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  • Some Actual Data on the Texas Electrical Debacle

    Posted by David Foster on February 18th, 2021 (All posts by )

    Here is the overall generation mix from February 11–17.  The upper light brown line is gas-fired generation.  The brown line starting at about 10,000 is coal.  Green is wind, the yellow is solar, as is apparent from the daily pattern, and the almost-straight line starting at about 5,000 is nuclear.

    Source is EIA…they have a lot of useful data, but you have to poke around a bit to find it.

     

    54 Responses to “Some Actual Data on the Texas Electrical Debacle”

    1. Anonymous Says:

      Thank you, David. I like reliable data.

      So both NG and wind power both significantly fell as the hard freeze took hold in the southern half of Texas. Solar was limited and coal fell off some as well. I read somewhere that the generation and distribution structures (including pipelines) so far south were not built to operate in such cold. That is somewhat understandable since we were planning on frying from greenhouse gases. The majority of the wind farms (in the panhandle and the West Texas) do see colder winter temps and ice regularly if not frequently. Their performance and reliability is a given. It seems to me that besides the large chunk of our capacity (about 25%) in wind and solar should argue for a larger surge capacity from other sources. Nuke is advantageous with its low emissions and small input vulnerability. No reason to follow the science on that one.

      Heat pumps contributed to the load surge and in unusually cold weather have a significant decrease in efficiency and more electrical consumption due to augumentation using heat strips. These are popular in the south with our usually mild winters. Our back up when we had one was electrical space heaters. Also high cost operation. Proposed green energy regulations will seek to increase heat pump use to reduce NG use. Bricking up fireplaces to follow.

      Death6

    2. David Foster Says:

      Some California jurisdictions are already banning gas heating & cooking in new homes. So, when you go electric for these functions, and the electricity comes from a gas or coal plant, then…

      –you get the thermodynamic and mechanical losses in the generation process, which will be ***at least*** 30% (with a brand-new combined cycle plant), and more like 50% for older plants, and

      –you get additional losses in transmission & distribution, probably about 10% on average

    3. Dan from Madison Says:

      “Heat pumps contributed to the load surge and in unusually cold weather have a significant decrease in efficiency and more electrical consumption due to augumentation using heat strips.”

      This. This equipment simply isn’t made to work at these temps. Resistance heat is ridiculously inefficient and always has been.

      @David – yes, in CA they are mandating no gas in certain new structures. They call it the “electrification of everything” in the trade mags. Good luck with that when it gets…cold…

    4. Brian Says:

      Dan: Hizzoner the Mayor of NYC has banned all gas hookups in new buildings starting in a decade (long after he’ll be gone from office, of course).
      https://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2021-01-29/new-york-city-to-ban-natural-gas-hookups-in-new-buildings-by-2030-mayor
      We need a 21st century Kipling, but of course our society is so decadent and backwards that the original will do just fine…

    5. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      Let’s do a little economic calculation — no numbers required:

      Option A: build nuclear, gas, coal power plants along with all their supply chains and produce reliable 24/7 electric power with a suitable excess capacity to meet the unusual peak loads. Yes, the excess capacity costs money — just like a fire department; we have to pay for it all the time even though we need it only occasionally. But when we need that unusual peak load, we really really need it … just like a fire department.

      Option B: build (import from China) lots of wind turbines and solar panels — high capital costs, but no fuel supply chain infrastructure required once they are installed. And then build all of Option A too, because wind/solar are unpredictably unreliable and cannot provide 24/7 power … and at times will provide no power at all. Remember, Option A in this scenario still requires things like gas wells ready to deliver gas at a moment’s notice — we have to pay for that availability even if we do not use it often.

      Question: which will be cheaper — Option A or Option B? Ivy League graduates are welcome to deliver a 30-page intersectional diatribe on white privilege instead of taxing their brains by answering the question.

    6. PenGun Says:

      Just an aside. If you like to cook, gas rules. Electric stoves generally suck anyway.

    7. Ginny Says:

      Sometimes it seems that if our government’s choices were planned by our enemies they would make more sense than if we assumed good will from them. Oh, well.

      I’ve long been a fan of those smaller nuclear plants – ones that are supposed to support a town of 20,000 or so. That would make rural and small town areas more independent, allow new energy where new developments were built. Not that we don’t want plenty of oil and gas. Yes, I prefer gas stoves and the idea of not using that excellent source – clean, plentiful at least here in TX, and much friendlier to a cook like me, who can see my mistake faster.

    8. Ginny Says:

      From Instapundit link: A promise: ERCOT will change. Count on that. Why the first level of responsibility should always be the nearest to the problem.

    9. ed in texas Says:

      Been just sittin’ through the current debacle. My power never flickered, only had internet and cell outage on Tuesday, probably because while I’m on service with CenterPoint (the regional big dog), a quarter mile down the road, where the fiber junctions near the local cell tower, it’s powered by Texas/ New Mexico, and they evidently sucked the big one. Everone I know with TNMP lost power.
      Noted that during the midst, notices came down the line that Phillips (Chevron) Pasadena, Exxon Mobil Baytown, (Shell) Motiva Port Arthur, & Motiva Baton Rouge were all shutting down polymer operations due to the cold. When you can’t keep product flowing in lines processed by steam at +500d F, and 2200 psi, it is indeed cold out.
      Also note that South Texas Nuclear at Bay City had one reactor SCRAM because the steam lines got too cold.
      It’s currently 45d F, heading for 27 tonight.
      If you don’t like the weather in Texas, wait a bit; It’ll change.

    10. John Cunningham Says:

      Hey Pengun, the commie rulers you worship are determined to end use if natural gas for anything. They exult in their goals to end fosil fuel for house heating and gasoline for cars.

    11. PenGun Says:

      OK. We have little natural gas where I live. Its mostly wood and electric. I used to heat with wood for many years. Its great to not really care about the cost. I got my own, not for free, but for the cost of my effort and some equipment fuel.

      I am mostly electric now, but have propane for my cook-stove and occasional heating.

    12. MCS Says:

      Here’s a little hysteria from the MSM:
      https://www.texastribune.org/2021/02/18/texas-power-outages-ercot/

      Where he says: “Texas’ power grid was “seconds and minutes” away from a catastrophic failure that could have left Texans in the dark for months, officials with the entity that operates the grid said Thursday.” That’s pretty much every day, twenty four hours a day. Any system handling enough energy to make a Saturn V look like a pop bottle rocket will destroy itself unless it’s managed correctly, that’s what their job is.

      My father was a utility engineer and an enormous part of his job and the rest of the engineers was designing the protection into the system to keep it from literally burning itself to the ground.

      An even more important part of his job was to prevent those safety interlocks from having to be used. That was when all the politicians cared about was keeping the lights on. Near then end of his time there, he was increasingly dealing with the people that screamed bloody murder if their light flickered but screamed just as loud if they were subjected to the sight of a transmission line. That was long before they were required to subsidize inherently unreliable sources of power.

    13. CapitalistRoader Says:

      My state is included in EIA’s Northwest Region. Pretty interesting in that hydro is the biggest component but coal is a close #2, natgas #3. Wind can provide substantial power and did for ~24 hours on Tuesday but most of the time wind contributed close to zero.

      I suspect those big wind turbines in Wyoming just stopped spinning from lack of wind in the very cold weather Wyoming had this this past week.

    14. Roy Says:

      Before commenting at all much less at length on the calamity in Texas, one should have at least some technical and some economic savvy. The absence of one or both of these understandings one may observe as the driving force behind nearly all the comments on social media threads re that calamity.

      For an example of the technical savvy, I am near certain that most of the politically driven comments have no ability–even they had the will–to put in their own words a summary of MCS’s 7:02 a.m. 19Feb21 comment. Nor could they provide a list of a couple or ten implications of that summary, say, with respect to how design and construction decisions are made, and what incentives drive those decisions.

      For an example of the economic savvy, ponder the percentage of posts that openly recognize much less wrestle with trade-offs made by decisions of finite people with something other than unlimited resources. Which of them know of much less understand much less use economic tools, as useful in careful thinking as spreadsheets in accounting or equations in engineering?

      The link below provide an excellent resource in econ thinking. Its comment thread is instructive, too.

      https://notesonliberty.com/2021/02/18/power-outages-in-texas/

    15. Tatyana Says:

      David:
      an interesting speculation on this topic
      https://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2021/02/exclusive-bidens-insane-executive-order-climate-change-gave-china-access-us-grid-suddenly-energy-crisis-texas-relationship/

    16. David Foster Says:

      Tatyana…I doubt it…would have to mean that the new equipment got ordered, shipped from China, cleared through customers, and installed on the Texas grid in the time interval between the EO and this week.

      The US certainly needs an indigenous manufacturing capability for large transformers; there also needs to be a stockpile of these beasts.

    17. Mike K Says:

      Tatyana, I wonder if that EO affected the Texas grid, which is isolated as I understand it, from the national grid?

      The big failure that I understand was to ignore the risk of a major storm on the energy sources. Windmills were a sign of that fecklessness.

    18. PenGun Says:

      Ah capitalism. In Texas as things went bad, power companies that maintained service, upped their prices astronomically. People have bills a $2 a KWh at this point.

      So a corrupt system, that is entirely concerned with profit is preying on its customers, and its absolutely legal. This on top of companies that did the absolute minimum to make their systems work and now will not face any consequences for failures that killed quite a few people.

      Ah capitalism. ;)

    19. Jonathan Says:

      An old joke. . .

      Woman: Do you have butter?

      Grocer: Yes, it’s $2/Lb

      Woman: That’s outrageous! The other grocer is charging only $1/Lb

      Grocer: Why don’t you buy it from him?

      Woman: He doesn’t have any

    20. Brian Says:

      …so it looks to me like doubling the amount of nuclear would ~solve the problem, no?

    21. David Foster Says:

      Worthwhile article (by someone with experience in generation planning) at Judith Curry’s blog:

      https://judithcurry.com/2021/02/18/assigning-blame-for-the-blackouts-in-texas/#more-27097

      The distinction between Energy-only markets and Capacity markets is an important one.

    22. David Foster Says:

      Some info on the state of play in the transformer world, here:

      https://www.powermag.com/disaster-preparedness-the-quest-for-transformer-resilience/?itm_source=parsely-api

    23. Mike K Says:

      David, that is a very interesting article. I note that it is on Judith Curry’s web site. She, of course, was driven from academia for her skepticism on global warming.

      Unlike all other US energy markets, Texas does not even have a capacity market. By design they rely solely upon the energy market. This means that entities profit only from the actual energy they sell into the system. They do not see any profit from having stand by capacity ready to help out in emergencies.

      He then goes on to explain why and how this enables the “green” advocates to expand.

      If you want to achieve a higher level of penetration from renewables, dollars will have to be funneled away from traditional resources towards renewables. For high levels of renewable penetration, you need a system where the consumers’ dollars applied to renewable generators are maximized. Rewarding resources for offering capacity advantages effectively penalizes renewables. As noted by the head of the PUC in Texas, an energy only market can fuel diversification towards intermittent resources. It does this because it rewards only energy that is fed into the grid, not backup power.

      Personally, I am suspicious that we may enter a cooling trend unless the sun spot cycle changes.cycle

    24. MCS Says:

      I was just in a Wal Mart, every refrigerated space was completely empty. Whatever was there is in the landfill. Multiply that by every supermarket in Texas that doesn’t have backup, and I’ll bet very few have enough to run their refrigeration plants, and people will start to take notice.

      I spent the first three days of the week camped out at my work. Thankfully, we were one of the few places in the neighborhood that had power through the whole thing. My plan was that if we lost power, I’d wait as long as I dared before I drained the fire sprinkler to limit damage if it froze. It’s only a 12,000 foot building but that sprinkler system is fed with a 4″ main. The damage for companies that weren’t that lucky will be adding up too.

      The Texas Legislature meets this year, I expect this will come up and there will be a lot more changes than just the members of the ERCOT board that were from out of state.

      I expect I’ll be spending time soon working on specs for a backup generator and planning on how we’ll install it with minimum disruption to ongoing business.

    25. David Foster Says:

      “I expect I’ll be spending time soon working on specs for a backup generator and planning on how we’ll install it with minimum disruption to ongoing business.”

      Diesel, or natural gas?

    26. MCS Says:

      Especially after this week, propane. Part of the job is dealing with the problems of trying to store diesel for long periods. Natural gas is usually reliable except when it isn’t. Propane can be stored indefinitely and while it’s probably not as economical as diesel, that doesn’t matter for this. Engine maintenance is easier. Could go dual fuel with natural gas but not much point for something we might not run once a year outside of tests.

      The one good thing out of this is that we have a really good idea just how low we can make our demand if we have to.

    27. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      MCS: “The one good thing out of this is that we have a really good idea just how low we can make our demand if we have to.”

      If you watch subtitled Korean TV shows on the internet — the best of them are really good! — one of the common sights is people wearing coats INSIDE buildings. And this is in advanced South Korea, which has the technology to manufacture the TV sets, phones, car parts, appliances which the US can no longer make!

      Yes, there is a lot we could do to reduce demand — and will probably have to do, once Beijing Biden’s handlers have had their way.

    28. Roy Says:

      @Gavin, I hear what you’re saying. But three experiences come to mind.

      My wife, who does not like inside temps low enough to require coats and gloves. (To be fair, her thyroid gives her a lower metabolism than mine does me.)

      Field service experience in factories all over the central U.S., where I observed a variety of indoor temps. Some factories could run in the upper 50s to low 60sF. But some needed 8-10F more in order for manual dexterity. (Some factories have to maintain roughly the same temperature year around, or their inventory of interchangeable parts won’t get made to the same dimension and won’t assemble.)

      My own grad school student experience in order to save money trying to study in a home office at temps in low 60s. It’s one thing to read, entirely another to write. I asked European classmates about their experience, knowing stories of some of them with braziers in their room while hi school or undergrad students. They admitted it got difficult when having to bundle up.

    29. OBloodyHell Says:

      }}} Just an aside. If you like to cook, gas rules. Electric stoves generally suck anyway.

      S’funny. I’ve always lived in homes, with electric stoves growing up. My HS GF had always lived in mobile homes, with gas stoves.

      The first time she went off to live in an apartment was her first real experience cooking with an electric stove.

      The first time she made popcorn (this was back before microwaves and MW popcorn) she just turned off the stove, and left the popcorn popper on the burner….Scorched the hell out of her first batch of popcorn. Yes, she failed to process that an electric burner stayed hot for a time.

      I was amused, not so much at her error, but at the realization of the fact that I likely would make the same error, but in the opposite direction. I might’ve turned off the burner early on something, not thinking that the moment it went off, it was OFF, and stopped adding heat.

      It’s funny how different experiences can channel “what’s obvious”, sometimes.

      I literally never ever thought about any possible differences between electric and gas stove cooking prior to that point. It was a good lesson in “assumptions”.

    30. OBloodyHell Says:

      }}} Ah capitalism. In Texas as things went bad, power companies that maintained service, upped their prices astronomically. People have bills a $2 a KWh at this point.

      Ah, socialism, where such unreliability and unavailability problems regarding basic needs are constant and relentless, rather than the occasional outrage-inducing event.

      Ah, socialism, where such issues are always outside the ability of anyone to address, complain, or otherwise effect change to improve.

      Ah, socialism.

      LMAO, Penny.

      Such the straight man, you are.

    31. OBloodyHell Says:

      }}} Personally, I am suspicious that we may enter a cooling trend unless the sun spot cycle changes.cycle

      LOLZ. Well, given that that’s a, what, 70-90y cycle, and we’re 40y past the previous peak in the mid-1970s (Time magazine: “Global Cooling!?!?!” — Snow in Miami for the first time in recorded history) this seems an exceptionally well-warranted suspicion.
      ;-)

    32. OBloodyHell Says:

      }}} which has the technology to manufacture the TV sets, phones, car parts, appliances which the US can no longer make!

      Meh. “Comparative Advantage”

      We CHOOSE not to make those things. We could have fully automated plants up and running to make those things within 6m, a year at the outside, if we suddenly felt the need. Right now, it is both to our advantage (“Comparative Advantage”, again) and the benefit of others, for us to not do so.

      I assert that it’s not entirely even bad with China as both business partner and possible nemesis. China has a major issue with an excess of males thanks to that stupid one-child policy and innate myopia of Chinese families about the utility of boys**. The historical result of that is jingoism and militaristic approaches to dealing with it. With industrialization, there are options for the excess males to compete in business and manufacturing for goodies to bring home, rather than having to steal the products of other nations. Yes, it does make their military more effective, but it also creates at least a semblance of a middle class, too, which will be resistant to giving up the comforts to make military might (yes, more constrained by the nature of Chinese government, but it’s still not to be completely ignored, either).

      The basic point is that it gives China “other options” than to rattle sabers for dealing with the excess of males.

      ===========
      ** really SMART Chinese had and kept daughters. They will be/are going to have their choice of mates, generally “up status” from their own families.

    33. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      OBloody Hell: “We could have fully automated plants up and running to make those things within 6m, a year at the outside, if we suddenly felt the need.”

      It would be nice if you were right … but there is not much evidence to support it. The US does not even make much of the equipment that would be required to build those “fully automated plants”. As for the US doing it in a year at the outside — the EPA will not even have begun to consider its report within that year. Sure, if we fired the entire Deep State and most of the bureaucrats and everyone with a law degree, the US could move more quickly. But if we could do that, we would not have a problem in the first place.

      Back in the depths of the (previous) Great Depression, the US could build the Empire State Building in something less than 2 years. After 9/11, in a near-war situation when most Americans wanted to see the Twin Towers rebuilt fast to show Al Qaeda what they were up against, it took 13 long slow painful years. To take another example, a few years back a cutting edge battery company wanted to build two battery plants for electric vehicles, one in Michigan and one in China. The one in China was shipping product in 9 months — the one in Michigan took 27 months.

      We have to start by facing facts. Today’s USA is not the “can do” country of WWII. We need to fix that. And the heart of that problem lies in the DC Swamp.

    34. David Foster Says:

      A considerable amount of the desire to make products outside of the US lies not just in lower costs, but in market penetration. If Apple could make iPhones and iWatches in the US at reasonably comparable cost…and I suspect that they could, given some serious focus on the project…they might well be placing their Chinese market in danger should they choose to do so. Quid Pro Quo. Market access has certainly been a major factor in Boeing’s decisions as to how to divide up airframe component manufacture across countries.

    35. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      David F: “If Apple could make iPhones and iWatches in the US at reasonably comparable cost…and I suspect that they could, given some serious focus on the project…they might well be placing their Chinese market in danger …”

      No question that is a significant factor. But peel it back and look at the one-sided implication — Build it in China and you can certainly sell it in the US; build it in the US and maybe you won’t be able to sell it in China. The elite’s commitment to Unilateral Free Trade has been a real winner for the American worker — and for FedGov’s tax revenues!

      Another factor is clearly that a US manufacturer can avoid a whole lot of environmental regulations, workplace regulations, & legal liabilities by manufacturing elsewhere — and those savings may be more significant than the wage rates. It would seem very reasonable to require anything imported into the US to meet the same standards as it would have to meet if manufactured in the US. Otherwise, the US is simply exporting its pollution — which is not doing the planet any good.

    36. David Foster Says:

      Gavin…”Build it in China and you can certainly sell it in the US; build it in the US and maybe you won’t be able to sell it in China.” Nicely put, crisply encapsulates a big part of the problem.

    37. Brian Says:

      Whoever the next GOP candidate is, and I don’t have a clue, though I am pretty sure he or she isn’t currently holding a job in DC, and quite likely not in government at all, is going to run a campaign based first and foremost on taxing the tar out of big businesses manufacturing in China and importing here. The “tariffs are bad” crowd is brain dead, insignificant, and can go vote for Kamala.

    38. David Foster Says:

      ” is going to run a campaign based first and foremost on taxing the tar out of big businesses manufacturing in China and importing here.”

      With that formulation…if ‘big businesses’ means US companies…then people will just buy from non-US companies.

    39. Mike K Says:

      really SMART Chinese had and kept daughters. They will be/are going to have their choice of mates, generally “up status” from their own families.

      my limited experience says otherwise. One of my medical students was the daughter of a Beijing U professor. She came here to medical school because, as she told me, she wanted to be able to care for her parents when they got old. Her grandfather had taught her English as a child. She was married to a grad student who is Caucasian.

      My daughter who has been to China multiple times has friends from Shanghai. One is a Caucasian guy who was teaching English there and ended up marrying one of his students. They came to the US for him to go to grad school. My impression from these two girls is that Chinese girls are not all that interested in marrying Chinese men. The old days of Han racism is passing. They seem to feel that, if China did not value them, why worry about staying in the Han caste? Marrying Caucasians seems to be mildly preferred from my limited sources.

      Fifty years ago, the idea of marrying outside your race was more of a barrier. Also Eurasian kids are usually very attractive. One of my medical school classmate was Eurasian and from Hawaii. He married a girl who was a Chinese American fashion model and she was a source of some humor as she was determined to marry him from the time they met.

      With some irony, she ended up making more money selling LA real estate to Chinese immigrants than he did as an orthopedic surgeon.

    40. Brian Says:

      David: I didn’t say US companies, did I? Why on earth would we tax US companies differently than non-US companies (and in this age of multinationals, I don’t even know what the distinction is) when it comes to their imports to our country?

    41. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      Brian: “Whoever the next GOP candidate is …” will simply be a sacrificial lamb unless the GOP in the meantime has brought the protections against voting fraud up to at least Middle East standards. And that is not something I would bet on the Establishment Republicrats really wanting to achieve — let alone actually achieving.

      We have to face facts. Establishment Democrats stole a Presidential election and got away with it. Next time round, the only change will be that the Democrat fraud will be more sophisticated and less blatantly obvious. This should be an existential issue for the Republicrats — but they are mostly not interested. The only rational explanation is that the Establishment Republicrats are a wholly-owned subsidiary of the fascist Democrats and their Leftie Big Business partners.

      “The “tariffs are bad” crowd is brain dead …”. Got to agree with that. The whole concept of “comparative advantage” and “free trade” only makes sense when it is bi-lateral and between near-peers who respect each other and have broadly similar regulatory policies. Unilateral “free trade” with a mercantilist opponent who seeks your downfall is slow suicide. Hey! But the opportunities on the way down for near-term Political Class kickbacks and graft are great!

    42. Mike K Says:

      Georgia has now passed a law that requires voter ID for absentee ballots. I don’t know the details. The 2022 election will be a test. If mass fraud is established, we will have a violent revolution soon.

    43. David Foster Says:

      Brian..I have heard specific proposals, by Democratic candidates among others, to the effect that US companies should be banned from ‘shipping jobs overseas.’ My point is that if you don’t allow Maytag (for example) to offshore some of its manufacturing..either by outright prohibition or by extreme taxes on the ‘jobs shipped overseas’ but you do allow imports from non-US companies, then all you’ve done is to place Maytag at a big cost disadvantage.

      The cure for this is tariffs, of course…but some of the same people who advocating the banning of ‘shipping jobs overseas’ are also opposed to tariffs. Some part of this, of course, is because Trump favored tariffs.

    44. Brian Says:

      David: Yes, for several presidential cycles the Dems have said stuff like companies are getting tax breaks to ship jobs overseas, when they are referring to the fact that shutting down US factories is a business expense, and business expenses are tax deductible, because you get taxed on net not gross. It’s totally dishonest, of course, because it’s the Dems we’re talking about.
      I’m in favor at this point of an outright ban on goods manufactured in China from being imported to the US, but barring that I want them taxed to such a massive extent it will have the same effect, and this is coming from someone who voted for every GOP candidate of my adult life, until Romney. As far as I’m concerned “free traders” need to be ruthlessly purged from the party. They can have no place in deciding future policy. Let them go work in China if that’s what they want to do.
      “Free Trade With Free Countries” has a nice ring to it. The fact that big business has so openly aligned themselves with the Dems in the last several months (after doing so more covertly for the past several years) is a fine thing, because it will hasten the purge of the GOPe trash.

    45. Xennady Says:

      The cure for this is tariffs

      Bingo.

      Tariffs should apply to all imports equally, either made elsewhere by US-headquartered companies or purely foreign. This is incandescently obvious.

      If democrats advocate something other than that either they’re just demonstrating their typical idiocy or they’re bought-and-paid agents of foreign governments who are willing to advocate policies they know are not in the interests of the people who vote for them…hmmmm… this is exactly how today’s gee oh peeee operates…

      Oh no. No, no, no.

      It’s as if the gop and the demonrats are the same party which just uses different marketing strategies to sell itself to different regions of the country!!

      I need to borrow Sarah Hoyt’s shocked face, stat!

    46. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      It is worth remembering that during the 19th Century when the economic rise of the US was unparalleled, FedGov depended principally on tariff revenues. As indeed did most governments until the 20th Century.

      The Unilateral Free Traders say — Ah But!, tariffs are effectively a tax on citizens, because the cost of the tariff becomes part of the price of the good. Yes, but if taxes on citizens are bad, can we please talk about income taxes? Strangely, the same kind of empty headed follower of fashion who is anti-tariff is often in favor of a Euro-style Value Added Tax. And who pays for VAT? Of course, it all ends up in the price the citizen pays.

      Sure, tariffs can be abused, and used to drive income into the pocket of well-connected businesses. As if that was something that does not happen today without the mechanism of tariffs! But tariffs can play a useful role in (1) leveling the playing field, so that countries with lax labor & environmental standards are not getting an unfair advantage by abusing their own populations, and (2) maintaining critical domestic manufacturing capabilities. Used carefully, tariffs can make a positive difference. Especially for a country with a large market like the US where a foreign manufacturer with a “comparative advantage” is welcome to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Honda & Toyota and set up manufacturing in the US, thereby avoiding the tariffs.

    47. David Foster Says:

      One issue with tariffs is that they get very pollticized..the level on a particular product category tends to be strongly (inversely) related to the political power of the enemy that wants it imported. There has been more than one case where the tariffs on a finished good were lower than the tariffs on major components going into that product, disadvantaging domestic manufacturers.

      Some kind of ‘domestic production credit’ might be an alternative to tariffs…there was & maybe is such a thing, but very complex and not sure how much use it got. I haven’t thought this through in depth, but maybe something there.

    48. Brian Says:

      If the government does it is by definition politicized. The era of conservative hand-wringing about that is over. It’s time for us to use the power of the state to smash our enemies. It may be too late, but being hapless suckers isn’t a viable option.

    49. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      Misuse of tariffs by the Political Class is certainly a problem. But it is simply one aspect of the many abuses created by self-serving politicians. The solution to that lies in reforming our political processes — which will probably have to wait until after the collapse engendered by the stupidity & venality of our current Political Class.

      When rationality returns after the collapse, there is a strong moral case for tariffs. Take the example of politicians imposing a law to limit pollution. When the consequence is that manufacturing moves overseas to avoid the high added costs & carries on polluting, we have hurt ourselves without doing anything to reduce pollution around the planet. Clearly, it would be appropriate for the law to state that any product imported into the US should be manufactured in complete accordance with all US laws that would have applied if the same product had been made in the US. If an import does not meet that standard, then a tariff would apply equal to the costs of complying with the law.

      Yes, this approach would increase costs for US consumers. But to the extent that products were manufactured domestically, those same consumers would benefit from not having to support unemployed US workers. It would also make politicians think more carefully before imposing “feel good” laws with costs that far exceed the benefits.

      Tariffs are moral!

    50. miguel cervantes Says:

      yes the fordney mccumber were reasonable rates, I don’t understand why smoot and hawley, decided to raise tax, at the end of the 1920s bubble complicating matters,

    51. Mike K Says:

      The solution to that lies in reforming our political processes — which will probably have to wait until after the collapse engendered by the stupidity & venality of our current Political Class.

      It’s looking sooner than I expected. The market is looking toppy.

      If Biden gets his(whose we don’t know) $1.9 trillion passed, It might be in time for the 2022 election.

    52. Gringo Says:

      The “woke” narrative from my “progressive” relatives of the yellow-dog Democrat variety is that the TX blackout was a consequence of eevul Republicans not imposing sufficient government regulations on the utilities so that wind turbines didn’t freeze up- and that the eevul Republicans did so to have an opportunity to denigrate green energy. [They conveniently ignore the fact that Dubya championed the passage of SB7 in 1999, that set the stage for wind energy in Texas, and that eevul Republican Texas is the leading producer of wind energy in the US.]

      The cold spell lasted about 9 days. In the month before the cold spell, wind production averaged 260,000 MWH. At some point, some wind towers froze over. My surmise is that before Feb 15, wind towers freezing over counted for little of the drop in wind power- cold windless days don’t generate much wind energy.

      Also note that from Feb 15-16- days of the big storm and big freeze- there was a BIG drop in TX electrical energy produced. Wind dropped 44,834 MWH; overall Texas electric dropped 255,607 MWH.

      date Wind Gen, MW Hrs Total TX Prod Wind as % TX prod
      8-Feb 335,003 939,126 35.7%
      9-Feb 101,617 1,004,654 10.1%
      10-Feb 94,460 1,114,163 8.5%
      11-Feb 108,526 1,269,916 8.5%
      12-Feb 153,237 1,392,761 11.0%
      13-Feb 94,063 1,397,185 6.7%
      14-Feb 154,687 1,405,029 11.0%
      15-Feb 118,102 1,320,849 8.9%
      16-Feb 73,268 1,065,242 6.9%
      17-Feb 61,101 1,046,034 5.8%
      18-Feb 124,981 1,193,983 10.5%
      19-Feb 123,191 1,207,782 10.2%
      20-Feb 224,040 1,063,773 21.1%

      21-Feb 323546 856,209 37.8%

      https://www.eia.gov/opendata/qb.php?category=3390118

    53. David Foster Says:

      Since 335000 MWH was generated on Feb 8, we can safely assume that the total wind *capacity* was at least 335000 MWH. Looking at a year’s worth of data (from the same source), 456000 MWH was generated by wind on 6/29/20, so the installed capacity was at least that.

      On Feb 9, 10 & 11 of this year, the wind generation was 101000, 94000, and 108000, respectively.

      So the daily generation during this period was a little less than 25% of the installed capacity. If you wanted to generate as much electricity from wind during this low-wind period as during the best-wind periods, you’d have to invest in about 4X the wind capacity, using 4X the amount of land. And you would still need battery storage or equivalent to handle wind and load fluctuations over the course of individual days.

    54. MCS Says:

      And some people are finding out what “market rate” means, the very expensive way.
      https://abc11.com/texas-9000-electricity-bill-griddy-energy-electric-lawsuit/10372508/

      The retail power business here is very complicated. On a given day you’ll pass billboards advertising “free” nights or weekends, usually coupled with a punishing peak demand rate the rest of the time. I hadn’t been aware of these market rate plans. A little like the stories you’d hear about amateurs trading commodities without knowing what they were doing. All they saw was a cheap rate.

      I wonder how well the power company will manage to collect what they’re owed? As far as I know, it’ll be strictly a civil process through the courts with the delinquent customer free to buy power from anyone else that will sell it to them. There are “sub prime” power companies too that will deal with anyone. I don’t think they’ll be able to encourage payment by turning off the lights or not for long. I see a bankruptcy in the power company’s future as well. About like a casino that gives everybody that walks in the door unlimited credit.