The ‘bomb cyclone’ is contradicting rick perry’s argument for coal – the washington post extra strength gas x while pregnant


Pedestrians pass a car buried by the snow on Thursday, in Atlantic City. A winter storm caused every East Coast state, from Maine to Florida, to declare at least one weather advisory, winter storm watch, winter storm warning or blizzard warning. (Mark Makela/Getty Images)

The cold weather and swirling winds gripping the northeastern United States have created the sort of winter scenario that Energy Secretary Rick Perry has cited as a reason to bolster the reliability of the grid by boosting coal and nuclear power plants. Perry said that only those power plants could assure reliability because only they could keep 90 days’ fuel supply on site.

And the biggest failure Thursday came from a power line failure that forced Entergy Corp. to shut down its 688 megawatt Pilgrim nuclear power plant in eastern Massachusetts. No homes were affected, however, because the grid reserve was three times as big.

“We are less concerned about the problem of maintaining resiliency due to on-site fuel storage,” said Rich Dewey, executive vice president of the New York Independent System Operator, which manages and monitors the region’s electricity grid. “We have a diverse fleet not linked to any one fuel.”

On Thursday it asserted in a blog post that the storm was not posing any power supply problems. “During the cold weather, PJM has had adequate power supplies and maintained operating reserve margins,” the group said in its “Inside Lines” blog. “There have been no concerns with fuel availability. No reliability issues are expected through the weekend.”

Harsh weather has frozen wellhead equipment and dented production, which fell about 5 percent in northeastern Pennsylvania, a major supplier for the area. Spot prices for natural gas nearly tripled overnight, reaching record levels in the New York City area.

Dewey said that, so far, many power plants in the region have responded to the cold snap by switching to oil, which is cheaper. And thanks to rules already in place, those power plants have the oil needed to last while operating at full capacity.

About 34 percent of power plants in the New York region can burn either natural gas or oil. Those with ready access to oil supplies might keep as little as three days’ supply on their sites, but others keep enough oil on hand to last as long as 30 days, Dewey said.

“The high price of natural gas has led us to using oil as an alternative fuel and many of our stations are running on oil at this moment to keep the lights on for our customers in New Jersey” and the PJM regional grid, said Joe Delmar, spokesman for PSEG Power. PSEG’s three nuclear units also have been running at full power and, he added, “they are much cheaper than using natural gas or oil as fuel right now.”

“Electricity markets in the Northeast U.S. are currently facing cold weather reminiscent of the winter 2013/14 ‘Polar Vortex,’ ” S&P Global Platts Analytics said. “This time around — even with more efficient gas capacity installations, robust gas production nearby and recent gas pipeline expansions — we are seeing similarly high oil-burn for power generation, considerably higher than what we would expect to see in a normal winter in the U.S. at this time of the year.”