MINOT, N.D. — Between an ongoing pandemic and the deleterious impact it's had on our local and national economies, times are tough. Many households are scraping by, paycheck to paycheck.
So it is unhappy news, for all of us, that our utility bills may see a big spike soon.
"Xcel Energy is predicting a $200 to $300 increase on natural gas bills for Minnesota and North Dakota customers, though officials with the company are hopeful this will only be a short-term effect," Tanner Robinson reported this week, noting that electric bills may also see an increase, though it's not expected to be "huge."
Question is, how many households can easily absorb this sort of a hit to their budgets?
I wish the answer was "all of them" but we know that's not true.
Why is this happening?
It's more fallout from the widespread blackouts that affected the central part of America, from Texas up to North Dakota, earlier this month.
And the wind power industry is to blame.
I know we're not supposed to say that. The wind industry's various flacks and apologists have organized a campaign to distract from wind power's role in making our energy grids less resilient, but the truth is the truth.
Our government's ill-advised promotion of wind power, through various mandates and massive subsidies, has resulted in two things which are important factors in the utility bill spikes we're about to suffer.
First, those policies have put more wind power on the grid.
Second, it's also put more natural gas power on the grid.
Wind power is intermittent. It tends to produce a lot of power when we don't really need it, and not much when we do. Wind cannot work without a form of baseload energy at its side.
That's where natural gas comes in. Coal and nuclear are cheap and reliable sources of baseload power, but they don't handle the fluctuations of producing alongside intermittent energy like wind very well. Natural gas plants, however, can ramp production up and down quickly.
You'll often hear wind power flacks try to blame the decline of coal-fired electricity on the rise of natural gas, leaving out that much of the rise of natural gas power has to do with the promotion of wind power.
But there lies the rub.
Natural gas, in terms of economics, is a volatile commodity. It's produced by the oil and gas industry, and we all know how unpredictable oil prices can be.
Gas prices can be the same way.
And, increasingly, our power grid leans on this economically volatile commodity, because wind power demands that gas power be on the electric grid, even as most of us also use it to heat our homes.
When gas prices spike, it hits the cost of our utilities hard, as we're about to find out.
Americans are used to reliable power and stable utility bills.
The push toward wind power is also pushing us away from both of those things.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.