True Confessions: I Am Dr. Evil

Bacon exposed as Dr. Evil, mouthing Dominion lies

Unmasked! A lying liar mouthing Dominion lies.

I can reveal the truth at last. I, Jim Bacon, posing for years as publisher of the Bacon’s Rebellion blog, am in fact Dr. Evil.

I have long hidden my identity in the hope of furthering my insidious aims. A few readers may have long suspected my secret identity — LarrytheG and PeterG have bumbled perilously close to it on occasion — but even they never imagined the depth of my deception.

Now I have been unmasked by the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. There is no point in hiding in the shadows. From now on, I will conduct my campaign to render the world a toxic, smoking, inhabitable ruin in full public view.

Curses, foiled again. Ivy Main and Seth Heald unveiled me, along with my villainous co-conspirators Donald Trump and Dominion Resources, in Main’s Power for the People VA blog. Bilious Virginia, oops, I mean Blue Virginia, then disseminated the exposé through the blogosphere and Twitterdom for all the world to see.

Read the piece, and you will learn that Dominion is not only misguided and wrong but it spews “lies.” The utility is part of the “fossil fuel crowd” that, having observed the “fake news” and “conspiracy theories” of the Trump campaign, is “stepping up its own use of half-truths, diversionary tactics and outright lies.” In the pursuit of profit, the fossil-fuel industry is “undermining the very foundations of American democracy.”

So nefarious is Dominion that, among its other sins, the company courts right- wing forces through its work with the American Legislative Exchange Council, its lavish contributions to lawmakers… “and its sponsorship of the libertarian Jim Bacon’s blog, Bacon’s Rebellion.”

Even before Dominion signed up as a Bacon’s Rebellion sponsor, the exposé says, I, Jim Bacon, exhibited “an exasperating credulity” when examining claims by Dominion and other fossil fuel companies, no doubt endearing myself to Dominion CEO Thomas Farrell. “If I were selling poison under the guise of medicine,” write Main and Heald in speculating upon Farrell’s thinking, “I too would value a man who advertised my wares while proclaiming his independence.”

But my calumnies go beyond merely peddling Dominion’s mistruths. I have adopted unsavory tactics of the Trump campaign and the “alt right” — “putting the onus on others to disprove absurd, baseless claims.” As evidence of such claims, they point to a column I wrote arguing that electoral fraud occurs frequentlty in the form of illegal registrations. Although I described Trump’s assertion of two million fraudulent votes as “reckless” and a “huuuge stretch,” I had the temerity to describe the mainstream media’s over-the-top response to his claim as “unhinged.”

My reprehensible deeds are all part of what Main and Heald see as a “calculated disinformation campaign by the fossil fuel industry and a cadre of front groups like ALEC  to make people believe the science is unsettled, exploiting the natural human tendency to do nothing in the face of uncertainty.”

But in the hierarchy of evil, I am a mere Beelzebub to Dominion’s Satan. Where I merely endorse “spurious reports and lies,” Dominion is the fount of dishonesty itself, dishing out “sham reports, fake news and false claims” for the express purpose of bamboozling regulators, legislators and the public.

Mwahahaha! The last laugh — or should I say, the final evil chortle — is on Main and Heald. They failed to recognize the trap that I laid for them. In trying to discredit me, they discredit only themselves! In conflating Bacon’s Rebellion with Donald Trump, alt-right racists/white nationalists, Dominion, the fossil fuel industry, and even tobacco companies as manifestations of the same malign force, they put on display the same bent for conspiracy theorizing that they attribute to others.

Indeed, Main and Heald demonstrate the shallowness of their thinking for the whole world to see. For the most part, their essay consists of a string of ad hominem attacks, maligning the motives of their foes and calling them liars. They provide only two tangible examples, and in each one their arguments consist mainly of appeals to authority or appeals to the prejudices of their readers.

Polluting the world for fun and profit. Rather than cherry pick a few quotes out of context, I present here the essay’s brief against Dominion’s claim that the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, of which it is the managing partner, will lower carbon emissions by substituting gas for coal as a boiler fuel.

Dominion Resources has gone further, adopting disinformation tactics in claiming its proposed fracked-gas pipeline will actually lower carbon emissions, and implicitly endorsing spurious reports and lies on a blog it sponsors. Dominion has gone from spinning facts to its own advantage, to actively misleading the people of Virginia.

Dominion is one of the partners in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), which if built will bring massive amounts of fracked gas from West Virginia through Virginia and down to North Carolina. An analysis of the ACP’s climate change impact and that of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, conducted for the Sierra Club by physicist Richard Ball, showed that building these two pipelines would result in the emissions of twice the climate pollution of Virginia’s entire current greenhouse gas footprint.

Yet in a recent Facebook posting, Dominion claimed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline would “play an instrumental role in reducing carbon emissions in Virginia and North Carolina, which will allow both states to meet the requirements of the federal Clean Power Plan. In fact, the ACP alone could contribute as much as 25 to 50 percent of the carbon reductions necessary to meet interim goals in 2022.”

In the words of the Virginia Sierra Club’s former director, Glen Besa, “This is just not true and does not pass the sniff test. My personal rating is: Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire. Both of Dominion’s new gas plants in Virginia are fueled by existing pipelines. The ACP will bring in more fossil fuel for burning. At the same time Dominion has made NO new commitments to retire existing coal plants. Dominion can meet the Clean Power Plan without the ACP, but more importantly, the ACP will markedly increase carbon emissions, not decrease them.”

Main and Heald are referring to a report, released January 2016, by Richard Ball, a retired EPA scientist, a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,  and the Energy Chair for the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter. This report raised a legitimate issue: When calculating the carbon intensity of plans for transporting and burning more natural gas, it is not sufficient to consider only the CO2 emitted by combustion and power generation. Any calculation also should include “fugitive emissions of methane from fracking in the gas fields [and] leakage during transmission and storage.”

By Ball’s calculations, the lowest estimates of greenhouse gas emissions for Atlantic Coast Pipeline, 40.7 million metric tons a year, are more than five times the annual carbon output of just one Dominion plant, the Chesterfield Power Station. Emissions from the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline, advanced by a different consortium, would be seven times.

However, there is another side to this story. Decide for yourself if it sounds like a “calculated disinformation campaign.” The Natural Gas Council acknowledges that fugitive emissions of natural gas do occur on a wide scale. However, it notes that such emissions per unit of gas produced have declined by 43% between 1990 and 2014 as the gas-drilling industry has recognized and responded to the problem.

Driven by federal regulations and self-interest (leaked gas represents lost profits) the gas industry replaced old, leak-prone, cast-iron pipe at the rate of 3% per year.  The process has been slow, however, because utilities must receive approval from state regulators who often prioritize safety and cost to consumers over emission reudctions.

The Gas Council also contends that 10% of gas-leaking sites — so-called “super emitters” — account for 50% of of fugitive emissions, while the lowest-emitting 50% of sites account for only 10%. The big emitters are concentrated among collector pipes on the production side and the ubiquitous retail pipes on the distribution side, especially in urban areas.

Ball’s report is no longer online, so I cannot check his methodology. But given the nature of the data, I would postulate — and am willing to stand corrected — that he extrapolated the pipelines’ impact from national figures. What we don’t know, and I doubt Ball could know, is the extent to which those general figures apply to the specific instances of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline collection-transmission-distribution ecosystems. If those two pipelines serve primarily gas-fired power plants operating with state-of-the-art controls under strict permits, there would be a fraction of the leakage than, say, if the gas were flowing through ancient, corroding, gas distribution lines in the Northeast. Similarly, new collector pipes installed in the Marcellus shale basin in accordance with the latest federal standards would leak less than feeder gas pipelines installed decades ago.

Ball raises a legitimate theoretical point — fugitive gas emissions from wellhead to boiler should be taken into account into any calculation of the pipelines’ climate impact. We should take the idea seriously, and we should not take Dominion’s own estimate of climate impact as gospel. But Ball’s methodology, if only we could see it, is likely based upon a series of assumptions that, let me be charitable in saying, stack the numbers in favor of his argument. Unfortunately, the report is no longer available online, at least not at its original web address, so it is impossible to subject his numbers to scrutiny. I would be willing to wager that his numbers are far squishier — not wrong necessarily, just more difficult to verify — than the Sierra Club would lead us to believe.

I ask you, good reader: Have I, the insidious Dr. Evil, embraced a “post-truth” world by raising these questions? Or have Main and Heald embraced a dualistic view of the world, pitting good against evil, that is devoid of complexity, nuance and uncertainty?

Bacon’s lying embrace of the Alt-Right. Now we come to the second tangible example of my supposed contempt for the truth, my column about voting fraud. If you’re so inclined, you can read what I actually wrote: “No Simple Answers about Illegal Voting.”

The background: Trump’s infamous tweeted that he would have won the popular vote had it not been for voter fraud, which inspired a furious backlash in the national media. The thrust of my column was (a) there is reputable, empirical evidence to suggest that voter fraud, primarily in the form of illegal registrations, does take place in Virginia, but (b) that it was “reckless” for Trump to have concluded from this evidence that illegal voters gave Hillary Clinton a majority of the popular vote, and likewise (c) that it was “unhinged” of the national media to assert that there is no evidence whatsoever of illegal voting.

I cited two studies using different methodologies to demonstrate the existence of illegal registrations in Virginia: one by the Public Interest Legal Foundation, which gathered documentary proof of non-citizens registering, voting, getting caught and being de-registered; and an Internet survey based on the 2008 and 2010 elections, in which thousands of non-citizens admitted to voting.

I did not describe these studies as flawless. “All studies of electoral fraud are based on imperfect data and assumptions that can be challenged,” I wrote. “There is a fuzzy halo of uncertainty around any estimate. But it is patently wrong to say that there is  ‘zero evidence’ that wide-scale illegal voting is occurring.”

This, my minions of evil, is how I embraced the tactics of the racist, white nationalist Alt Right. But don’t believe my characterization of what Main and Heald wrote. See for yourself:

Bacon’s post about supposed voter fraud is particularly instructive, as it adopts the “alt right’s” tactic of putting the onus on others to disprove absurd, baseless claims. Recall that Trump recently claimed, with no evidence, that he would have won the popular vote but for two million fraudulent votes supposedly cast against him. On the one hand Bacon (in perhaps the understatement of the year) acknowledged that Trump’s claim is a “huuuge stretch.” But then Bacon chastised “the news establishment” for not “distinguishing itself in debunking” Trump’s allegation. Indeed, Bacon posits, the national media’s reaction to Trump’s baseless allegation was “unhinged.” This, Bacon reasons, lends credence to Trump’s claim that the media is biased.

What, you might ask, does this have to do with Dominion, the fossil fuel industry, climate change and energy regulation? Frankly, the logic is not entirely clear. What Main and Heald appear to be doing is using the antipathy many feel about Donald Trump and the Alt Right to discredit in a vague vast-right-wing-conspiracy kind of way my reporting on Virginia energy issues.

Never, however, do the authors address the validity of the evidence I presented or the logic I employed. Their argument consists of an appeal to what their readers know in their hearts to be true without needing any proof. I did not defend Trump in my piece. But the notion that I would dare criticize the logic of those who went overboard in attacking the president-elect is deemed to be sufficient proof that I am helping usher in the “post-truth world.”

Sons of light versus sons of darkness. Broadly speaking, there are two ways to look at the world. One way is dualistic. There is right and wrong, good and evil. Those who think differently than you are not merely misinformed, guilty of flawed logic, or animated by different values. They lie. They pillage the environment. They subvert American democracy. You can identify these people because their arguments consist of primarily of ad hominem attacks and appeals to authority — authorities that support their worldview. (This is not an exclusively leftist tendency; many on the right are guilty of the same thing.)

The other way of viewing the world is that reality is messy, complex, and often difficult to discern. Partisans of this approach acknowledge that they don’t have a monopoly on the “truth.” I belong in this camp. One thing I have discovered in covering energy and environmental issues that others see as black and white are in actuality unfathomably complex. There are many layers of perceived reality. On more than one occasion, I have bounced back and forth between Dominion and fossil fuel advocates on the one hand and environmentalists on the other, asking one to respond to the arguments of the other, then asking the other to respond to the response, descending into ever-deeper layers of complexity. Almost invariably there is some degree of uncertainty at the bottom.

If you like your information doled out in black and white, if you seek only to confirm your own biases, then don’t waste your time with Bacon’s Rebellion. If you regard reality as a messy, complex thing, and if you believe that the path to “the truth” is better perceived through reasoned, civil dialogue than the embrace of orthodoxy, then join the Rebellion. And take any message issued by Ivy Main and Seth Heald with a grain of salt.

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30 responses to “True Confessions: I Am Dr. Evil

  1. geeze… I don’t think Jim is evil at all.. just seriously misguided at times.. … but with some help .. maybe salvageable..

    😉

    then again…

  2. Dear Doctor Evil — there is only one way for your accusers to demonstrate their commitment to eliminating Dominion’s scourge from the face of the earth. Let them get crankin’ —

  3. Put me down somewhere between Acbar and Ivy Main. For a while now I have treated Bacon’s Rebellion as an extension of the Dominion PR machine, and have adjusted my comments accordingly. There are many, many energy issues I would comment on more frankly if you were not so affiliated. One of these days when I am not wandering the halls of the Assembly for compensation, well, tune in then.

    But Dominion is correct that moving to more gas generation will improve air quality. The poor greenies are hoisted on their own petard on that one, because the push toward natural gas is coming from the government – the one THEY elected – and will indeed clean the air.

  4. I was looking at this: REC Net Metering

    Net metering allows REC Members to interconnect approved renewable generation systems to the electrical distribution system and to generate some of their own electricity. The output of the renewable generation system offsets the electricity that would have been delivered by REC.

    Examples:

    House uses 1500 kWh – Renewable Generator produces 1000 kWh = REC will bill the member 500 kWh for that month.

    House uses 500 kWh – Renewable Generator produces 1000 kWh = REC will bill the member 0 kWh for that month and will carry forward a 500 kWh credit to the next month.

    http://www.myrec.coop/res/save-energy/net-metering.cfm

    somehow that seems different from what’s been said here in BR …

    Do the electric cooperatives do something different than Dominion?

    • No, within PJM, RECs are bought and sold (either directly or through PJM) by every retail utility to meet that State’s annual percentage renewables requirement (if that State has one). That includes both IOUs and co-ops and also homeowner distributed solar gen. How the utility explains this to its customers may differ, of course. See this website for details: https://www.pjm-eis.com/getting-started/how-do-I-sell-recs.aspx

    • Caution, LG: you are using “REC Member” in the sense of “rural electric cooperative member”; the other meaning which you also appear to be using is “renewable energy certificate” which is the commodity that’s exchanged within PJM among utilities to meet their annual renewables quota.

      • @Acbar – well I was just wondering if Dominion customers can do what REC customers can appear to do …i.e. install solar and feed it back to the grid and get credit off their bill for it? I was under the impression that residential customers could NOT do what apparently REC does allow.
        Check the link to see the rest – they do limit to 20kw which is less than the average house uses.

        to get back to the topic -while some of the Dominion posts reek of PR – issues do get brought up that does allow a lot of discussion and has attracted commenters who are knowledgeable and the net result to other readers is lot of useful information. However, just like my question with REC and solar -still confusion because if customers uner Dominion can do what customers under REC can do – I’d bet that 90% of most residential users would find that would well suit their needs if they wanted to install solar. 20kw on average residential I believe is more than half.. the average uses about 30-40 kwh daily.

        • Oh, so you are referring to a third”REC” — Rappahannock Electric Co-op! Sorry but all these different RECs in the same narrow topical discussion get very confusing.

          I think you’re right, Dominion has a 20kw cap on the amount of net metering allowed. 20kw is a pretty big solar capability for a residential rooftop; commercial can be much larger. It’s all in Dominion’s retail tariff which is online, just like Rappahannock’s.

          I was getting at something else: there is a market out there in which homeowners can sell RECs (renewable energy certificates) to other utilities. The value of these RECs is what make solar energy worth more than just “electricity.” Anybody (including co-op customers) can sell solar RECs to the PJM exchange, and separately consume (or net meter) the solar electricity they generate on-site. A lot of homeowners don’t know this.

          • but can Dominion customers do what REC customers can do and get a credit on their bill for solar power put into the grid? If that’s true for REC and Dominion – most residential is not going to want to do more than that anyhow so what’s the controversy about?

  5. Don’t even get me started on this one Mr. Scrooge.
    Seasons Greetings to all!

  6. Dr. Evil, your minions await your commands.

  7. As a member of the Sierra Club and having spent my career in environmental law since the mid 1960s, and now simply a farmer, I much appreciate Jim’s perspective. We need more care on both sides of these environmental and political/economic issues to get the facts right. Methane has been a significant and largely ignored impact of fracking, but the economics and rising concern about impacts have helped reduce this problem. Nor is it, as Jim notes, clear that every pipeline, or that Dominion proposes, fall within the overall national norm.

    So, yes, life and most (not all) environmental/political/economic issue fall in the gray and complex arena.

    So, it’s misleadingly simplistic to label “the media” as monolithic, as Jim’s comments appear to infer. The Post, Times, Economist, are very different from Fox, CNN, and so forth.

    There was a time, when as a young man in the late 60s and early 70s I experienced and engaged in environmental reforms that Republican as well as Democratic leaders supported. When Nixon proposed a tax on sulfur dioxide (as I recall) that environmentalists opposed as a “license to pollute”, and when he sent to Congress three environmental messages calling for a National Land Use Policy, which Senator Jackson (D. WA) supported. Alas, those days are long gone, prompted in part by Reagan and now buried by Republican global warming deniers.

    So our polemical condition brought on largely by the GOP’s dogma create battle lines that offer little place for reasoned discourse. Bacon’s Rebellion offers one rare place.

    • Thank you, MB, for expressing so well my view also. In this day of polarization and one side ‘tuning out’ the other, the press and the educated electorate have a special obligation to try to talk across the divide and find middle ground. My only disagreement with you is that it’s “brought on largely by the GOP’s dogma.” Many years of arrogance on the part of Democrats, particularly in the early years of the Republican surge in the 60s and 70s, have contributed to the vengeful excesses we see today in NC and to a lesser extent in VA. And the Trump phenomenon is anything but traditional GOP. IMHO, populism at either end of the spectrum is ugly.

    • In the public policy arenas of legislation and regulation, I don’t see a bit of difference between Dominion and the Sierra Club. Both organizations are dedicated to their existence and need for revenue. Dominion raises revenue through corporate financing and the sale of electricity. The Sierra Club raises money by finding causes and issues for advocacy and using them to obtain contributions from individuals who share those concerns and positions. Neither deserves condemnation to hell or angelic wings. They are advocacy entities in these arenas.

      Both organizations can bring facts and positions to the arenas in manner that ensures a good debate, which, in turn, is helpful to the regulatory and legislative processes. If I were a legislator or regulator, I’d like to know both organizations’ views on the issues at hand. But both entities’ positions should be tested by the public policy process.

      However, I think an argument can be made that the entities’ mission to find revenue to keep operating tends to push both entities to more extreme positions and complicates the public policy debate. Toss in other entities, both for- and non-profit and it’s harder and harder to find middle ground. Imagine if the Sierra Club were to support a Dominion position on an energy matter. (Or, for fairness, the Club for Growth support the Sierra Club’s position.) Organizations can be viewed as selling out and then have a harder time attracting donors.

      I think we get better public policy results when the debate recognizes all interest groups or corporate entities as “morally equal,” i.e., advocating a point of view, and then when the positions and facts of all are equally tested. Not that this is always easy to do as we are all human and come with our own biases. I too see demons in places where others might not and vice versa. But more debate and more challenges will provide better results in any event. My four cents.

      • re: “the money”. TMT do you think the amount of money that the Sierra Club has is about the same as Dominion or perhaps one millionth?

        The Sierra Club actually discloses their finances and last time I looked, they were pretty skinny…maybe 131 million – nationally – compared to billions that Dominion has…

        https://www.sierraclubfoundation.org/sites/sierraclubfoundation.org/files/uploads/SCF%202015%20Audited%20Financial%20Statements%20-%20Public_0.pdf

        • In my view, size has nothing to do with the basic issue: Is the entity spending money to influence public policy? Both Dominion and the Sierra Club do this and deserve some oversight. And both entities must disclose their funds and expenditures (as an affiliate of the nonprofit Sierra Club, it’s political arm must make disclosures and as a public company and with registered lobbyists Dominion must make disclosures as well). I don’t see any difference between the two organizations as they attempt to influence public policy decisions. And one is not “morally” better than another (or “morally” worse than the other).

          If you were to distinguish entities that spend money to influence government decisions, how would you do so? What are appropriate thresholds? And on what basis?

          I will draw a distinction with a group of volunteers who don’t hire any paid lobbyists, agents, lawyers, etc., to advocate a position with volunteers. They are generally grass roots in nature and pose much less threat to the public interest than Dominion and the Sierra Club in our example. But once an entity begins spending money to influence results beyond reimbursing car mileage or printing up a bunch of flyers, it too must be required to make reports and receive oversight similar to Dominion and the Sierra Club.

          • CleanAir&Water

            TMT … There is another difference. A non-profit has a statement of objectives. That statement guards all the money that is spent by the non-profit. It must be related to achieving those stated goals. Can’t be more upfront than that.
            The corporation’s main idea is to provide profits to the investors/shareholders which is a whole different set of circumstances regarding community interest. That is where government regs come in, as flawed as they may be sometimes, the profit motive sets up it’s own set of flaws that need to be overseen by a representative of the community.

  8. I have already branded Jim as the AntiChrist, which is a way bigger deal than Dr. Evil. Ask anybody!

  9. re: methane emissions and the pipeline.

    You don’t need to build gas generating plants far from the source of the gas according to what informed commenters have said here in BR so why did Dominion do that and why is the justification for the ACP – to do that with a “side benefit” of economic development to supply new industry – not a one that has come forward and said they’d put up a plant if natural gas was available. You’d think Dominion would have a long line of them lined up to make that statement in support of the pipeline and make it an easy decision for those looking for new jobs. Easy choice.

    Otherwise, the impression I get is that new plants can site virtually anywhere in PJM and feed anywhere in the PJM region.

    I’m not opposed to a pipeline to provide gas – even for economic development but the double-talk PR blather comes across as condescending and insulting – as it is clear that they put those plants in a sparsely developed area – already supplied by existing plants – so why are they there and not nearer to the source of the gas – and let Transco and Columbia continue t serve and meet the needs of their existing service areas including expansion on their existing rights of ways where possible instead of a new pipeline on a new path – 5 billion dollars worth – that ratepayers are going to pay – instead of two plants on the other side of the mountains feeding the grid?

    That pipeline is going to be embedded in electricity costs not only for captive ratepayers but it will be competing against other plants in PJM that have been built much closer to the Marcellus Shale gas and thus the price of their electricity will not have a 5 billion dollar pipeline embedded in the price. It would seem that in order for Dominion to sell electricity anywhere inside of Virginia or to PJM – it’s going to have those embedded costs that the competing plants won’t have.

    I have yet to see any truly compelling and convincing case for the pipeline to generate electricity for Virginians. And I’ve yet to see any major company state publically that they will put up a plant as a direct result of the availability of gas. It’s more along the lines of “if we had gas, we might be able to attract a company” concept.

    So what does the Dominion PR machine do? Well they produce a list of business “supporters” – not businesses that want the gas – just businesses that think it’s a good idea!

    That’ the problem in BR – Dominion is basically using BR as a mouthpiece for it’s PR folks. They put out the message they want – and almost never really respond to the substantiative questions brought up.

    It’s a one-way “communication” and often Jim says he does not know the answer – even as he has super easy access to Dominion . It would seem that instead of him saying he does not know – he would ask that question to Dominion and then supply their answer back.. but it’s clear that Dominion wants to manage the message!

    I don’t begrudge Jim accepting the Dominion sponsorship – because Jim does not purport to be an independent and objective commentator – from the get go. He’s got his views… and he makes arguments to support them and there never was any expectation that he’d be truly objective and independent with regard to Dominion – anyhow.

    But those who read here – need to understand and accept that.. It’s Jim’s blog, it’s his views.. his perspective.. and he allows a pretty open and accommodating platform for responses.

    So good Holidays to ALL !!!

    • LG – you say, “That’ the problem in BR – Dominion is basically using BR as a mouthpiece for its PR folks.” Perhaps they’d like to — but BR is not cooperating very well; he’s asking some of the hard questions even as he reports Dominion’s releases and you and others are asking more. Me too; I used to work for a (different) electric utility and I am familiar with the industry, but no shill for Dominion. That said, I view one of the best things about this blog to be its role as a forum for learning and fact-finding from people that often don’t know the facts. This energy stuff is so complex, with so many layers, and each layer has tremendous impacts yet you can’t see the tradeoffs until you see the whole. Bacon tries to get the facts straight and tries to tell us the whole story far better than any paid-lobbyist-type, industry or Sierra-Club, so let’s forgive him the occasional display of personal bias (“Who will cast the first stone?”) and enjoy the opportunity to argue and learn. See Malcolm’s fine statement along these lines, above!

    • And you say, “That pipeline is going to be embedded in electricity costs not only for captive ratepayers but it will be competing against other plants in PJM that have been built much closer to the Marcellus Shale gas . . ..” Yes! That is exactly the right way to look at it. Dominion can point out that there are operating benefits to PJM to having more generation closer to Dominion’s eastern load centers, and the PJM energy market payment (LMP) is often slightly higher for generation located in the east due to the cost of transmission congestion and losses, but those don’t fully offset the cost of transporting the gas east instead.

      One has to ask, why? It looks like a combination of things but the big one is long-term economic development in Dominion’s electric service territory and the political leverage that goes with that. There’s also the profit that Dominion envisions making on all that new gas business, some at the expense of competing pipelines. This is what private, shareholder-owned businesses do. It’s smart politics: get your friends in the GA to pressure the SCC to greenlight those new generating plants at high-unemployment locations in southeastern VA thus creating the very demand you need for gas to support your other subsidiary’s proposed gas pipeline which also promises to support more economic growth there. Looking solely at the electric business, it would have been a lot simpler and probably cheaper to build all that new gas-fired generation up at Mt Storm, WV, on land Dominion already owns, near the shale fields, and amply served by big transmission lines. But Dominion is a big, low-cost-overall, successful, publicly-traded corporation. This is their strategy. And BR provides us this place to raise questions about it.

      Incidentally, the SCC recently (December 14) issued its order on Dominion’s IRP. No surprise: the SCC approved Dominion’s refusal to propose a single integrated resource plan for the future on the grounds that the uncertain implementation (let alone future existance) of the CPP in Virginia made a definitive SCC position on how to implement the CPP (mass based or intensity based), or what Dominion’s precise response should be, pointless. The SCC totally ducked the questions of whether to keep the NA3 option alive, and whether to promote more renewable generation such as by adopting mandatory (as opposed to “voluntary”) renewable portfolio standards. The one glimmer of new policy in this order was the SCC’s directive that in future Dominion must consider unlimited purchases from the PJM energy and capacity markets as an alternative to building any more new generation. I still believe that is the same message first announced in the SCC’s order rejecting the Remington solar plant, and likely to play a big role in Dominion’s future IRP and new-construction COPN proceedings.

  10. Hello Malcolm … I would like to second your thoughts … as another activist old enough to remember when Republicans and Democrats both played a part in crafting environmental reform … and that Bacon’s Rebellion offers a rare place for reasoned discourse.

    • well.. there was a time not that long ago when some Conservatives were also known to be Conservationists.. as the two words are actually related.

      There was a time when if the scientists said that acid rain was destroying streams and trout – that not only did they believe it – they actually wanted to fix it and restore the streams and trout. Now – the scientists are considered a bunch of lying conspirators…trying to mislead people about the truth and get them to do terrible financial things!

      Look around and see if you can find a Conservative these days that also claims to be a Conservationist… doing so would get them accused of being “liberal”!!!!

      • Easy killer, you’ve found one. I am as conservative as they come and still by nature a conservationist. To paraphrase Jules Winnfield, I will strike down upon those with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my favorite fishing hole. Now to the crux of this post, is Mr. Bacon simply a PR Hack for Dominion Power, sometimes yes, sometimes no.

        Given the multitude of controversial applications before the SCC, this should be an interesting year. The Boogie Man in the room that this blog studiously avoids is the potential for a landmark decision (or landmark remanding of the application back to Dominion to start over) in the Haymarket case. If the SCC buys into any one or more of the arguments brought forth, Amazon Extension Cord, questions regarding the legitimacy of condemnation for private benefit, flawed analysis by Dominion’s land use and planning “experts”, etc., etc. it could be a very bad year for Dominion.

        • Oh I don’t think what Dominion is after is an issue of Conservation-ism – at all. Pipelines and powerlines are essential components of civilization and while they do have their impacts – not having electricity and heat are real bummers for those who aspire to be “civilized”.

          but there ARE some legitimate issues and it’s CLEAR that Dominion has a single focus and is not interested in alternatives unless and until they are left with no other options as a result of the govt or the courts.

          but on the Conservationist thing… I think you’ll find Conservative politicians who proudly claim they are Conservationists – as scarce as hens teeth in this day and time… Most of them now consider environmental protection as a leftist dogma perpetrated on innocents!!

          • I would suggest that in Dominion’s view, the only acceptable alternatives are those that they offer. The problem is knowing what they are planning is a crapshoot as they hold things closer to the vest than most three letter agencies, knowing that they will generally be afforded the same manner of latitude as a true government agency or jurisdiction.

            As to Conservative Conservationists, they are indeed truly few and far between. It not however a matter of potentially being skewered by those further to the right, it is a function of electing the lowest common denominators whose political acuity extends only so far as the sound bytes that can be printed on their cue cards. Politics of the type we would like to see are not likely so long as the salaries are so low and dogmatic expectations so high. Those smart enough and qualified to serve are unlikely to suffer the slings and arrows of from their purported allies for what amounts to something just over the poverty line.

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