Clean Energy Via Legislative Diktat
For those enamored by the clean electric-car, smoke-and-mirrors "emission elsewhere scheme" comes the recently enacted "Virginia Clean Economy Act", which includes one of the largest energy storage targets in the country at 2.4 GW by 2035, and prompts state regulators to craft a carbon dioxide cap and trade program that meets the objectives of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
The act, which requires Virginia’s electric utilities and competitive suppliers to generate electricity from 100% renewable energy by 2050, passed on the same day that Dominion Energy, the state’s largest utility, announced its goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
Carbon dioxide has been deemed a pollutant via legislative diktat. Accordingly, embedded in this legislation is language which prevents the Virginia State Corporation Commission from approving “any investor-owned utility to own, operate, or construct any electric generating unit that emits carbon as a byproduct of combusting fuel to generate electricity” until the state legislature has had a chance to review a report from the Air Pollution Control Board. Also embedded are escape clauses allowing fossil-fuel energy just in case the 100 per cent carbon-free dream mandate fails in the real world. In keeping with current virtuous political correctness and emotional zeitgeist, the bill also requires utilities and the commission to consider the social cost of carbon when reviewing the need for a new generation facility.
However, Dominion Virginia Power now says it may need to import energy from pollution-intensive sources out of state, even though nuclear power is part of the permitted energy mix. The price tag for this legislated decree wrought via politically virtuous green posturing, environmental sloganeering, and pandering to climate activists now comes to light. Get ready for acres of environmentally destructive solar panel installations which will fail to meet energy demand in the midst of winter, while decimating native habitat and leaching toxic chemicals into the soil. Look to the new Warren Buffet solar project in Arizona as the template for yet another taxpayer billion dollar boondoggle promising pollution free energy (when the sun shines), and reliance on giga-battery installations when it does not.
Trust that the air-conditioner comes on during a summer lull in ocean breezes when those European-built, experimental offshore wind turbines produce little electricity. Trust that the Atlantic hurricane season does not cause them to shut down in a self-preservation safety mode just when you need electric power. Trust that servicing those giga-windmills in a most hostile saltwater corrosive environment does not take them off-line too often. Trust that those envisioned giga-battery storage complexes for when the sun doesn’t shine, and the wind doesn’t not blow can actually be built. Trust that the tons of rare earth minerals needed to build such batteries can be sourced, and that such battery installations do not become ticking fire and explosion environmental disaster bombs. In England that risk to a small town has been compared to a small nuclear bomb. Safe disposal of the toxic-laden, worn-out solar panels is largely ignored.
Whatever these outcomes, Dominion can pass on these costs to their captive consumers. The State Corporation Commission has estimated ratepayers could see “at least a $23 per month” increase on their bills by 2027-2030… stress on the “at least.”
Virginia seems to be vying with California for the title of creator of the most destructive and unreliable energy policy at the highest cost to its citizens and industry by embracing radical environmentalism and rejecting objective science. However, the realities of a coronavirus economy have finally put the brakes on California’s green dreams. California Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed budget cuts include canceling billions of dollars in climate change spending. Meanwhile, Virginia’s green plans appear unchanged.
“Out of sight, out of mind,” pollution is now the law of the land, and “just-like-that” (thank you Forrest Gump) by legislative fiat, we Virginians are all carbon free at the expense of pollution elsewhere. Never mind that there will be no measurable effect on the climate. As is usual, there is no definition of how the climate change will be measured; it usually falls back to changes in atmospheric temperature. Even the details of how, where, and when such temperature measurements will be made is open-ended.
With the recent film “Planet of the Humans,” liberal filmmaker Michael Moore upset the green lobby with such comments as: “most energy consumers don't realize the complex ways that so-called renewable energy has been developed with a co-dependency on non-renewables,” and "The only reason we had been force fed the story 'climate change plus renewables equals we're saved' is because billionaires, bankers and corporations profit from it." Warren Buffet said it about wind power in 2014: "For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That's the only reason to build them. They don't make sense without the tax credit." His aforementioned Arizona solar project would seem to fall into that category, as does Virginia’s new legislation with handouts galore.
Lost in this green crusade is the fact that carbon dioxide is an essential trace gas upon which plants depend for life. Each one of us exhales carbon dioxide at an approximate four percent concentration with each breath, as we are carbon-based life forms. Do not embarrass these legislators by asking how much the climate will be saved by this “Clean Economy Act”, however it might be measured against an atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration of 400ppm.
Get ready for needlessly increased energy costs for local governments and the public in this era of the coronavirus. Natural gas and petroleum are at record low prices, yet Virginia’s new energy plan has promised increased energy costs. For local governments, no problem -- just increase property taxes and property assessments. Those out of work are just out of luck.
By the target date of 2045, the authors of this legislation (including the Virginia governor and legislators who foisted this on the public) will probably (hopefully?) be out of office and forgotten and have no fear of facing recriminations. Not so lucky will be the children and grandchildren of the future facing an uncertain, but expensive, Virginia energy environment.