MINOT, N.D. — I take no pleasure in saying this, but we told you this would happen.

By "we," I mean those of us who view as foolhardy policies aimed at closing down coal mines and coal-fired power plants through punitive regulations alongside massive subsidies and mandates for intermittent renewables like wind and solar.

By "this," I mean the growing recognition that renewables can't deliver us the reliability and power price stability we've come to expect, not even when buttressed by natural gas.

Who knew that making our power grid dependent on energy sources that rely on the weather (is the wind blowing? is the sun shining?) and the always volatile natural gas markets would be a mistake?

Many observers, including this one. When we made this argument, we were met with derision from those who claim that we're just out to protect Big Coal's bottom line. Coal is dead, they tell us, so we may as well get used to it.

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But the chickens are coming home to roost.


Here's a fact from the Wall Street Journal's Jinjoo Lee: "The U.S. exported 52.5% more coal in the second quarter than it did a year earlier, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence."

Why are coal exports spiking? Because places like Europe, which has spent decades implementing policies moving away from coal and toward wind and solar and natural gas, are now running out of energy. The wind hasn't been blowing enough to keep the lights on. "The sudden slowdown in wind-driven electricity production off the coast of the U.K. in recent weeks whipsawed through regional energy markets," the Wall Street Journal reported last week. "Gas and coal-fired electricity plants were called in to make up the shortfall from wind."

But there's a gas shortage, too. "The biggest problem area is Europe, where supply is at a record low for this time of year," CNBC reports.

The world is now turning to America and its prodigious coal and natural gas (we're now exporting about 10% of our natural gas production).

Except, there's been a political movement here to move our energy policies in Europe's direction.

We are also shutting down coal plants and coal mines and making ourselves more dependent on wind, solar, and natural gas.

Now, as we enter the winter months when reliable energy is crucial to keep the heat and the lights on, we may be about to experience a massive price spike in our utility bills.

Coal Creek Station power plant near Underwood, N.D. Special to The Forum
Coal Creek Station power plant near Underwood, N.D. Special to The Forum

Not just because of our misguided policies, but because of Europe's as well.

"Natural gas prices have surged more than 35% in the past month, as worries grow there is not enough gas stored up for the winter should temperatures be especially cold in the northern hemisphere," CNBC reports.

Usually, energy markets function like any other. Higher prices spur more supply until equilibrium is found. But in this situation, politics has restrained the ability to ramp up supply.

How easy is it to open up a new coal mine amid the activism and heavy-handed regulatory regime in America today?

How about a new natural gas pipeline?

If we can't increase supply, prices will spiral. They'll spiral the most when seasonal weather forces us to lean on baseload power like coal and gas.

No reasonable person is against finding new and better ways to produce energy. The problem is not wind and solar technology. Politicians and activists have manipulated the energy markets in favor of those sources while ignoring their shortcomings to produce outcomes rooted in ideology, not reality.

Remember that when it's scorching outside or frigid, and we need energy the most, it's not solar and wind that's keeping the lights on.

To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com.