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When New England Gets Cold, Power Generators Burn High-emitting Fuels to Cover for Lack of Nat Gas Pipelines

New England has recently become famous for local gas hookup bans, denying new natural gas pipelines from the Marcellus, and making up their cold-weather energy deficits by importing Russian LNG. Now the region has notched another distinction: generating far more electricity from burning refuse (i.e., trash and garbage), wood and fuel oil than from wind and solar.

We took a four-day average (January 31 to February 3) of the power generation fuel mix reported by New England grid operator ISO New England, and found this as the average fuel mix over different times of day and in seasonally cold, but not frigid, temperatures:

Natural Gas 49%
Nuclear 28%
Fuel Oil 9%
Refuse & Wood 5%
Hydro 5%
Wind 3%
Solar 0.4%

If greater pipeline capacity existed to deliver cleaner-burning natural gas to replace that 14% of power from wood, refuse and fuel oil, the savings of greenhouse gas emissions would be very substantial. Equally if not more important, ISO New England's reported average wholesale price of electricity over the same period was $205 per megawatt hour, easily more than twice the price compared with other well-supplied markets.

Some of the blame rests with the State of New York, which has resolutely prevented development of natural gas pipelines from nearby northeast Pennsylvania to supply its own power generators as well as New England's. We believe angry consumers at the ballot box will offer the likeliest eventual resolution to these disastrous energy policies.

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