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Editorial: A few things to mull before next big freeze

Editorial: A few things to mull before next big freeze

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After a teeth-chattering and blackout-inducing week on the Plains, let’s state a few no-brainers:

» No more cold snaps like that for a while, please.

Fortunately, an extended subfreezing streak like the one now fading out doesn’t often strike this latitude like that.

It was 1989 when North Platte last had such a streak featuring one or more of our 10 coldest nights. We suppose we can handle one once every 32 years or so.

» To our southern Plains friends: For heaven’s sake, winterize your power plants.

It’s not like wind, snow and cold hasn’t swept that far south from Canada before. Why on earth should our Texas and Oklahoma neighbors literally freeze for days on end?

Because winterizing costs money, it seems.

Ya gotta be kiddin’! None of our power plants froze over, not even the wind farms (which were mostly quiet not because it was so cold but because the wind wasn’t blowing much).

We’ve heard some say last week’s rolling blackouts show Nebraska shouldn’t be electrically linked to any other state, since our public power districts were generating more power than Nebraskans needed.

Uh-uh. Look more closely at Texas, which accounts for only a small geographic part of the Southwest Power Pool that includes Nebraska.

Most of Texas, including Houston, San Antonio, Austin and Dallas-Fort Worth, is inside the Texas-only ERCOT grid purposely isolated from the two great multistate “interconnects.”

ERCOT barely averted a total crash. They couldn’t ask other states to help stabilize their electrical loads, as Nebraska in effect did to aid Southwest pool utilities farther south.

Anyone here want an ERCOT scenario? At any time of year?

But indeed our rolling blackouts shouldn’t have been necessary. And they wouldn’t have been had utility leaders and-or politicians south of here kept the next bit of common sense in mind:

» The cheapest solution isn’t always the wisest.

Perhaps ERCOT and the utilities on the other end of the Southwest pool now will re-engineer power plants or lay in enough de-icing materials to avoid a rerun.

Or perhaps not. We’ve also seen examples of money-comes-first thinking up here, where NPPD has stubbornly refused to consider any route for its R-Project transmission line besides the one so many up here oppose.

The Telegraph has never opposed the R-Project per se. In fact, the past week reiterates the soundness of its main goal of improving the Southwest pool’s overall electrical reliability.

But NPPD lost a key R-Project permit last summer because a Denver federal judge rightly pointed out it would violate federal law by marring the view of the Oregon-California Trail “swale” ruts on O’Fallon’s Bluff near Sutherland.

We’ve yet to see NPPD return to alternate routes to tamp down Sandhills fears of wind farms, let alone heed the judge by going east and then north from Gerald Gentleman Station rather than the other way around.

It’ll cost more money, NPPD says. Well, you heard that down south this week.

» Which leads us to repeat something we’ve said here before: There is no “conservative energy” or “liberal energy.”

As Texans suffered, partisans blamed it on relying on wind turbines too much or not enough, though willful weather ignorance crippled most every type of southern Plains energy source.

Fossil fuels are finite sources. They will run out. While we tap them as long as possible, we must keep developing intermittent but far cleaner sources — wind, solar, hydro — and admitting we could safely use more nuclear power.

We also must be environmentally wise in deploying every one of those sources, nuclear power and wind turbines included.

We haven’t opposed wind farms per se, either. But we absolutely agree you can’t just put turbines in the Sandhills without determining if a given site can handle them. We suspect most cannot.

Nebraskans pushed the now-canceled Keystone XL pipeline route eastward to avoid the most ecologically fragile part of the eastern Sandhills. Remember?

Yet liberals, having discouraged most nuclear projects by conjuring mushroom clouds, have been silent as church mice when Sandhills folks point out the effect of even mild disturbances to the thin layer of rich grassland over the sand.

There is only energy, and we need it all. Will this past week wake up all of us?

It’s less likely than that spring and summer will return, as will winter after that.

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