Strengthening Energy Reliability and Independence
By Governor Pete Ricketts
August 24, 2021
Governor’s official photo here.
Energy reliability and independence are pillars of our country’s national security. A reliable power grid has helped our nation build the world’s largest economy, and our focus on developing domestic sources of energy has made our country’s fleet of automobiles and airplanes less dependent on overseas oil. Earlier this year, U.S. News and World Report ranked Nebraska #3 nationally for power grid reliability and #8 overall in their energy category which “tracks the reliability of power grids, renewable energy consumption and the price of electricity.”
We can’t take this for granted. There are forces at work at the state and federal level that could undermine these strategic strengths.
February’s record-cold temperatures caused widespread power outages throughout the South and Midwest, including rolling blackouts here in Nebraska. These interruptions of service are not acceptable. The United States is not a third-world country, and we need to be prepared for extreme weather events so that this doesn’t happen again. This means we need to make sure we have a diverse energy mix with enough coal and nuclear power to keep our grid running during severe weather events.
Nebraska was able to power through February’s arctic blast better than some other states thanks to our state’s base load power plants, including our largest generation facility—Gerald Gentleman Station, a coal-fired power plant in Sutherland—and Cooper Nuclear Station, the state’s only nuclear power plant. Together, these two plants provided a significant percentage of Nebraska’s power supply during the winter energy emergency. These facilities are more important than ever as other states have destabilized their power grid by becoming too dependent on variable energy systems. Nuclear power plants in the Southwest Power Pool footprint were all available and generating during the event. Coal plants were the second most dependable resource. Both wind and natural gas failed to deliver during the cold snap—these energy sources were not reliably available when we needed them.
While climate activists want to abolish coal-fired plants altogether, there are smarter ways to reduce emissions while maintaining reliable, affordable electricity and creating additional skilled jobs. For example, Nebraska Public Power District has partnered with ION Clean Energy on the design of a carbon capture system for Gerald Gentleman Station, Unit 2. The carbon capture technology is capable of capturing about 90% of CO2 emissions from the Gerald Gentleman power generation unit. Innovations like this can yield cleaner energy production without shuttering reliable facilities like Gerald Gentleman station, which has the capacity to generate electricity for more than 600,000 Nebraskans.
Power grid reliability isn’t the only priority at risk of being undermined by climate extremists. Nebraska is the second largest ethanol-producing state in the nation. The future of ethanol is tied to the future of oil production and combustion engines. Together, domestic production of these fuels can help make our country energy independent.
Regrettably, the Biden-Harris Administration’s radical climate agenda is doing just the opposite—making us more dependent on our country’s adversaries. On his first day in office, President Biden canceled the permit for Keystone XL and rejoined the Paris Agreement. With actions like these coming out of the White House, it should be no surprise that U.S. gas prices in July 2021 were up 41.8% compared to July 2020. With inflation rising and prices soaring at the pump, President Biden is now begging OPEC+ members to produce more oil. These members include Iran, Venezuela, and Russia. Dependence on these countries puts our national security at risk.
President Biden’s appeal to OPEC came less than a week after he issued an executive order calling for “50 percent of all new passenger cars and light trucks” to be Electric Vehicles (EVs) by 2030. Once again, the President’s action risks our national security. The People’s Republic of China produces the vast majority of the rare earth minerals needed to manufacture EVs. The President’s EV goal would not only make America reliant on our nation’s biggest global competitor, but it would also be economically devastating to ethanol- and oil-producing states, driving away investment in innovative technology such as carbon sequestration.
Instead of looking overseas for energy, the President should focus on growing biofuels production right here in the Heartland. Ethanol saves drivers money at the pump and cleans up the environment without sacrificing performance. Nebraska has been on the forefront of demonstrating the efficiency of high-blend ethanol fuels. In March 2021, the State announced results of a research program to study the use of E30 in conventional vehicles. The results of the study clearly showed that E30 is safe and reliable to use in them. Given its proven effectiveness, there’s every incentive to increase the volume of E30 in our nation’s fuel supply.
Ethanol has long helped reduce emissions, and carbon sequestration technology can help the fuel deliver a lower carbon footprint. By capturing carbon dioxide at ethanol plants that produce cleaner-burning fuels such as E15 and E30, regular vehicles can achieve well-to-wheel emissions that are competitive—if not cleaner—than those involved to manufacture and charge electric vehicles. This session, I signed LB 650 into law to establish the legal and regulatory framework for the geologic storage of carbon dioxide in Nebraska. Following passage of the law, Battelle and Catahoula Resources announced a partnership to sequester carbon dioxide in Nebraska. By reducing the carbon footprint of our facilities, we will create more opportunities for our ethanol industry.
Energy independence and reliability must remain top priorities for our nation, and in some cases President Biden will have to stand up to climate activists to achieve them. If you have questions about energy, or any other topic, please contact my office at email@example.com or 402-471-2244. Here in Nebraska, we’ll do our part to build a reliable power grid and keep our country moving with great, clean-burning biofuels.