It's kinda boring, the nitty-gritty of the energy business. Not to mention opaque, complicated and jargon-laden. Within this fog, however, hides a great deal of corruption, negligence and greed. (Wall Street is much the same, its machinations almost beyond fathoming. Even the Masters of the Universe aren't exactly sure how they're screwing the rest of us.) So maybe I can cut the fog with an epic-poetic tone, something like, "Read on my children and behold what lurks/Within the midnight consolidation approved by FERC." Or maybe a more literary start, ala Gabriel Garcia Marquez: "Many years later, as he kayaked down his street flooded by the melting of Greenland, Colonel Harold Francis LaCroix III was to remember that distant afternoon when the Internet helped him discover FERC." Hmmm, maybe not. Instead, I'll just tease with seaweed. We'll go backward from smelly seaweed on Caribbean beaches to the pipes on my street.
Some of the worst outbreaks of Sargassum seaweed now strangle elite enclaves such as Antigua and Barbuda, as well as upper-middle class vacation spots on Tabago. As in Trinidad and Tobago, a small nation that hosts tourists, the world's largest population of nesting leatherback turtles, and gargantuan tankers toting liquified national gas out of Port Fortin on the southwest corner of the island of Trinidad, a stone's throw by a mountain troll from Venezuela. For about 25 years, 3-4 billion cubic feet of natural gas have been extracted daily from the offshore Cannonball field and then liquified at the massive facility in Port Fortin, run by a conglomerate called Atlantic LNG. That entity is owned mostly by BP and Shell, with smaller shares held by T/T's state-controlled gas company and a Chinese sovereign wealth fund. Atlantic LNG employs 500 people, plus 1,000 contractors from around the world.
Some LNG gas tankers leave the island for Europe or Asia, but many cruise north to Boston. For reasons that I haven't discovered yet, Boston is the only U.S. city that primarily relies on imported natural gas rather than on the glut of cheap gas found in the fracking fields of Texas, Pennsylvania and other states. I'm sure it's a totally innocent reason without a hint of impropriety. At any rate, the tankers out of Trinidad and Tabago barge into Boston Harbor and unload their booty at the Marine Terminal in Everett. From here, natural gas is piped to homes, such as mine, and to the Mystic Generating Station next door. There it's burnt, the emissions are sent up smokestacks, and electricity results. The terminal and the power plant are both owned by an energy conglomerate, Exelon.
Okay, enough snark. Here comes the "interesting" part. The Mystic Generating Station is in the process of closing down. At the end of May, 2021, two of the plant's four generating units will cease operation. One of these is a highly polluting petroleum-fueled "peaking unit" used during periods of high demand. The remaining two units are slated to shutter by May 31, 2024. A few years ago, actually, Exelon viewed the entire Mystic facility as a losing venture and wanted it fully closed by 2021. Not so fast, replied IS-New England, the regional power transmission organization. First we have to choose a proposal that will replace the electricity that goes missing with your closure. The winning proposal, and cheapest, was the $49 million "Ready Path" plan from National Grid and Eversource, designed to improve the efficiency of substations and transmissions lines. This development annoyed Exelon, who now wanted to keep the entire plant open and have taxpayers subsidize the operation, so they issued a complaint to FERC. And last summer good old FERC said nix to Exelon. No backsies, you're done.
The answer is obvious. Ultimately, fossil-fuel burners burn fossil fuels for profit. That's what they do. Until, that is, we as in WE THE PEOPLE make it too expensive or ban it outright.