Author Archives: Steve Haner

Richmond Wants to Kill Its Gas Utility, Also Ending Service in Henrico, Chesterfield

Pending Termination

by Steve Haner

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That the (Richmond) Council hereby commits to working with the City’s Administration on an equitable plan to phase out reliance on gas and shift to accelerated investment in City-owned renewable energy and hereby recognizes that the continued operation of the City’s gas utility is an obstacle to the City’s goal of Net-Zero emissions in accordance Resolution No. 2020-R024, adopted June 8, 2020.

Translation:  The Richmond Gas Works, a municipal owned public service utility, is targeted for closure.   Council sees its continued operation as “an obstacle.”  The 117,600 customers (as of 2018) will need to run their lives and businesses without natural gas.  Those customers are not confined to the city itself but are also located in Henrico and Chesterfield counties.

Disclosure:  The neighborhood where Jim Bacon and I live, miles from the city line, is served by Richmond Gas Works.  Just last year at some expense I converted a traditional 80 gallon electric water heater to a tankless gas unit.  The goal was to save energy (it did), but if this happens, I’m back to the less efficient approach and my least favorite power company digs deeper into my pocket.

Every single candidate for the legislature in Richmond, Henrico or Chesterfield needs to tell the voters whether they will let this stand or oppose this effort to kill natural gas options.  It will end up before the General Assembly or the State Corporation Commission or the courts or all three.  The resolution itself contemplates needing legislation to accomplish its goals.   The city probably has a legal (and enforceable) obligation to continue service under current law. Continue reading

Conference Explores VA Rush to Copy CA Energy

by Steve Haner

Californians were again this week under an electricity “flex alert,” a conservation order required because of its reliance on unreliable solar and wind energy. They often cannot keep up with demand on the hotter days. Is this Virginia’s future? The government is telling Californians:

  • Set your thermostat at 78° or higher
  • Avoid using major appliances
  • Turn off unnecessary lights
  • Use fans for cooling
  • Unplug unused items.

The return of this power shortfall comes just days before Governor Gavin Newsom faces a recall vote, with this growing crisis being cited by some of his opponents. It is also a distant cloud on Virginia’s horizon as early voting begins here next week in the elections for statewide offices and the House of Delegates.

Virginia has rushed to copy California’s climate-fear and rent-seeking driven solar and wind energy scheme.

Of all the ways Virginia’s new Democratic majority has remade the state, the move to unreliable energy sources will have the greatest impact on business and family budgets over coming decades. Once completed the transformation’s costs will likely exceed that of all the various tax increases imposed. Two of the new energy taxes, one a carbon tax and the other to fund a subsidy for low-income electricity users, begin to raise energy prices this month.

The consumer impact (cost and lifestyle) of the various energy transformation measures will be the topic of Thursday’s Virginia Energy Consumer Conference, with another proposed carbon tax – the Transportation and Climate Initiative – the topic of my planned presentation. The various presentations can be streamed live if you pre-register here. Continue reading

Virginia Has a Rising Sea Problem, Relatively

Ninety years of relative sea level rise (SLR) at Norfolk’s Sewells Point gauge, with mean lines added by Kip Hansen. It is about two-third due to sinking land, one-third due to long term absolute SLR, and in no way due to modern CO2 emissions.

by Steve Haner and Kip Hansen

When discussing sea level rise, on Virginia’s coast or anywhere else, watch the terms being used very carefully. Absolute sea level is the height of the ocean compared to the center of the Earth. Relative sea level is the height of the ocean compared to a specific point on the shore. They are not the same.

Virginia’s coastal region is getting creamed by relative sea level rise, not the absolute variety. As clear and important as that is, however, Virginia officialdom has decided to ignore it and instead base its economic decisions on scary model projections that put much of tidal Virginia underwater within decades.

This June article from Virginia Mercury details how Governor Ralph Northam’s administration imposed the assumption that relative sea level at Sewell’s Point will rise 2.2 feet by 2050, which would require an acceleration of the measured rise by factors of about five. The projected rise would approach seven feet by 2100. That would cover much of developed Virginia Beach. Continue reading

The Other Side of the “Intensifying Rain” Claim

Prepared by Kip Hansen. Data sources cited. Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner and Kip Hansen

With the rainy remnants of another hurricane heading for Virginia from battered Louisiana, the stories of a coming Climate Armageddon will again ramp up. A couple of good examples of what to expect recently appeared in Virginia Mercury, the main one quoting numerous sources claiming Virginia is seeing more and more intense rainfall and will suffer more flooding as a result.

Don’t accept that on the slim evidence presented without paying close attention to what you are not being told. The facts omitted are often the main problem with the Climate Armageddon Narrative, which usually avoids outright falsehoods but regularly ignores adverse evidence.

The most powerful assumption in government right now, whether in Washington or Richmond, is that the Climate Armageddon Narrative is fact-based. It is instead based on models. A recent state-sponsored report which also warns of more and more intense rainfall, quoted by the Mercury, relies heavily on models and totally ignores how they usually offer a range of predictions. The report focuses only on the more dire of those predictions, not those which merely extrapolate historical trends. (More on that in a second story on sea level rise.) Continue reading

Nantucket Wind Suit May Have Virginia Echoes

Source: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

by Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy. 

A group of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts residents have filed suit challenging the pre-construction environmental review on a massive offshore wind complex planned off its shores. The issues raised may have a direct impact on the similar wind energy project planned off Virginia Beach, which is only now beginning its environmental impact process.

A loose coalition of offshore wind opponents is forming from North Carolina to New England to the Great Lakes to question or challenge the expanding list of proposed projects. The Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy has affiliated with the coalition, with our concerns over Dominion Energy Virginia’s proposed 5,280 megawatt project basically economic.

One of the key organizers of the broad coalition and this Nantucket lawsuit, David Stevenson of the Caesar Rodney Institute in Delaware, will be speaking at the Virginia Energy Consumer Conference on September 16 outside Richmond. Thomas Jefferson Institute is one of the three sponsors. The full conference will be available through streaming.  Continue reading

Correction: Vaccination Advantage Exaggerated

by Steve Haner

Twenty to one?  Where did that math challenged fellow get that?  Oh, wait, I am the math challenged fellow and I have to offer a big correction to my post from yesterday.  Yes, the advantage to being vaccinated is evident in that new data set on the Virginia Department of Health dashboard, but the advantage is not that large.

Over the period measured, January 17 to February 14, a vaccinated person had about a 15 to one advantage over an unvaccinated person (2 versus 31 out of 100,000) when considering risk of death, and slightly better than ten to one (9 versus 98 out of 100,000) when considering risk of hospitalization.   The blatant error I made probably reflected a bias to see that advantage, having gotten the shots and hoping the hesitant will come around.

Still pretty dramatic, you say.  There is more bad news.  The data is week by week, and looking at the most recent weeks, those gaps have dropped substantially.  One week’s data is a small snapshot but looking at all the weeks in July (probably fairly complete now) a trend of smaller gaps is evident.    Continue reading

VDH Data: Vaccinated Improve Odds by 20 to 1

Virginia Department of Health

According to the Virginia Department of Health’s count, just more than 400 fully-vaccinated patients have ended up in a Virginia hospital with a case of COVID-19, and 83 have died. This was the count for the period of January 17 to August 14 and represented five percent or less of the total hospital cases and deaths in that period. The percentages are even smaller when compared to the pool of 4.7 million fully vaccinated people.

So. being vaccinated is safer than being unvaccinated by a factor of about 20. Your odds of staying out of the hospital or morgue improve 20 to one. Out of every 100,000 vaccinated Virginians, nine ended up in the hospital and two died. Among the millions of unvaccinated and partially vaccinated, 164 per 100,000 went to the hospital and 55 died. Partial vaccination is not that useful.

The website is proving glitchy today, probably swamped with visitors. VDH had promised an update for this data set last Friday, but then delayed the release to today. As it is it is still a week behind, but weekly updates are promised. Death stats in particular are slow to arrive. Apparently, they are cross referencing with the state database of vaccinated individuals, and a previous Bacon’s Rebellion post raised other issues about that. Continue reading

An Energy Reform Agenda for Virginia

Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center, St. Paul, VA. Dominion Photo.  Always a good political investment, never a good energy investment.

By Steve Haner

What should Virginia’s energy policy be?  What should the next Governor and General Assembly do? What should candidates be promising?

Based on what has now been my 15 years of close observation and direct involvement, here is the policy outline I would suggest to any candidate who asks (not that the phone is ringing).  Continue reading

Solar Industry Poll Favors (Surprise) Solar Industry

by Steve Haner

You will never find a better example of blatant question bias in a poll:

“Do you agree or disagree that solar farms are better than other types of development because they do not pollute the environment and help lower the cost of electricity for homes and businesses?”

They “do not pollute” and “help lower the cost for electricity.”  With a tilt like that in the question, the amazing thing is that only 56% of a sample of Virginia voters said sure, I agree, and a full 20% still disagreed, the rest unsure.

There are other examples of biased question design in the poll, released a couple of days ago by a solar industry front group with the convenient and laughable name of “Conservatives for Clean Energy.” Sure, a bunch of conservatives looked up from the latest Tucker Carlson rant, passed on another discussion of the stolen election, and decided instead to pool their money on a poll focused on:

  • The Virginia Clean Economy Act
  • Attitudes about Virginia woods and farmlands being converted to miles and miles of solar panels
  • Virginia’s continued participation in the PJM Interconnection grid

No, this is an industry backed operation, definitely tied to solar developers but the fine hand of a utility might be discerned, as well. Only somebody totally in bed with the solar industry or less than honest would accept this at face value as coming from disinterested “conservatives.” Continue reading

Kendi Blames Capitalism, Prescribes Discrimination

By Steve Haner

The book was one the local librarian chose to display on the new acquisitions shelf, my curiosity was high, and by all accounts some  leaders in Virginia’s educational establishment are taken with and listening to the author. So I read Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist.”

I will largely let the author, who graduated from Stonewall Jackson High School in Manassas, speak for himself below. It was possible the critics were exaggerating. His own words below indicate otherwise.

I recommend the book to anybody really interested in this ongoing debate. Is this being directly taught to K-12 school children?  I doubt it, but maybe. Is it being taught to the next generation of teachers and is it at the heart of much of current in-service teacher training? Apparently. Continue reading

DMV Still Hiding Full Gas Tax Amounts

by Steve Haner

The Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles is now hiding only 22% of the state’s existing motor fuels tax with misleading website data, not the 26% it was hiding when I wrote about this last year.

In the chart you first find searching DMV on motor fuel tax rates, set out below, there is no reference to a statewide wholesale tax of 7.6 cents per gallon on gasoline. It is MIA, leaving the chart reporting a tax of only 26.2 cents. (That is up 5 cents from a year ago, and that is why the percentage “hidden” dropped.) Continue reading

RGGI Tax Appears on Dominion Bills in September

Goodreads edition.

by Steve Haner

In a polite but clear “the emperor has no clothes” message, a member of the State Corporation Commission has questioned the need to impose a carbon tax to cut carbon emissions from electric generation by 30%, when the General Assembly has passed another law requiring a 100% reduction with no tax.

Judge Judith Jagdmann concurred with, but added her own comments to, an SCC opinion issued Wednesday that authorized another additional charge on Dominion Energy Virginia bills to cover the carbon credits demanded by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).  A party-line vote in 2020 brought Virginia into that compact, and electricity generators have been buying carbon credits already for their coal and natural gas usage. Continue reading

Got $26,000 To Replace All Your Gas Appliances?

States in blue have seen localities restrict or ban natural gas in homes and businesses, and those in red have preempted the push by banning such bans. From S&P Global Intelligence story linked below.

by Steve Haner

Maybe not today or tomorrow, but soon the War on Fossil Fuels will be fought in the equipment room or garage of your house. A push to prohibit new natural gas connections and remove existing home gas services is inevitable if Virginia’s current leaders are serious about zero carbon within 20 to 30 years.

Refitting a home with natural gas appliances to all-electric, the dream of some utilities who need not be named, is likely to cost well over $20,000. That figure has been helpfully compiled in a state-by-state analysis by the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), with a fact sheet specifically on Virginia. Continue reading

Local Unions Are Recognized Before Workers Vote?

by F. Vincent Vernuccio

Local government leaders are negotiating with union executives who have not been officially recognized by public employees they claim to represent.

Counties in northern Virginia are taking steps to allow public sector collective bargaining. But they are doing it with the support of union executives – not a groundswell of voter or public employee support. Continue reading

SCC Hikes Electricity Bills For New PIPP Subsidy

By Steve Haner

All customers of Dominion Energy Virginia and Appalachian Power in Virginia will begin soon to pay an extra monthly charge related to the coming Percentage of Income Payment Program, the General Assembly’s new electricity cost subsidy for low-income residential customers.

The PIPP was initially created in the 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act and then revised with a bill in 2021, but just when then bill subsidies begin is still to be determined. The Department of Social Services, which will determine eligibility, still needs to devise the program. No start date is specified in the law. Continue reading