Senator Barrasso: Coal and Natural Gas are Essential to Meeting America’s Growing Demand for Electricity

May 21, 2024

“The president’s opposition to coal, to natural gas, and even to hydropower – the fuels that generate 65 percent of our electricity – is a white flag. It’s another act of surrender to China.”

Click here to watch Senator Barrasso’s opening 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 remarks at a full committee hearing to examine the opportunities, risks, and challenges associated with growth in demand for electric power in the United States.

The hearing featured testimony from Mr. Benjamin G.S. Fowke III, Interim CEO and President, American Electric Power Company; Ms. Karen Onaran, President and CEO, Electricity Consumers Resources Council; Mr. Scott Gatzemeier, Corporate Vice President, Front End U.S. Expansion, Micron Technology; and, Mr. Mark Mills, Executive Director, National Center for Energy Analytics.  

For more information on witness testimony click here.

Senator Barrasso’s remarks: 

Well thanks so much, Mr. Chairman.

Thanks for holding today’s important hearing.

“American’s demand for electricity is expected to grow rapidly through 2030.

“In fact, we may be entering a period of sustained demand growth unlike anything we have seen since the two decades following World War II.

“As you said Mr. Chairman, we cannot be open for business if we cannot keep the lights on.

“The biggest source of new electricity demand is expected to come from data centers.

“Data centers enable cloud computing, bitcoin mining, and artificial intelligence

“How we meet this growing demand for electricity will have serious economic and security consequences for our nation.

“The stakes couldn’t be higher.

In fact, many believe that the race for artificial intelligence with Communist China will be more consequential than the space race with the former Soviet Union.

“And the AI race has already begun.

Data centers running artificial intelligence consume massive amounts of electricity.

“Some estimates suggest that the electricity demand for these data centers will double between now and 2030.

“Whoever secures affordable and reliable electric power – China or America – will have a big head start in the race for artificial intelligence.

“And right now, America is not positioned well.

“Our grid already is strained.

“For years, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) has raised alarm about grid reliability.

“It has warned that the premature retirement of coal and natural gas-fired power plants has increased the risks of blackouts and brownouts in much of the country.

“Yet the retirements continue.

“And President Biden is making the situation worse.

“Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency issued new rules that will force the premature closure of even more coal and natural gas fired power plants.

“These plants play a major role in ensuring electric reliability.

“They also help make electricity more affordable.

“President Biden doesn’t seem care at all.

“He wants the costs of complying with EPA’s rules to be high.

“He wants to force operators to shut down these plants before the end of their useful life.

“It is a disgrace.

“We cannot regulate our way to more electric generation.

“When it comes to data centers, the quality of the generation source is as important as the quantity of electricity generated.

“I acknowledge wind and solar can help – yet they are weather dependent.

“Batteries too can help.

Yet batteries are expensive and can’t provide power for extended periods.

“They also require vast amounts of minerals from China, the Congo, from Indonesia, and other countries with horrible human rights or environmental records.

“We need a reliable, steady, and balanced supply of electricity.

“Nuclear, coal, natural gas and hydropower can provide that.

“With demand poised to surge, it only makes sense to keep our existing power plants operating, while also building new generating capacity.

“Our goal should be addition, not subtraction.

“Mr. Chairman – the 20th century was the American Century.

“Which country will lead the 21st century is still up for grabs.

“Much depends on how America capitalizes on the potential of artificial intelligence.

“The president’s opposition to coal, to natural gas, and to even hydropower – the fuels that generate 65 percent of our electricity – is a white flag.

“It is a surrender, an act of surrender, to China.

“Mr. Chairman, this chart shows that China has added 262 gigawatts of coal-fired electric generation since the Paris climate agreement in 2015.

“The red line is how much China has added from coal-fired power plants to electric generation.

“Meanwhile, the United States has shut down over 100 gigawatts of coal-fired electric generation.

“What does this mean?

“It means that when China’s AI developers need electric power, the Chinese Communist Party is going to make absolutely sure that they will get it.

“And they will get it from coal.

“When America’s AI developers need power, will it be enough, will it be reliable, will it be affordable?

“Right now, under Joe Biden and the democrats, the answer is ‘No.’

“The race for artificial intelligence is one America cannot afford to lose.

“And we cannot win this – or any other – race with China, if we are unwilling to use the very energy sources that China is going to exploit to the fullest.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”