all of us will have to swallow the incremental visual blight; our blight of environmental injustice effect will get a bit more fuel and our privately owned land will become a bit less functional. And if a lot farmland stays vacant because powerline requirements make development economically infeasible, we all pay the cost in a loss of vitality.

The proper role for government is the competent management of government-approved powerlines - otherwise known as Merchant Transmission Lines. Most, if not all of the energy conflicts in places such as New England arise because residents, not unreasonably, lay claim to other priorities in their neighborhoods and expect “outsiders” to provide their energy in the Midwest. Other regions around the country have found that the best resolution is a combination of local generation, demand response, and energy efficiency programs and often the development of public/private energy generation - not mandating acres and acres of private owned powerlines.

We don’t need more planning or zoning-like ordinances to build the unneeded powerlines to denser parts of the nation through eminent domain.  A better national answer is for local governments to encourage more local generation and local energy independence through measures like The Green Team by ComEd and from there our unleashed entrepreneurial energy.

As America’s energy needs change from region to region, let localized regions figure out the right mix of money spent on energy generation vs. powerline creation. As America continues to mature, let the entrepreneurs decide if they want to give a free beer to a toll road customer (instead of a free parking space). As regions find new uses, let’s not gum up the works with powerlines zigzagging across the nation and instead allow new markets to figure out what their customers want. And as maturing nation with ever changing populations, we can think strategically about how to keep our energy costs low.  Let’s help our energy generating businesses keep their costs down, and let’s not tax consumers by forcing cross-subsidization of powerlines by ratepayers.

A more urban and populated East Coast is in our future. Most residents embrace this new world. As this reality comes about, we should take measure of our strengths. Higher density development will provoke strong reactions along the way.

But you can’t get to high density if you mandate paving every other square foot of farmland - which is roughly what Houston’s Clean Line Energy requires of Midwest landowners.

OK, now that I think about it, take the Skelly letter change "parking lots" to "farmland" and the Skelly letter is probably a dang fine LTE.  

This can work!

Of course we lose the incoherent tribute to Jimmy's rants, but we can make this work!  Maybe even get it printed in a paper.


  1. Scott you are amazing. An environmental impact study must be done in Kansas immediately. Kansas I feel a twister is coming to take out the "Clean" Lines.

  2. Heh heh heh. Don't you just love a good hypocrite?

    Skelly is the world's biggest hypocrite. Arrogant 1% jerk.