After Arctic Blast, Do We Still Want to Californicate Our Grid?

by Scott Dreyer

An old saying goes, “You don’t miss the water till the well runs dry.”

In modern days that might be, “You don’t miss the electricity till you lose the lights. And heat. And hot water. And wifi. And TV. And microwave. And phone charger. And electric blanket, and The Roanoke Star….”

Around here, blackouts were common over Christmas weekend. Some lost power for a day or two, but one friend today told me her Roanoke Valley suburb lost juice Thursday night and didn’t get it back till Monday evening. Those extended power outages, combined with the brutal temperatures, high winds, and the fact that it was Christmas weekend, caused misery for many. The death toll nationwide from the storm is already 60, and might climb higher as more bodies are found.

One Roanoke insurance agent told me her office has been flooded (pardon the pun) with calls from policy holders reporting frozen pipes and now water damage.

At my home office, it was 6 degrees Saturday morning. Ironically, friends of ours were in upstate New York for Christmas, where it hit a low of 7, so it was colder here than there. A friend in southwest Roanoke County recorded 2 degrees. At Paint Bank, on the western edge of Craig County near the West Virginia line, it was -5.

Another feature of the storm was its magnitude. Last Friday, some 240 million people were under a weather warning or advisory; that was more than two-thirds of the entire U.S. population of 330 million. The map of wintry hazards “depicts one of the greatest extents of winter weather warnings and advisories ever,” the National Weather Service said.  It was freezing in Atlanta and flurrying in Miami.

I would be remiss not to point out the incredible irony. Granted, one weather event–no matter how extreme–does not prove a trend. However, it’s remarkable how, after years of being warned the world is getting hotter and hotter, we just endured a storm that broke record lows in some places. In March 2000, the British newspaper Independent warned that, due to Global Warming, it was likely that in the near future English children would never see real snow.

The extreme cold should have showed us (again) the need to have affordable, reliable energy.

Where does our electricity come from?

In the Old Dominion as of 2021, 60% comes from power plants that burn fossil fuels (3.3% from coal and 56.6% from natural gas). Utilities convert that into electricity which they run to homes and businesses by power lines. Nuclear energy provides 30% of our electricity. About 2% comes from hydroelectric dams that generate power as water runs past turbines in the dam. Even though Smith Mountain Lake is known as a recreational haven, it was developed mainly for this purpose; the huge lake for fishing and fun is actually a by-product.

The much-ballyhooed “green energy” provides only a tiny sliver of our current power needs, with solar making about 4% and wind part of the “other,” comprising 0.6%.

Fossil fuels get a bad rap, but today’s power plants that burn them use new technology and scrubbers in the smokestacks that make them burn cleaner than ever before. Plus, coal is abundant in our area of the Southern Appalachians, and perhaps the world’s biggest natural gas reserves are right next-door in West Virginia. When we burn coal or natural gas, we are using domestic reserves God gave us, supporting American jobs, and keeping the supplies and money here at home. In contrast, by importing more oil, we have to transport it overseas which risks ship leaks, plus the money often goes to enemy nations such as Russia.

When Democrats controlled Virginia’s Governor’s Mansion and both houses of the General Assembly after the anti-Trump 2019 elections, they passed the “Virginia Clean Economy Act” (VCEA). That makes Virginia the only state in the union with a law mandating we have 100% renewable energy by a set deadline. Virginia has two large utilities that produce and sell electricity. One is Dominion Power, which, as reported here, was allegedly involved in a sleazy scandal to suppress rural, Republican, gun-rights voters in the 2021 elections. The other is Ohio-based Appalachian Electric Power (APCO).

VCEA forces Dominion to go 100% renewable by 2045 and APCO by 2050.

In their jihad against fossil fuels, the General Assembly has been shutting down some coal-powered generators, with all but two to stop burning coal by 2024. By stopping the use of affordable coal, electricity prices rise. Plus, since most everything in our economy requires electricity in some regard, that triggers a chain-reaction that drives up prices for everything, which partially explains the highest inflation we’ve seen since the 1970’s.

Renewable energy, though promising in theory, has pitfalls. Windmills don’t generate power on calm days, and often have to be shut down on gusty days like last Friday. Solar doesn’t work on cloudy days like we’ve had much of the last few weeks. Dominion is planning a gigantic windmill farm off the coast of Virginia Beach, but as reported here, it might cause the extinction of rare Right Whales. Or, as reported here and here, the large, noisy windmill farm off the coast of Hampton Roads could endanger our submarine and U.S. Navy fleet based in Norfolk at a time of heightened global tensions and the first large land war in Europe since 1945.

On Christmas Eve, a time usually reserved for mirth and merriment, The Roanoke Star issued this stark headline: “Appalachian Power Issues Emergency Energy Reduction Request to All Users.”

Since our power grid was buckling regionally, as well as nationwide, how are we to manage if we keep mothballing fossil fuel-burning plants and relying more on shaky and more expensive alternatives?

Reliable, affordable energy is a “must have” in today’s economy, and as we’ve seen in the storm-related deaths, it’s also a matter of life and death.

Who passed the VCEA that is shutting down affordable coal-powered generators? Two Roanoke members of the General Assembly: Democrat Sen. John Edwards and Del. Salam “Sam” Rasoul.

As reported here, many Virginians last summer were shocked and fuming to learn that the Democrat-controlled General Assembly and Governor Ralph Northam tied future car sales in the Commonwealth to fuel and emissions standards set by California. The end game is to have only electric vehicles for sale in the Old Dominion.

This raises many questions:

  • In the recent blackouts, many people without electricity drove their (gas-powered) cars to go visit or stay with friends or in a motel, to go shopping, to find a warm spot, or just to avoid cabin fever. In a blackout, are those poor souls also condemned to stay in a dark, cold house, if they can’t charge their car to go out? Of, if their car has enough battery to leave home, what happens if the charging stations are closed, or have huge lines?
  • In January 2022, as a fitting capstone to the hapless Northam administration, a sudden snowstorm paralyzed busy I-95 between Richmond and DC. To people freezing overnight in their cars, some holding elderly passengers needing medications, or infants, Gov. Northam’s glib advice was basically: “Wait till tomorrow and the sun will help melt the ice.” But I digress. James Bacon in Bacon’s Rebellion wrote: “Here’s a problem with current battery technology: the colder the outside temperature, the faster lithium ion batteries lose power. According to Green Car Future, a pro-EV website, the Tesla Model S owner’s manual comes with this warning: ‘In cold weather, some of the stored energy in the Battery may not be available on your drive because the battery is too cold.’ Here’s a related problem: electric vehicles’ heating systems rely upon resistance heaters, which require great amounts of electrical energy. As Green Car Future notes, ‘Right at the times you will need that burst of energy … your battery power is being obstructed by the cold conditions.’” So, how are drivers supposed to drive or even survive in an electric vehicle if they are caught in a blizzard?
  • Voters choose members of the 140-member General Assembly to write laws…for Virginia. What legislators from the Roanoke area voted to put Virginia car owners in a “Made in California” straightjacket? Democrats — Sen. Edwards and Del. Rasoul. If those politicians aren’t doing their job but instead simply outsourcing their responsibilities, why are they still in the General Assembly and drawing a Virginia taxpayer-funded salary? The next General Assembly convenes in Richmond on January 11, 2023. If both Edwards and Rasoul find writing laws for Virginians too burdensome and they just want to outsource the job to California, then they need to resign to make room for new folks who will actually make laws for Virginia.

If they don’t resign, Roanoke Valley voters have the chance to replace them this coming November. We can’t afford to “Californicate” our power grid and car options.

For the sake of our liberties, prosperity, and what we hold dear, Sen. Edwards and Del. Rasoul should be removed from office.

Scott Dreyer M.A. of Roanoke has been a licensed teacher since 1987 and now leads a team of educators teaching English and ESL to a global audience. Learn more at

This column first appeared in The Roanoke Star and is republished with permission.