A Twelve-Pack for 2023
Last year Las Vegas booked my predictions at 1:1.5 odds. This year I’m being more aggressive and expect something closer to a 3:1 weighted average. Below, I include my estimates for each forecast.
I’ll get the tough stuff out of the way first. The Ukraine war will not end peacefully with a desirable outcome as long as the bipartisan U.S. congress keeps laundering money through the military-industrial complex (and others) in this proxy war with Russia. (Odds: 1:2) There is no exit strategy. Thirty billion here. Forty billion there. When that runs out, we’ll send more. Putin is old school and only cares about one thing: winning. In my opinion, he is an evil genius, smarter than all of NATO combined, and I will demonstrate with examples in a week or two.
Furthermore, Belarus, an ally of Russia, may be drawn into the war (Odds: 1:1) as a Ukrainian missile (probably made in the United States) landed in Belarus, which triggered a Belarusian military draft of all males aged 18-60. Our betters are playing with nuclear fire.
Many have said the first casualty of war is the truth. I would add that the enduring casualty of war is the truth. I don’t believe anyone. I’d have to read many reports and articles from all sides and triangulate, but that would be a waste of my time.
To restore its prominence among natural disasters, the tornado lobby, outraged by the inflammatory language used to describe snow and cold fronts as “bomb cyclones” and “polar vortices,” will file for the naming rights to “Satan’s funnel.” Big tornado is “sick and tired of the winter storm party’s gaslighting and fear porn.” Odds: 50:1 Nor’easter Inc. filed an amicus brief and may join the suit.
Utilities will be challenged to triangulate price management for their customers, rate-basing expensive and risky batteries, and reliability provided by depreciated thermal generating assets. Batteries, which deliver a poor ratio of benefits to costs (and a significant risk of inextinguishable fires), can provide a return on investment for investors. However, dispatchable, baseload power plants that are fully depreciated provide no value to investors. Baseload plants only benefit “ratepayers” whom the utilities, through public service commissions, are obligated to serve at the lowest possible cost. The list of postponing power plant closures grows, but outage risks will remain high. Odds: 1:10
Manchin’s Wink and Nod Agreements will Go Nowhere
As noted last week, Joe Manchin’s compromise on the “Inflation Reduction Act” will go nowhere in the next two years unless it is buried in the 4,000-page omnibus bill written by lobbyists and passed by people who didn’t read it. Joe was promised funding for the Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline, other fossil fuel infrastructure, and transmission permitting reform. Environmentalists hate the former, so that’s going nowhere among Democrats. As for the transmission, federal permitting is only one bitty piece of the puzzle. When transmission projects are approved, it takes over ten years to grind through state and local jurisdictions. Odds: 1:5
California Drought Relief
The “atmospheric river” rolling into the west coast is hammering California’s drought. The drought will be over by the end of the rainy season in spring, and the reservoirs will be full. (Odds: 1:1) I experienced floods, mudslides, and hurricane-like storms in California twice – both times in San Diego in 1989 and about eight years later.
Utility Scale Renewable Construction Decline
Wind and solar installations will fall under 10 GW for the first time since 2014 because of material shortages, rising costs, and a standing Terawatt backlog of permit applications. Why the backlog? Physics wins. Grid operators need dispatchable resources. Odds: 3:1
Limits on IRA Success
The intended results of the infrastructure bill and “Inflation Reduction Act” will be stunted by at least five factors in 2023, such as physics, trade disputes, specifications, and uncovered requirements. The people who passed it didn’t read it and I’m sure the press didn’t read it before reporting the apparent highlights. Odds: 1:3
EV Sales will Not Double in 2023
Why would you predict what won’t happen, Jeff? Well, I needed the twelfth prophecy so I could title this post a Twelve Pack. To do that, I was desperate for one more, and I found the anti-augury on a Wood Mackenzie post that EV sales in the US would double in 2023. It’s not for lack of trying or even demand. It’s the severe shortage of rare earth materials to build them. He also writes the IRA will help. He, too, needs to read that law because that won’t help for a long time. More to come on that later. For now, EV sales will not double in the US, 2023 over 2022. Odds: 1:3
You have likely read about attacks on the electric grid, particularly substations. It would be nice if the press gave these crimes level coverage and investigated the motives behind them, wherever they lead. Unfortunately, their reporting is narrative-driven, and they investigate to the point at which they can spin the story or not report it at all. They have zero interest in getting to the truth, whatever it is. None. That is not how problems or pandemics are resolved. Check out this line of reporting by Time and then this secret unreported attack near Las Vegas. The latter story is not to be found in The Wall Street Journal, NYT, CNN, Politico, Fox News, The Hill, or Yahoo, for example. The attacks will continue (Odds 1:1,000), and the press will fail their duty and continue filtering and driving stories that fit their narratives. Odds: 0:∞
Speaking of the Inflation Reduction Act, Joe Mansion will announce that he will retire at the end of his term in 2024 to “spend more time with his family,” which is code for I’m doomed, and I do not want to experience evisceration at the ballot box. Odds: 1.5:1 (There will still be plenty of time for this in 2024, and my prediction is for 2023 only)
 Capacity of 1,000 typical-capacity nuclear power plants.