We see that you have javascript disabled. Please enable javascript and refresh the page to continue reading local news. If you feel you have received this message in error, please contact the customer support team at 1-833-248-7801.



Port: You need to understand what type of power is keeping your air conditioner running as temps soar

When it gets really hot, or really cold, I look at where our power is coming from. And I, likely a far more prolific consumer of news and commentary than most of you given my job, am consistently surprised when it's still the fossil fuels, still coal and natural gas, keeping the lights on.

PHOTO: Coal Creek Station
Coal Creek Station, North Dakota's largest coal-fired power plant.
Contributed / Great River Energy
We are part of The Trust Project.

MINOT, N.D. — If the only data you had to go on were the rhetoric of popular politics, you would think that we were well on our way to transitioning from fossil fuel energy to renewables like wind and solar.

The perception, perpetuated by activists and commentators and a certain brand of politician, is that fossil fuels are irrelevant in the modern economy.

They're old and busted. No longer needed or wanted. The future, they tell us, is solar and wind.

But if we look at where the energy that keeps your air conditioner running, and your lights burning, and maybe even your electric car charging, it's not wind and solar.

Not even close.


We've had a heat wave over the last week or so. That's the sort of thing that drives up power demand as our air conditioners kick in. If you had checked while sweltering through the high temperatures and humidity, you would have seen that most of the power you were relying on was not coming from wind and solar.

Miso Power Mix.png
A pie chart showing the live power mix numbers displayed on the Midcontinent Independent System Operator website. This image was captured on Monday, July 18, 2022, at 8:15am EST.

You really can check that sort of thing. In North Dakota, we're served by two electrical system operators that provide all of our energy. One is the Midcontinent System Operator, or MISO, and the other is the Southwest Power Pool , or SPP.

On their websites, you can track, in almost real-time, the mix of power being delivered to our homes.

What you'll find is that it's still, despite what popular politics has led you to believe, mostly fossil fuels keeping you comfortable.

My spot-checks during the recent heat wave showed MISO's mix consisting of somewhere around 45% coal, 40% natural gas, just around 5% or so of combined wind and solar.

Did Rep. Jason Dockter, a Bismarck-area Republican, really think that this sort of dealing, assuming it's all technically in compliance with state law, would pass the smell test with the public? If he didn't, he's a fool, and if he did, you have to wonder why he went ahead with it anyway.
On this episode of Plain Talk, Republican secretary of state candidate Michael Howe debated Democratic-NPL candidate Jeffrey Powell on a wide-ranging set of issues related ot that office.
We conservatives should make our choices — from whether to buy a gun to what sort of immigration policy we prefer — based on what's workable and in line with our principles. Not on how it will make liberals react.

The SPP is a bit more dependent on wind energy, but even there coal is consistently making up 45 to 50% of the mix, with wind at just 15%, and solar almost nonexistent.

I write a couple of columns like this every year, usually when our region's notorious weather does the sort of thing that makes it so notorious. When it gets really hot, or really cold, I look at where our power is coming from.

And I, likely a far more prolific consumer of news and commentary than most of you given my job, am consistently surprised when it's still the fossil fuels, still coal and natural gas, keeping the lights on.


Maybe you're surprised, too.

I keep thinking, given the frantic political push behind "green" and "renewable" energy, that it might be different this time. That wind and solar might be something more than tiny minority, sometimes just a rounding error, of our energy mix when at these critical junctures when the weather makes electricity not just a convenience but a necessity.

But nothing changes. It's the same story, over and over again.

Reality is one thing. Politics are another.

Though perhaps it's high time that the latter began to more accurately reflect the former.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
What to read next
"41-year-old Shannon Brandt confessed to running down 18-year-old Cayler Ellingson after a street dance earlier this month. Was it really the case of a blood-thirsty Leftist fueled by Joe Biden's recent anti-MAGA rhetoric? Too soon to tell, but not too soon to exploit the tragedy for political advantage."
On my walks in Grand Forks, I often meet people I know, and sometimes long conversations ensue. Face-to-face conversations.
Mund, who got into this race late, who has zero track record outside of campaign-trail statements to illustrate how she might vote in Congress, is trying to be all things to all people, and in politics, that's an excellent way to make most people not like you.
"I would never and did not advocate for any sort of end-run shenanigans. I wanted to push to make sure that shenanigans weren't being pushed in either direction," North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley said in response to a report that he advocated for recounts in the 2020 election in a message that reached former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows.