News and Commentary

Energy Expert Debunks AOC’s Suggestion To Immediately Turn Off Puerto Rico’s Coal Power

“I don’t know how to say this delicately, but I really do think every sentence you said is demonstrably false"
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 07: U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks during a news conference at the East Front of the U.S. Capitol February 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. The freshmen congresswoman held a news conference to call on Congress "to cut funding for President Trump's deportation force." (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex Wong/Getty Images

An energy policy expert debunked suggestions from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to close down the coal plant that produces 20% of Puerto Rico’s electricity.

As reported by The Daily Wire, Ocasio-Cortez stated during a recent hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee that it would be possible to shutter AES Puerto Rico’s coal plant in Guayama immediately “while keeping the lights on and preventing price increases on the island.” She largely relied upon testimony from Ruth Santiago — a lawyer and trustee from renewable energy group Earthjustice — to justify her claims.

The vast majority of Puerto Rico’s power comes from coal, petroleum, natural gas, and other fossil fuels. Only 2.5% presently comes from renewable energy sources.

Center for Industrial Progress Founder and President Alex Epstein — who testified before the House Natural Resources Committee — tried to tell Ocasio-Cortez that rapidly pushing the island into unreliable green energy solutions “would make Puerto Rico into truly a consistently third-world country.” 

After the hearing, Epstein released a “respectful refutation” video to more thoroughly debunk Ocasio-Cortez’s assertions.

“I don’t know how to say this delicately, but I really do think every sentence you and that witness said is demonstrably false,” Epstein told the lawmaker.


Epstein first contrasted Ocasio-Cortez’s claim that those against shuttering the coal plant were making “chicken little” arguments with her famous declaration that “the world is going to end in twelve years if we don’t address climate change” — which, as Epstein noted, is “actually a chicken little view.”

“I do believe CO2 emissions impact climate, but we have to look at how much,” said Epstein, citing the fact that global temperatures have only risen by one degree over the past 170 years and that climate-related deaths decreased by 98% during the last century.

“It is a truly existential threat if you threaten the energy supply,” he countered. “We’ve seen that a little bit in California, even more in Texas this year where it’s not a livable environment if the electricity isn’t on — and people in Puerto Rico live with that on a daily basis.”

Epstein then urged Ocasio-Cortez to retract her assertion that there would be “no adverse impacts” — “no reliability issues, no shortage of megawatts, no vulnerability to hurricanes” — from closing down AES Coal.

According to Epstein, Ocasio-Cortez was misrepresenting a Siemens study and its conclusions: “One thing to note about this report… it has a lot of different scenarios — I think a couple dozen scenarios — and all of the scenarios involve keeping that coal plant open until at least 2027. This report has nothing to do with shutting down the plant ‘tomorrow.’ It does not say that that’s doable, it doesn’t entertain that that’s doable.”

Epstein then pointed Ocasio-Cortez toward a 2019 statement from Siemens that debunked a similar misinterpretation of their study. As Epstein explained: “Sometimes, we say something and we’re sort of right and sort of wrong. And this is just a case where what you said is 100% wrong.”

On the claim that solar could immediately replace the shuttered coal plant, Epstein stated that it would be “an absolute death sentence for countless people,” which would lead to an even larger “exodus from Puerto Rico than has already happened” and economic deprivation for remaining residents.

As with the Siemens report, Epstein noted that a National Renewable Energy Laboratory study — which Ocasio-Cortez also cites to support her claims — merely explores the idea of rooftop solar gradually replacing some nonrenewable energy sources: “It is not at all saying you can shut down the coal plant tomorrow… none of them say remotely anything like what you were saying or what, unfortunately, and I think really despicably, Ruth Santiago indicated they were saying.”

Epstein told The Daily Wire that he has unfortunately not heard from Ocasio-Cortez’s office. Nevertheless, he expressed concern that “there is a real chance the Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee will get this plant shut down on a disastrous timetable.”

Abuela” — Ocasio-Cortez’s grandmother — lives in Arecibo, a town 40 miles west of San Juan. Whether Abuela’s home is powered by coal remains unclear.

The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  Energy Expert Debunks AOC’s Suggestion To Immediately Turn Off Puerto Rico’s Coal Power