Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Letter to Rock Island Clean Line (not through Facebook)

Greeting Clean Line Energy Execs;
                Mike, Jimmy, Adhar, Charlie, Jayshree, Hans, and the rest of you,

I would have sent this letter to the Facebook social media page but it appears all Clean Line Energy Facebook pages have been shut down.  
Rock Island Clean Line, Grain Belt Express and the Plains & Eastern Clean Line have done one right.  Clean Line’s merry band has shown the magnitude to mess in the the transmission industry.  Clean Line has introduced us to PJM, MISO, and these ideas of a “need” for more transmission.  These candyland speculation project has provided an excellent education about this messed up under the radar industry. 

When this Clean Line ordeal is done, history is going to show the missteps by Clean Line Energy have been a turning point for consumer involvement in the planning process for new transmission brainstorms.  There’s a story about a certain CLE PR man being a part of a Chicago wind round table discussion where the comment   We’ll tick off a bunch of farmers” was made with a room full of snikers following it.   Yeah Buster, your buddy called that one right, but Clean Line’s mistake was to tick off so many people in such a vast region of so many states. 

I never thought that little feller from Chicago and his bud's would be so prophetic.  Unfortunately, they never realized Clean Line could activate so many in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, and Missouri.  Our goal isn’t to move RICL off our farms and on to someone else property.  Our goal is to change the industry.  PJM, MISO, FERC, and some state utility commissions need a shakeup. 

We’ve found some great friends along the way in Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Minnesota.  Like us, each of these groups have their own questions about the need for these transmission projects, but Clean Line’s mistake was to take on some many projects that run through so many states.  Clean Line has mistakenly tripled the size of opposition to these unnecessary transmission projects, not just in the numbers of ratepayers, but even more importantly, Clean Line has increased OUR the territory by adding Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri to the mix .  We now come from a much wider region.   Big mistake.

Perhaps Clean Line and the industry’s biggest mistake is they do not truly know us.  They do not have a clue about Rural Sociology, who we are and what we hold dear.  If they’d listen to a little advice, I’d recommend energy industry exec’s buy a book from Gene Logsdon Living and Farming the American Dream at Natures’ Pace.  Logsdon does a good job describing rural America and he also a great blog describing Rural America at The Contrary Farmer.  I don't expect any energy exec's to understand or even this stuff, but he offers a great insight into our Midwest rural society.

His blog Humble Beginnings Humbug does a good job defining us for transmission companies  or a New York City Billionaires who started this project and had no clue who they are about to go up against.  Logsdon is a bit prideful and a tad arrogant but this might give transmission companies an idea who we are.  I still doubt they will understand it, but even still, I just loved this quote of this.

“We gave no quarter in the realm of pride and prejudice and still don’t. If anything we are way too proud. I pity the poor savant of the university system or of Manhattan society who would blunder into our very country neighborhood today and repeat within earshot of my sisters that grand old ivory tower notion about how rural people are too provincial in their outlook.”

Yes, this young spec project company severely underestimated the capabilities of a bunch of farmers.  Clean Line Energy shutting down their Facebook is another example how the Texans fail to understand Midwest Rural America.  There social media "outreach" was a huge failure and shows the inherent problems with transmission company social media.

While Clean Line's Facebook pages were well made,  CLE could not control their content.  It became a sounding board for Midwest opposition that could not be ignored.  There Facebooks pages were an inspiration and tool for all of us.

Even as limited as Clean Line Energy's openness was, allowing us to post comments on something as big as Facebook was a huge problem.  It exposed the weaknesses to everyone.  Clean Line could only hide their hypocrisy so far.

Maybe Clean Line Energy now see their Facebook pages as a potential liability with the upcoming RICL even in Mendota, Illinois September 18th.  Maybe John's comment  pushed Skelly to shut it down for a few weeks as the the public forums and informational meeting are about to get intense and news worthy.  Of course if Clean Line Facebook pages come back up, we ALL are going to slam it more than before.

When GBE and RICL finally fails, history will look back at Clean Line as the defining change in the transmission industry.  We, the people, realize the magnitude of this problem and it’s not just Clean Line.  Heck, Wisconsin has three proposed new powerlines coming into the state because they need more energy, and another six propoesed transmission lines leaving the state.  How absurd is that?   

Just because RICL and GBE will be defeated, the problem will still be there.  There will be more proposed transmission lines, like Duke ATC.

DACT is proposing another HVDC powerline from Iowa.  Maybe they sense the death of RICL and are preparing to step in.  Ameren has their Three Rivers project from Iowa to Illinois.  How many transmission lines from Iowa and Kansas into Illinois do we really “need” for the windmills?   GBE, RICL, 3Rivers, DATC.  This is absurd.

The problem is these companies who realize the potential money isn’t in energy generation but in energy transmission.  The problem is the RTO’s who allow this.  The problem is the assumption that more transmission is needed to solve a need for generation.  It’s becoming obvious there will never be enough transmission for PJM and MISO.  Transmission is literally their middle name for these Regional Transmission Organizations.  Their solution for every problem is more transmission.    New England ISO does a study about the regions wind energy capabilities and NEISO recommends more transmission from the Midwest. 

When this is over, those in the RTO fraternities will come to despise the failed Clean Line projects because they exposed the gravy train of transmission expansion to a huge swath of consumers.  Clean Line has redefined the magnitude of grassroots as a form of “activism” that hasn’t been seen since the CU Powerline in the late 1970’s.   

Tick off a bunch of farmers?  Yeah little buddy you sure did! 

The Farm Journal magazine editorial way back in 1893 described the challenge of energy companies to understand Rural America:  

          “That bright boy, as full of questions and ideas as he is of mischief, has in him
          the material for making a stirring, successful farmer. Answer his questions
          patiently, interest him in the farm work and business by taking him into your 
          confidence and giving him something to do and to think about. 
         As to the dull boy… he can be a lawyer and a politician.” 

…or perhaps even a Clean Line Energy Project Director.  I’d recommend the entire industry spend more time understanding who we are.

A Ticked off Farmer

BTW, Happy Birthday little feller from Chicago.

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