Power Lies

The lede of this Washington Post article [“Loudoun Excluded From Utility Route“] is jarring to me:

Dominion Virginia Power has excluded most of Loudoun County as a potential route for a power line in northwestern Virginia, putting to rest fears that steel lattice towers and high-voltage cables would slice through parts of the county with deep natural and historic significance.

We’re supposed to feel “fear” because of pretended offended aesthetics? What about the “historical significance” of electric power itself? Iain Murray’s oped [“What Will We Do When America’s Lights Go Out?”] on the sorry shape of our electricity infrastructure– unwieldy precisely because of what one might call the “Loudon mentality”–brings home the blessings of abundant electricity.

One hundred years ago, the average Westerner had an annual income equivalent to $4,000. A man could only work somewhere he could walk to; a woman spent much of her life performing back-breaking domestic labor. Medical science, while advancing, was still almost medieval in its practical application….Much has changed in the last century, but in all cases the key to freeing us from these strictures has been widespread, affordable energy. A permanent flow of electricity has powered an explosion in wealth that has enabled millions to live long, fulfilling lives free from crushing hardship.

One cringes and is repelled by the smug slow-growth commissioner in the Post piece who “contended that the line would threaten to disfigure a region that is rich with carefully preserved green space.” Well the rest of the state–and the country–is similarly “rich.” I’m no eminent domain advocate; but when rolling blackouts occur, the utility should make it clear in advance that Loudon will be shut off first. Such individuals who contend “predictions of blackouts are alarmist,” talk the slow-growth line yet are persons of authority in one of the fastest growing areas in the country, positioned near one of the worlds population centers filled with people who got here first, all the while profiting from the existence of that metropolis.

Critics in the article “accused the utility of trying to profit by bringing lower-cost Midwestern power into the Eastern electrical grid.” OK–but isn’t that the idea–to make electricity as affordable as it can possibly be? Should the grid finally buckle under the strain of power demand to which Loudoun contributes, fairness would demand that Dominion and the neighboring populace should hold their feet the fire. Last come, last served, after all. They’re hogging our green space.