Category Archives: Environment

Climate Rationality Preached in a UVA Pulpit

Jason S. Johnston, Professor, University of Virginia School of Law

by Steve Haner

Efforts to rapidly expand our reliance on wind and solar generation for electricity, while at the same time closing baseload natural gas generation with similar haste, makes no sense economically. “The only explanation for that policy is you want to shut down the economy.”

Another voice of reason has emerged to challenge the climate alarmist orthodoxy, a Virginia voice,  Professor Jason S. Johnston at the University of Virginia School of Law. He brings to the discussion the experience and analysis of a regulatory law expert and economist, distilled into a somewhat daunting 656-page book published by Cambridge University Press in August.

“Climate Rationality: From Bias to Balance” (available through Amazon here) focuses at length on the legal precautionary principle behind most climate regulatory schemes, with little or no consideration taken of either the economic costs or unintended environmental consequences. He writes in an excerpt from his introduction:

The precautionary principle says little if anything about how such costs should be weighed in designing policy. But, given the highly uncertain and unpredictable future impacts of rising atmospheric GHG concentrations and the unprecedented cost of reducing GHG emissions, any rational regulatory response to curbing human GHG emissions must surely closely scrutinize the case for decarbonization. The purpose of this book is to provide precisely such an examination…

Precautionary US climate policy has already cost lives, damaged the environment, and increased costs for the basic life necessities, such as electricity, in ways that are felt most acutely by the poorest American households.

Continue reading

McAuliffe Promise to Accelerate VCEA Schedule Will Accelerate VCEA Consumer Bill Increases

2020 SCC staff projection of monthly residential bill increases by 2030 for Dominion Energy Virginia customers, mainly tied to a rapid retreat from fossil fuels.

by Steve Haner

When a State Corporation Commission staff analysis warned last year of $808 annual increases in Dominion Energy Virginia residential bills by 2030, that 58% increase was based on the existing deadlines set for Dominion’s conversion away from using fossil fuels.

Change the deadlines, change the cost. Shorten the deadlines by half, as Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe is promising to do, and 2030 electricity costs will grow even higher.  Continue reading

The New, Woke Approach to Saving the Bay

by James A. Bacon

The Chesapeake Bay Program, a partnership of nonprofits, academic institutions, and federal, state and local governments, is now officially woke. In a new directive, the Executive Council has declared that the program will view Bay restoration through the lens of climate change and social justice.

“We acknowledge the consequences of climate change for the Chesapeake Bay region include the disproportionate impacts on vulnerable and disadvantaged populations in both urban areas and rural areas,” states the directive.

“Therefore, we commit to address the threats of climate change in all aspects of the partnership’s work to restore the Bay and its watershed. Partners will prioritize communities, working lands and habitats most vulnerable to every-increasing risks.”

It’s not clear what this will mean in practice. Is the Chesapeake Bay Program board merely genuflecting toward woke rhetoric, or will this new framework meaningfully alter priorities and the allocation of resources? We’ll have to wait and see. But the directive is a clear example of how environmentalist groups are increasingly viewing environmental issues through the lens of climate change and social justice. Continue reading

More Ignored News: Bag Tax Coming to Richmond

From American Progressive Bag Alliance flyer opposing local bag taxes.

by Steve Haner

The plastic bag tax recently approved in Roanoke and several Northern Virginia localities, created by the General Assembly in 2020 as a local option, is also coming to the City of Richmond. It was promised in the same September 13 Richmond City Council “climate crisis” resolution that implied a future closure of the Richmond Gas WorksContinue reading

The Environmentalist Case Against Renewables

If you missed the Virginia Energy Consumer Conference last week, here’s your chance to catch up. The highlight is Steve Haner’s interview of Michael Shellenberger, author of “Apocalypse Never.” Addressing the energy debate from a national perspective, Shellenberger makes the case that renewable energy sources are no panacea for the environment. Subsequent presentations in the conference provide conservative perspectives on Virginia-specific issues. — JAB

Henrico, Chesterfield Users of Richmond Gas Unprotected by SCC, State Law

Pending Termination

by Steve Haner

Sec. 13.10. No sale or lease of utilities except when approved by referendum. There shall be no sale or lease of the water, wastewater, gas or electric utilities unless the proposal for such sale or lease shall first be submitted to the qualified voters of the city at a general election and be approved by a majority of all votes cast at such election.

That provision is in the charter for the City of Richmond, part of the Code of Virginia. Note it does not require the city’s leaders to consult with the people before closing a city-owned utility, just before the sale or lease.  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. Continue reading

Horse Play

A herd of horses live on Shackleford Banks, a barrier island near Beaufort, N.C., where the Bacon family is vacationing. The horses do not comprise a thundering herd of popular imagination, rather they are dispersed in small groups — “harems” — with a stallion, two or three breeding mares, and their colts. Five or six of these groups reside in the eastern tip we visited, along with a few unaffiliated mares too old to breed and young stallions who have not succeeded in winning the affections of any females. 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. 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. 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. Continue reading

There’s Gold in Them Thar… Press Releases?

by Jock Yellott

It seems there is a vein of quartz underground in Buckingham County sparkling with gold. The General Assembly almost prohibited mining it, but then backed off. This time.

A string of historic gold mines going back to the 19th Century appear as red dots on the county geological survey map like chigger bites on the skin of the land. Exploratory drilling by a Canadian company, Aston Bay Holdings, found significant new quantities of gold there.

From about the depth of a water well — 150 to 300 feet– Aston Bay’s diamond drills pulled up broken columns of translucent white quartz flecked with yellow metal. They drilled and drilled again for about 200 yards, two dozen holes, rarely drilling without finding more quartz glinting with gold. 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

Could Solar “Sink Under the Weight of Its Own Trash”?

by James A. Bacon

Solar energy is widely regarded as the most cost-effective source of electricity available today. According to financial advisory firm Lazard, the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) for solar, about $30 per MWh, is nearly half that of the most cost-effective fossil fuel, combined-cycle natural gas. The great economic advantage of solar, of course, is that is has no fuel cost. The sun is free.

Now an article in the Harvard Business Review, “The Dark Side of Solar Power,” suggests that the LCOE for solar could be four times greater when the full life-cycle cost, including recycling, is taken into account.

The problem is that solar panels contain small quantities of potentially toxic chemicals, primarily cadmium and lead. These are the very same heavy metals that caused massive freak-outs when they were found in the coal-ash waste of power plant ponds. Worried that leachate from coal ash could contaminate the water supply, environmentalists insisted that the material had to be buried in double-lined landfills at the cost of billions of dollars. Continue reading

Dominion Plans Low-Carbon Vehicle Fleet

100% electric, baby!

by James A. Bacon

In pursuit of its goal to achieve net-zero carbon-dioxide and methane emissions, Dominion Energy will transform its fleet of more than 8,600 vehicles across 16 states. After 2030, all new vehicles purchased, from passenger cars to heavy-duty vehicles, will be powered either by electricity or alternative fuels, the company announced today.

No word on how much the initiative will cost, or what impact there will be on Virginia ratepayers. Continue reading