Democrat claims that grid reliability issues are caused by white supremacists and climate change

Blaming Racism: “We also cannot ignore the actions of domestic extremists, including white nationalists and white supremacists who have violently attacked electrical grids, to stoke chaos and fear,” Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo.,m said.
Cori Bush, Washington, D.C., May 31, 2023

A House Oversight and Accountability subcommittee hearing Tuesday examined threats to the security and reliability of the U.S. electricity grid, which can lead to more blackouts.

While reliability assessments regularly find that increased reliance on wind and solar, increased demand from electrification, an underbuilt electrical delivery network, and rapid retirements of on-demand generators are creating an increased risk of blackouts, Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., ranking member of the subcommittee, instead blamed other sources of the problem, namely, white supremacy. She also threw in "climate change" for good measure.

“For years, law enforcement and researchers have been monitoring violent white supremacist groups and their targeting of our country's power grid,” said Bush. She also claimed that impacts of increasing extreme weather from climate change was another factor impacting the nation’s grid reliability.

“It's unacceptable for our children and for our grandchildren who will inherit this mess if we don't address the horrors of climate change,” Bush said.

Reliability risks

In his opening statements, Pat Fallon, R-Texas, chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Energy Policy and Regulatory Affairs, referred to long-term assessments by the nation’s grid watchdog, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation.

For the past few years, these assessments have found increased risks of blackouts during periods of high demand — usually inclement weather events — as a result of an increased use of intermittent wind and solar, increased overall demands on the grid, and rapid retirements of coal-fired generators.

Fallon also talked about threats from cyberattacks by “foreign adversaries” meant to cripple the grid. “It's critically important for Congress to engage in serious discussions to identify the risks to this reliability and safeguard our grid against threats,” Fallon said.

He said many of these risks are caused by the federal government, including the attempts to get rid of all fossil fuels, which he said are needed for providing consistent power generations. He also pointed to regulations that are increasing demands on the grid, including more electrification of appliances and heat, as well as electric vehicle mandates.

Bush, in her opening statement, argued that the problems of electricity reliability were unrelated to wind and solar. Fossil fuels, Bush said, were the problem, and they were especially harming non-white people.

“Decades of pollution and overuse and over reliance on fossil fuels have disproportionately harmed black and brown communities in St. Louis, and throughout the world,” Bush said.

Bush said that by passing the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which provided extensive funding for renewable energy projects, Democrats had made “significant progress toward environmental justice and a sustainable power grid.”

She also claimed that white supremacists were posing a major risk to a reliable electricity supply.

“We also cannot ignore the actions of domestic extremists, including white nationalists and white supremacist who have violently attacked electrical grids, to stoke chaos and fear,” Bush said. She did not cite any examples of white nationalists being accused, let alone held responsible, for attacks on the grid.

She cited Department of Defense statistics showing a 71% increase in “electrical emergency incidents and disturbances including physical attacks” in 2022 over the previous year. Bush pointed to two incidents, including a 2022 attack on two substations that left 45,000 people without power, resulting in the death of a woman who relied on an oxygen tank. That case has resulted in no arrests, and so the identities, races, and motives of the person or persons who carried out the attack are still unknown.

Bush did refer to a foiled conspiracy to attack Baltimore’s power supply. Department of Justice officials say two people allegedly motivated by racist ideologies had planned to attack the city’s infrastructure. The two suspects’ trials are set to begin this summer.

A 2022 study examined attacks on critical infrastructure by violent extremists between 2016 and 2022. The report found that of 94 cases of individuals charged in the federal court system with planning to conduct extremist attacks, 19 were conducted by Islamic extremists. White supremacists were associated with 16 incidents. The report also noted that Islamic extremists were much more likely to consider critical infrastructure systems as targets than white supremacists.

In her testimony, Bush made no mention of risks to the grid from Islamic extremists.

Dangerous liability

Travis Fisher, director of energy and environmental policy studies for the Cato Institute, testified that the electricity grid should be an asset to American prosperity. He said that there will be serious impacts to the ability of the economy to grow and thrive without a reliable electricity supply.

“Regulations and mandates have wounded it to the point that it is now becoming a dangerous liability,” Fisher warned.

Fisher said that production tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act would cost American taxpayers $3 trillion by 2050, and they distort the market by rewarding electricity production from unreliable sources.

He said another leg of the nation’s reliability problem are the EPA’s tailpipe emission standards, which have been called a de-facto EV mandate, requiring 66% of vehicles sold in the U.S. to be electric by 2032.

“Beyond taking away basic freedoms, like the freedom to choose what kind of car to buy. This rule will place immense stress on the power grid by adding substantially to overall electricity demand, which is already growing because we find new ways to use electricity all the time,” Fisher said.

Jonathan Monken, principal at Converse Strategies, advocated for streamlining permitting processes for renewable energy projects and the transmission lines to connect them to the grid. He argued that wind and solar are cheaper than fossil fuel facilities, citing Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis.

Lazard’s study has been criticized for not factoring in all the costs of dealing with the intermittency of wind and solar, which includes overbuilding to compensate for periods of low winds or sun, transmission lines to connect wind and solar farms spread out over large areas, and battery storage.

Once these costs are factored in, additions of wind and solar power onto a grid become much more expensive than new fossil fuel-fired power plants.

Fallon closed the hearing by reiterating his belief that the Biden administration’s green energy policies were the cause of the destabilized grid.

“I urge my colleagues in Congress and the White House to recognize the limitations of a renewables-only agenda and implement policies that will safeguard and not jeopardize Americans’ access to power,” Fallon said.