Category Archives: Environment

TCI Model Rule Ready for Study, Comment

by Steve Haner
First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.  (Happy birthday, Mr. President.)

Read the governing document for the Transportation and Climate Initiative and it becomes clear there is more going on than just an effort to reduce motor fuel use with a combination of taxes and shrinking caps. That may really be a secondary goal.

How would TCI regulate and change the motor fuel business in Virginia, should the state decide to join in 2022? What are the initial carbon taxes likely to be? Some details can be found in a draft model rule published March 1 and now subject to an open comment period through May 7.

You can find the 153-page model rule here. There is an open portal for any public comments you wish to provide, and you can also find summaries of the comments filed to date. Certainly, all fuel wholesalers and retailers and businesses dependent on transportation need to study this document and the regulatory structure it creates.

The Rhode Island and Connecticut legislatures are currently considering legislation on TCI. Massachusetts intends to join with its governor claiming he already has authority to sign the interstate compact.  If Virginia joins in 2022, that is still in time for it to be in on the first carbon dioxide emissions allowance auction in 2023.  Continue reading

Virginia Democrats Govern in the Service of Dogma and Power

by James C. Sherlock

Karl Marx

Socialism and communism are so 19th and 20th centuries.  

Under socialism, individuals would still own property. But industrial production, which was the chief means of generating wealth, was to be communally owned and managed by a democratically elected government.

Socialists sought change and reform, but sought to make those changes through democratic processes within the existing social and political structure, not to overthrow that structure.  Socialism was to be based on the consent of the governed. Communism sought the elimination of personal property and the violent overthrow of existing social and political structures.

So what has changed for today’s progressives who have taken over the Democratic party, especially in Virginia? 

A lot. Continue reading

Podcast: How the General Assembly Has Changed

By Peter Galuszka

I haven’t contributed much to BR lately since I am slammed with non-Virginia work. I did manage to help out on a Podcast about how the General Assembly has changed the state over the last two years as Democrats have gained power.

This Podcast is produced by WTJU, the University of Virginia radio station. I do a weekly talk show on state politics and economics and, on occasion, work on Podcasts.

Joining me is Sally Hudson, a delegate from the Charlottesville area. She is Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Education and Economics. Sally studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford and is one of the youngest members of the General Assembly.

I hope you enjoy it.

Surprise! State Underestimated Carbon Tax Cost

by Steve Haner

Virginia has collected its first wave of carbon taxes from the state’s electricity generators, costs which will eventually show up on future bills. The $43.6 million take just about doubles the revenue estimates used when participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative was being approved by the Virginia General Assembly last year. Surprise!   Continue reading

Centuries of Energy Already Sitting in Cans

“Slightly Used” Nuclear Fuel Storage Casks.

by Steve Haner

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

If you are serious about making electricity without carbon emissions and also serious about making enough electricity to run a real economy 24-7-365, the discussion keeps coming back to nuclear energy. It is the obvious choice if you believe we must eliminate natural gas soon.  Continue reading

Welcome Your New Neighbors: Black Bears

Virginia’s black bear population has made a tremendous comeback. Having dwindled to about 1,000 at midcentury, black bears in the Old Dominion now number between 18,000 and 20,000, reports The Virginia Mercury. Indeed, their numbers are increasing despite the fact that hunters are “harvesting” about 3,000 a year.

Personally, I can’t begin to understand how anyone would derive any pleasure from shooting a bear. If you want to take down a bear armed with a knife, you earn my respect. Shoot a bear from a safe distance, and I’m just appalled. But the fact is, bears have no natural predators (other than humans), and without hunters to cull them, before long they’ll be like deer — overrunning the state. Unlike deer, which spook easily, you might find bears rooting through your trash cans, eating from your bird feeders or wandering onto your porch.

— JAB

Coal Counties Make Bid for Data Centers

Coal mines as source of geothermal cooling. Shown here: Will Payne, director of InvestSWVA. Credit: Virginia Business.

by James A. Bacon

Six localities in far Southwest Virginia have agreed to offer big tax breaks in a bid to recruit more data centers to the economically depressed region. The Project Oasis initiative will dangle the lower taxes as well as geothermal cooling from old coal mines as enticements that no other region can match.

The localities in the Lonesome Pine Regional Industrial Facilities Authority — Dickenson, Lee, Scott, and Wise counties and the City of Norton — have agreed to tax data-center equipment at a rate of $0.24 per $100, almost half the rate of the $.40 rate, the previous lowest rate in the state, that enabled Henrico County to attract a $1.75 billion Facebook data center.

As a kicker, Project Oasis offers industrial sites located near former coal mines filled with water naturally cooled to a temperature of 51 degrees. Energy consumption for cooling is a major expense for data centers. Project Oasis claims that geothermal cooling could save data centers more than $1 million annually in reduced electric costs and municipal water purchases. Continue reading

The Virginia War On Fossil Fuels

by Steve Haner

First published in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star Feb. 26 then distributed by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.  

The lesson of the Texas grid collapse is not just about electricity. Imagine the week Texans would have had if once the power went out and stayed out, they had no gasoline, diesel, propane, or natural gas to fall back on. How much worse would their plight have been without natural gas heating homes and businesses, propane space heaters and grills, and gasoline or diesel-powered cars and trucks to get where they needed to go?  Continue reading

First They Come for the Gas Pipelines, Then the Nukes, and Then… Your Gas Grill?

by James A. Bacon

As Virginia hurtles towards its brave new future of a net zero-carbon economy, the political class needs more data so it can figure out who else to regulate and what else to shut down. Our overlords have a good handle on CO2 emissions in the electric grid and the transportation sector, but Virginia’s economy is so big and sprawling that many carbon “polluters” have not been identified.

A bill submitted by Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, would correct that data deficiency. The bill would allow the state Department of Environmental Quality to conduct an inventory of “all greenhouse gas emissions” and to update it every four years. DEQ would publish the date on its website and show how emissions compared to the baseline. The bill has passed both the House and the Senate.

“Good policy requires good data and this legislation gives us the ability to get the data we need to craft good policy going forward,” The Virginia Mercury quotes DEQ Deputy Director Chris Bast as saying. Continue reading

A Terrifying Plan to Get Virginia to Zero Carbon by 2050

Where Virginia’s energy will come from in Bill Shobe’s 2050 zero-carbon future. Click for larger image.

by James A. Bacon

Bill Shobe, a professor of public policy at the University of Virginia, has outlined an approach to decarbonize Virginia’s economy — not just its electric grid, but the entire economy — by 2050. The scenarios and policies described in “Decarbonizing Virginia’s Economy: Pathways to 2050” may sound “out there” right now, but they seem fully consistent with what I’m hearing elsewhere in the environmental movement. There is so much momentum for a zero-carbon future that the document can be viewed as a roadmap of issues that Virginia environmentalists will be pushing over the next three decades.

The first priority is carrying out the decarbonization of the electric power industry, which accounts for approximately 30% of all of Virginia’s greenhouse gas emissions. As this has already been mandated by the Virginia Clean Economy Act, there’s little new in this particular aspect of the study. Virginia will have loads more wind, loads more solar. There is only one surprise. Shobe does not appear to labor under the illusion that Virginia can maintain grid stability through energy storage alone. He sees a continued role for nuclear energy to provide baseload power when a large majority of power production comes from intermittent wind and solar.

Next on the agenda will be wringing out CO2 emissions from the transportation sector through “electrification” — converting all vehicles to electric power. Virginia is just beginning to come to grips with that long-term goal as it debates electric-powered school buses and, more consequentially, the Transportation and Climate Initiative. Shobe’s timeline says to “electrify everything (almost)” by the 2030s. By the 2040s, Virginia will have completed electrification of transport and buildings as well. Continue reading

The Future is Now

Seen in my neighborhood on my morning walk.

Buy Bacon’s Book

By Peter Galuszka

This is a shameless advertisement. Jim has written an excellent book and you should buy it and review it.

While some of Jim’s focus is at odds with a similar book I wrote eight years ago, “Maverick Miner” is a really well put together effort at research and writing.

In my reporting, I asked many people, mostly miners, what they thought about E. Morgan Massey. The response: tough on unions but good guy. I heard this over and over. I was told that if rank and file miners had a serious problem, they could call Morgan and he’d come to the mountains to work things out. I heard this a lot and it gives credence to Jim’s book.

You should buy the book, read it, and like it or not, post something on Amazon. Here’s something I did:

“In this book, Jim Bacon, a Richmond journalist, tells a fascinating story about 94-year-old E. Morgan Massey, the former head of coal company that would become highly controversial. Massey paid Bacon to write a private narrative about the Massey family and agreed to let Bacon write his own unabridged account. Taken as a biography and while understanding that this is from Massey’s viewpoint, the result works very well. Massey explains why he hired Donald L. Blankenship, who achieved remarkable notoriety as the boss of Massey Energy, a company spinoff. He ended up in federal prison. The book underestimates the human and environmental cost of coal mining in the Central Appalachians. It also takes Massey’s side in dissecting what caused the April 5, 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners – the worst such U.S. coal disaster in 40 years. Even so, Bacon’s access to internal sources and records is a welcome contribution to understanding a great story.

Peter Galuszka is author of “Thunder on the Mountain: Death At Massey and the Dirty Secrets Behind Big Coal.” (St. Martin’s Press, 2012)

What Texas’s Crisis Means for Virginia

by Peter Galuszka

The Texas freeze and ensuing energy disaster has clear lessons for Virginia as it sorts out its energy future.

Yet much of the media coverage in Virginia and certainly on Bacon’s Rebellion conveniently leaves out pertinent observations.

The statewide freeze in Texas completely fouled up the entire energy infrastructure as natural gas pipelines and oil wells stopped working, coal at generating plants iced over and wind turbines stopped working.

Making matters much worse, Texas opted not to have power links with other states. Its “free market” system of purchasing power meant utilities skimped on maintenance and adding weather-relative preventive measures such as making sure key generation components were weatherproof.

The result? Scores dead and millions without electricity. Here are more points worth considering in Virginia:

Climate Change is For Real

It is a shame that so much comment in Bacon’s Rebellion is propaganda from people who are or were paid, either directly or indirectly, by the fossil fuel industry. Thus, the blog diminishes the importance of dealing with climate change in a progressive way.  Continue reading

Enviros Help Kill Dominion EV School Bus Bill

School bus? Storage battery? No, utility profit center.

by Steve Haner

When the Senate bill that allowed Dominion Energy Virginia to buy a fleet of electric school buses with ratepayer dollars was up for discussion last week, three environmentalist lobbyists spoke against it. They focused on the excessive cost and questioned whether it was a reasonable way to develop useful battery storage.

The counterattack was immediate and fierce and came from a Hampton Roads Democratic delegate.  “I can’t believe environmentalists are testifying that electric school buses are bad for the environment!” he shouted into his computer’s microphone. He ignored what they actually said and attacked on a false front, seeking to force them back into their accustomed swim lane.  Continue reading

Your PIPP Tax Will Buy Heat Pumps For Poor

by Steve Haner

Lower-income Virginians who are customers of the two largest electricity providers may begin to receive subsidies on their residential bills in March 2022 under legislation moving forward in the General Assembly. The money for the subsidies will come from their fellow customers.  Continue reading