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Playing Russian Roulette with the Natural Gas Pipeline Grid

The approach of winter brings another round in the deadly game of Russian roulette with inadequate natural gas pipeline capacity. An increasingly likely human and economic catastrophe will result if countless homes and businesses go cold and dark when the inevitable extreme cold weather event hits, with the U.S. Northeast being most vulnerable.

Energy analyst and author Robert Bryce brings this picture into stark relief in a recent Substack piece entitled, "Bone-Chilling". He reports how last Christmas, "the U.S. narrowly averted an energy disaster that would have decimated New York and killed thousands." We summarize and quote liberally from his report below and recommend you read the whole post.

Bryce shares that earlier this month, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) jointly issued their final report on Winter Storm Elliot that hammered the northeastern U.S. late last December.

Bryce: "In bone-dry language, the report, 'Inquiry into Bulk-Power System Operations During December 2022 Winter Storm Elliott', explains how the gas pipeline network in New York nearly failed last Christmas when temperatures plummeted during the bomb cyclone. Freeze-related production declines, combined with soaring demand from power plants, homes, and businesses, led to shortages of gas throughout the Northeast. The lack of gas, as well as mechanical and electrical issues, resulted in an 'unprecedented' loss of electric generation capacity totaling some 90,000 megawatts. While the lack of electricity was dangerous, the possibility of a loss of pressure in the natural gas network should send a bone-chilling shiver through the sacroiliac of every politician and bureaucrat in Washington, D.C., New York and the Northeast."

Further, "Left unsaid in the report is that the collapse of the gas grid during the period in which temperatures in New York City stayed below freezing would have caused a calamity unlike any other in U.S. history. The cold that lasted from December 23 to December 28 could have resulted in thousands, or even tens of thousands, of deaths. The damage from burst water pipes would have rendered untold numbers of residential and office buildings in New York City unusable." He suggests a substantial part of the population would have to be evacuated, and that recovery and restart of the natural gas distribution system would take months.

He concludes, "The punchline here is obvious: America's critical energy networks are nearing catastrophic breaking points due to underinvestment in reliable sources of fuel and generation, and by that, I mean pipelines, nuclear plants, and coal- and gas-fired power plants. As my friend in Washington told me last week, the energy sector doesn't need more regulation; 'it needs more infrastructure'. But the northeastern U.S. doesn't have enough gas pipelines to meet demand during extreme weather."

Bryce also notes that climate activist groups, richly funded by wealthy patrons including Michael Bloomberg (who has committed $1 billion to climate groups aimed at shutting down coal and gas-fired power plants), have led a crusade that resulted in cancellation of four major interstate natural gas pipelines in New York, totaling 931 miles of transmission pipes.

He makes the final point that on November 8 of this year, NERC released its 2023-2024 "Winter Reliability Assessment." The report found that "more than half of the U.S. and parts of Canada...could fall short of electricity during extreme cold again this winter due to lacking natural gas infrastructure."

EEIA will help spread Bryce's "bone-chilling sacroiliac shiver" by calling this report to the attention of our nation's political leadership. We encourage your help by spreading this message widely throughout your own business and personal networks, as well as to your elected officials.

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