Skip to Content

The Weekly News Source for Wyoming's Ranchers, Farmers and AgriBusiness Community

Coal is Still King

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By Dennis Sun

Hopefully we won’t have any more storms this year like the storm we endured this past week, which was one for the books. It made us further appreciate coal and natural gas, and we wish Washington D.C. would as well.

If we look back in the records or listen to Weatherman Don Day, the years of a strong La Niña always produce a polar vortex weather event such as the one we saw the week of Feb. 8. The last strong La Niña was in the winter of 2011-12, and records show we had the same type of storm across the nation around this time. Weather patterns tend to repeat themselves. 

This past storm was ranked as the second worst storm to ever happen in the country. The main reason for this is the storm covered 70 percent of the nation. It was the fourth time Houston had snow, and we saw pictures of icicles on South Padre Island, Texas. In Louisiana, the cold shut down Mardi Gras celebrations – that is cold.

One time, my family and I were in San Antonio, Texas during an early Easter. When we left Wyoming, the temperature was 30 degrees below zero. Two days later, it hit southern Texas and froze everything up. 

The fountains at the Alamo looked like ice sculptures, and most of the houses had frozen water pipes as the main water pipes came out of the ground and up the outside of the houses. What a novel idea. Let’s face it, the south can’t deal with cold. Some parts of southern Texas have had no electricity for over 30 to 40 hours.

Many of us have heard about wind turbines freezing up, and it’s true. But, according to news reports, the polar vortex weather has not only shut down electrical generation from wind and solar energy sources, but also other conventional energy sources – especially in the energy-rich state of Texas. 

During the ongoing cold, coal and natural gas saved the day, providing over one-half of the electricity on the power grid which serves Texas and its neighboring states. Those southern states also learned even with adequate power sources, the current power grid in most states is not able to keep up with demand of a polar vortex. 

The big issues are the severe cold, lack of adequate infrastructure, the large area of the storm and not planning for all of the above.

The best way to plan for these issues, besides building more and better infrastructure, is to have diverse outlets of energy production. The current administration and others in Washington, D.C. want to eliminate oil, natural gas and coal production. 

We learned this past week solar and wind energy alone are not going to cut it.  During a normal summer, wind can provide around 60 percent of the power for the state of Texas, but during a harsh winter, it’s a different matter. 

Utilities are going north and using coal powered electricity to power up the Southern Plains states. It’s a mess. I’ve been visiting with people from the South. They’re going to remember this storm for a long time, and it’s not even over yet. A coal train from Wyoming looks really good right now.

And, as one person put it yesterday, “There’s not many Texans supporting the Green New Deal this week.” 

Back to top