Extreme Temperature Diary- April 2, 2019/ Mr. Beal…A Billionaire Betting Against California’s Clean Energy

Tuesday April 2nd… Dear Diary. The main purpose of this ongoing post will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉

Mr. Beal…A Billionaire Betting Against California’s Clean Energy

When I read the following story I had never heard of Andrew Beal. I was horrified that just one man could delay or even undo all the efforts the last few years to get California to become a 100% renewable energy state. Yes ladies and gents there are more intelligent and powerful people out there besides the Koch Brothers who could put the final nail in the old proverbial climate change coffin. Don’t let them.

In an effort to stir protests I will repost some of a New York Times article about Mr. Beal and his greedy efforts, which may very well produce much more carbon pollution aiding to push Earth’s natural systems over the abyss of no return. I would encourage all to read the lengthy article in its entirety to see what and who we are dealing with. Oh, and yes there is a strong Trump connection.

Here is the article:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/29/business/energy-environment/andrew-beal-california.html

Quoted excerpts:

A Texan’s Big Bet on a Fossil-Fuel Future for California

Andrew Beal, a poker-playing billionaire and major Trump backer, could upend California’s carbon-free power goals with a case before federal regulators.

By Ivan Penn and Thomas Kaplan

  • March 29, 2019

California has positioned itself as a leader in the fight against climate change. It leads the nation by far in solar power. And it is working to reduce carbon emissions throughout the energy sector, with a goal of making the electricity grid carbon-free within a generation.

But its clean-energy goals are colliding with a Texas billionaire who has staked a fossil-fuel claim in California and is aiming to get federal regulators on his side.

The Texan, Andrew Beal, parlayed financial and real estate deals into an estimated personal worth of more than $8 billion and a bank bearing his name. Along the way, he became a business associate of President Trump, providing financing for Mr. Trump’s Atlantic City casinos, and has been an economic adviser and a major donor.

He has also been involved in some of the single largest hands of poker ever played in Las Vegas, against Olympian talent, and has often come away a winner.

“He’s the smartest guy in the room, every room he goes to,” said Dary Stone, a former member of the Texas Finance Commission, the state’s banking regulator, who has known Mr. Beal for decades.

Now Mr. Beal, 66, is betting that he can turn back the inroads of alternative energy. He is arguing before federal regulators that California policies discriminate against generators powered by fossil fuels like natural gas and coal as the state promotes sources like solar and wind power.

Mr. Beal’s interest arises from his 2017 purchase — through Beal Bank — of the La Paloma natural gas power plant in California’s Central Valley, which had fallen into bankruptcy as the state faced a glut of generating power.

Mr. Beal is one of Mr. Trump’s biggest financial backers, having spent about $10 million on Trump-related contributions since 2015, according to Federal Election Commission records. It is not known what role, if any, Mr. Beal’s relationship with the president could have on the regulatory decision.

But a decision in Mr. Beal’s favor could further the administration’s energy agenda, giving new life to coal, natural gas and nuclear power throughout the United States. It could also upend California’s recently enacted mandate for 100 percent carbon-free electricity as well as efforts nationwide to curb carbon emissions.

Mr. Beal declined to be interviewed for this article.

Opponents of his complaint fear a fossil-fuel resurgence and higher consumer costs as well as increased carbon emissions at a time of grueling heat waves, record droughts, catastrophic wildfires and devastating hurricanes that are being cited as signs of climate change.

“I see La Paloma as a frontal assault,” Loretta Lynch, a lawyer and former president of the California Public Utilities Commission, said of the bid before federal regulators. “La Paloma is throwing a stick of dynamite into California’s policies.”

If you feel the planet is at stake, you might cast Mr. Beal as a villain of big-screen proportions. But those who know him see something simpler: the calculations of a man who likes big bets.

He placed his wager on La Paloma when Beal Bank, a creditor, acquired the plant out of bankruptcy with a $150 million credit bid — a bid made with debt it was owed. Demand for the plant’s output had declined as new solar and wind power came online and prices began to fall in the electricity market.

Looking to change that equation, Mr. Beal turned to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The agency regulates services like interstate power transmission and the wholesale market for electricity, and approves acquisitions like Mr. Beal’s takeover of La Paloma.

The commission has recently shown signs that it might be sympathetic to fossil-fuel interests. In a decision involving the nation’s largest wholesale energy market, which includes the Mid-Atlantic region, regulators determined in June that clean-energy providers had been receiving unfair subsidies that allowed them to submit low bids to power purchasers. The commission ordered solar, wind and some nuclear sources to increase their bids, putting conventional power plants on a firmer footing.

The La Paloma complaint builds on that argument. It contends that subsidies and mandates for solar and wind power — including rebates for residential solar-panel programs and requirements that growing percentages of utility-scale systems come from carbon-free sources — have left California dependent on energy sources that are unreliable for round-the-clock power.

Critics say Mr. Beal wants the commission to create a subsidy for fossil-fuel plants, paid for by utility customers in their rates, and effectively remove the cost advantage that renewable-energy plants now have. Fossil-fuel plants are better able to ensure a continuous supply of electricity because storage capacity is not yet sufficient to keep solar or wind energy flowing when the sun isn’t shining or the wind abates. And one of the commission’s primary responsibilities is to ensure the reliability of the grid.

Opposition to the Beal effort has poured in from energy markets in the Eastern and Northeastern United States, California regulators, the state attorney general, environmentalists and consumer groups. They are troubled by the potential impact of a decision siding with Mr. Beal and the possibility that regulators could apply it nationwide.

Skipping to the most important conclusions from the New York Times:

But for California’s energy goals, Mr. Beal’s success would be a stunning setback.

“La Paloma is manufacturing a problem that does not exist in order to obtain a policy result that favors it,” said Ms. Lynch, the former California utilities commissioner.

For one thing, she said, a Beal victory would force utilities to contract with power sources that can operate at any time — like natural-gas or coal plants — whether they use that power or not. Such requirements are likely to result in oversupply and higher electricity costs because of the additional payments to operate plants, like La Paloma, that otherwise would face going out of business, she said.

“This overbuying and overpaying will mean a lot less money will be available to use to reach California’s clean-energy goals,” Ms. Lynch said, calling it “a double economic whammy” for the state.

A decision on Mr. Beal’s appeal could come within months.

Of course I’ll be following California’s saga going towards 100% green energy as well as that of the rest of the country and world. By shedding light and uncovering landmines like Mr. Beal we can make that path much smoother with less big bumps along the way.

Mr. Beal in his office at Beal Bank in 1995. “He’s the smartest guy in the room, every room he goes to,” said Dary Stone, a former member of the Texas Finance Commission, the state’s banking regulator.CreditKaren Stallwood/Dallas Morning News

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Here is some more climate and weather news from Tuesday.

(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see articles.)

Let’s start with a lovely picture from the peak of this year’s D.C. cherry blossoms on April 1st.

(If you like these posts and my work please contribute via the PayPal widget, which has recently been added to this site. Thanks in advance for any support.) 

Guy Walton- “The Climate Guy”

2 thoughts on “Extreme Temperature Diary- April 2, 2019/ Mr. Beal…A Billionaire Betting Against California’s Clean Energy

  1. Californian utilities are already installing significant energy storage systems as part more flexible frequency firming infrastructure – these provide primary and secondary frequency firming. Longer duration batteries, eg Vanadium Flow batteries (4hr, 6hr) could provide energy storage at lower unit cost and could also offset expansions in transmission systems that would otherwise be needed in the post-eV era.

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