The Fable Of The Pirkey Power Plant (As Told By Texas State Senator Bryan Hughes)

On December 15, 2022 the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs held a hearing of six hours of political theater. My favorite part was "The Fable of the Pirkey Power Plant" as told by Chairman Bryan…

The Fable Of The Pirkey Power Plant (As Told By Texas State Senator Bryan Hughes)

Precis of the Fable Evil fossil fuel devouring Monster Asset Managers (MAMs) forced Princess AEP to prematurely kill her beloved child Pirkey. Jobs and heat for homes were lost. Children starved in the cold 🥶. Angry gods showered Storm Uri upon the Kingdom of Texas. Aided by the cunning and malicious Renewable Energy Orcs, the entire Kingdom was cast into ice. All of Middle Earth was nearly lost. With the help of Chairman Gandalf, a small committee of brave and beautiful Elves 🧝🏽‍♀️🧝🏻 called the MAMs to the Shire of Marshall to cast a spell upon them to make sure this would never happen again. Much has been written about the December 15, 2022, Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs hearing in which the committee grilled Dalia Blass (Senior Managing Director and Head of External Affairs at BlackRock, Lori Heinel (Global Chief Investment Officer of State Street), and Lorraine Kelly (Global Head of Investment Stewardship Solutions at ISS). The day before, Committee Chairman Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) (he of a neatly trimmed, slightly graying beard and a fashionably long but tasteful coiffure) graciously dismissed John Galloway, Vanguard's Global Head of Investment Stewardship. Mr. Galloway was saved the long trip ✈️ from Malvern (population of 3,419) to the comparative bustling metropolis of Marshall (with a population of around 23,000) since Vanguard had expeditiously withdrawn from the Net-Zero Asset Managers Alliance a week before. Sadly, I'd already rather booked myself for December 15 and didn't have the opportunity to listen in on the hearings, kindly broadcasted live for all to see—for free! I then got busy (you know how these things go as the holidays approach) and it was only yesterday that I had the opportunity to watch over six hours of riveting political theater in Part I (2' 43') and Part II (3' 50'). Not quite as long as Parts I ('An Unexpected Journey') and II ('The Battle of the Five Armies') of 'The Hobbit' which gave me hope for a Texas Part III ('The Desolation of Smaug')! So I popped myself some popcorn 🍿, grabbed a few cold beers 🍺, and sat down for the show. Matamata, New Zealand - 7 January 2013: A hobbit hole in The Shire at Hobbiton. Previously used in ... [+] the filming of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit series of movies, it is part of a movie set that has been retained for guided tours. This particular hobbit hole was the residence of the character Sam.getty

In his soft and lilting Texas drawl Chairman Hughes graciously and warmly welcomed all the guests to Marshall, a 'beautiful piece of history (the first city in Texas to have telegraph service with a line that linked to New Orleans) and still making history (maybe through these hearings?).' He also thanked the folks from Marshall for letting them be there for 'a good time today (not sure their out-of-town guests felt that way, but they can speak for themselves), a profitable time (I guess that depends on the meaning of 'profitable'), an important time (only time will tell).' He also proudly noted that in Texas hearings 'real people get to come and testify.' Considering myself a real person, that caught my attention. It generated some hope for a cameo appearance in the popular new TV 📺 series 'Red States Boycott the Boycotters'! Since I am not a professional movie critic, I don't have the skills to write a pithy summary which will encourage (or not) a potential viewer, with enough enticing tidbits yet not giving away the dramatic ending, to see the show. Given these limitations, I will simply focus on a short segment of four minutes and 37 seconds, starting at 47' 48' and ending at 51' 25'in Part I. I know a lot about ESG, but I know virtually nothing about lignite coal mines, utility power plants, the energy grid, and the energy situation in Texas. I saw this as a learning opportunity! Even as I enter my eighth decade, I'm always eagerly seeking new knowledge. Chairman Hughes's comments certainly gave me an opportunity to do so. Let me share with you what I think I learned, but as an energy neophyte I could well have gotten some things wrong. Teaser alert. Like so much of the rhetoric of the anti-ESG crowd, there is this patriotic fervor about free markets while unabashedly ignoring their reality and even trying to interfere with them. In this case it's coal vs. renewables. I'm glad I still wasn't eating popcorn when I did some follow on research on the four minutes and 37 seconds I watched, or I might have choked on it. More on this below.

The Chairman pointed out that the energy discussion was not simply about oil and gas vs. renewable energy but also about coal, a 'clean burning energy and reliable energy and good jobs.' I think I understand the concept of reliable energy, but I'm puzzled about the clean energy claim. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, coal has the largest carbon footprint at 211.87 pounds of CO2 per million BTUs. By comparison, diesel and home heating fuel is 163. 45 and natural gas is 116.65.

In terms of jobs, back in April 2018 the Texas Comptroller's officer, under Glenn 'Chuck' Hegar, posted an article 'Solar Power in Texas: The Next Big Renewable?' (Yep, the same Chuck Hegar who ran for re-election riding the anti-ESG wave surfing the ludicrous Texas Section 809 Boycott Provision which I've already dissected.) The article enthusiastically begins 'Ten years ago, Texas' solar industry was fairly small, but today some believe it's ready to take on a much larger share of the state's energy needs.' It proudly noted that Texas ranked seventh in the nation in terms of cumulative solar capacity and fourth in terms of solar jobs (8,872 vs. 1,037 in coal). (Redder and redder Florida is also in the top 10 on both counts.) The article also pointed out the irony that 'the oil and gas boom prompted by hydraulic fracturing and other enhanced recovery techniques has influenced electricity markets in renewables' favor, driving down fuel costs and making both coal and nuclear energy less competitive on price. In effect, it's lowered the price points at which power producers must compete.'A dirty middle-aged Caucasian male coal miner covered in coal dust with a large hammer drill on his ... [+] shoulder looking off into the distance, wearing a aluminum hardhat with a LED light attached looking at the camera while in a dark coal mine.getty

I have nothing but respect for coal miners. Coal mining is hard and dangerous work that leads to elevated risk of heart and lung diseases and limits life spans. I further appreciate the need for people who work in coal mining communities to feed their families and educate their children. What I wonder is whether there can be other and better jobs for these people as coal mining jobs disappear—as they hav