Barrasso: We Should Generate Electricity that Produces Less Greenhouse Gas Emissions but Not at the Expense of Reliability, Resiliency, or Affordability

March 11, 2021

Click here to watch Ranking Member Barrasso’s remarks.  

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), delivered the following remarks at a full committee hearing on the reliability, resiliency, and affordability of electric service. 

The hearing featured testimony from James Robb, president and CEO of North American Electric Reliability Corporation; Mark Gabriel, administrator and CEO of Western Area Power Administration; the Honorable Pat Wood, III, CEO of Hunt Energy Network and former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; Michael Shellenberger, founder and president of environmental progress; and Manu Asthana, president and CEO of PJM Interconnection. 

For more information on witness testimony click here. 

Senator Barrasso’s remarks: 

“We all agree that affordable, reliable, and resilient electric service is essential for every American. 

“Electricity is needed for virtually all aspects of our lives. 

“That is why I have been a strong advocate for generating electricity from a diverse set of resources, including coal, uranium, natural gas, hydropower, wind, and solar. 

“It is also why I have been especially supportive of energy resources that are capable of generating electricity at all times of the day or night – what is known as ‘base load capacity.’ 

“And it is why we need to be realistic about the limitations of energy sources such as wind and solar that cannot generate electricity all the time. 

“Increasingly, the national discussion on electricity has centered around a single metric – how much greenhouse gas does a source of electricity produce? 

“The discussion has failed to pay sufficient attention to the questions of reliability, resiliency, and affordability. 

“During last month’s cold snap, coal played a critical role in maintaining power in Oklahoma and other states. 

“In addition, nuclear power, by one standard, outperformed all other energy resources in Texas, and hydropower was essential to keeping the lights on in western states. 

“We must ensure that our grids can provide electricity at all times and at prices that American families and businesses can afford.  

“The American public deserves to know what policies and measures are necessary to ensure that happens. 

“The public also deserves to know what policies and measures make that objective much more difficult to achieve. 

“Today’s hearing should help address these important issues. 

“Electric systems in this country are among the best in the world, and they are always evolving. 

“The men and women who build and operate them are tremendously capable. 

“These professionals must work today with the grids we have today, and not the grids we wish for in 15 or 25 years. 

“The blackouts that we witnessed in California in 2019 and 2020 as well as the blackouts across the central part of the country last month are unacceptable. 

“What’s also unacceptable are proposals that would make blackouts more likely or more devastating for the American people. 

“For example, President Biden has pledged to ‘achieve a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035.’ 

“This is a goal no state – not even California – has set for itself. 

“President Biden has also pledged to cut ‘the carbon footprint of our national building stock in half by 2035’ and ‘ensur[e] 100% of new sales for light-and medium-duty vehicles will be zero emissions.’ 

“In other words, President Biden wants to saddle our electric grids with the additional burdens of powering our transportation fleet and heating buildings currently served by natural gas or oil. 

“As a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report stated last month: ‘The transition to electric heating and transport drives up electricity demand, while tremendous growth of wind and solar strain the grid.’

“President Biden’s proposals would concentrate our nation’s vulnerabilities to bad weather events, terrorism, or cyberattacks on the electric grid. 

“Rather than learn from the blackouts in California and the blackouts last month, some in Congress are doubling down. 

“Last week, House Democrats introduced a bill to require that the country’s power sector be 80 percent carbon-free in less than ten years and 100 percent carbon-free by 2035. 

“Like President Biden’s plan, their legislation would also push additional burdens on America’s electric grids through the electrification of buildings and vehicles that would otherwise rely on oil and natural gas. 

“We should pursue ways to generate electricity that produce less greenhouse gas emissions. 

“We must not do so at the expense of the reliability, resiliency, or affordability of electric service. 

“That means supporting the continuation and expansion of electricity generation from nuclear power, hydropower, natural gas, and coal.”