On the Energy Front…

From the Harrisonburg Daily News-Record:

JMU and seven universities in Virginia hope to shore up $4.8 million in state funding to research harnessing energy from Virginia’s offshore wind, ocean waves and algae during the next two years. But due to budget cuts, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine proposed only half of that amount for the research.

If we have to rely upon the state to fund renewable energy innovation, we’ll be waiting a long, long time. And then there’s this from Dominion spokesman Jim Norvelle, spinning an article in the New York Times:

Dominion believes a reason that electricity rates in Virginia are below the national average and stable today is because it uses a diverse fuel mix of nuclear energy, coal, natural gas, oil and hydropower to generate electricity. Our customers are not beholden to price spikes in any one fuel source, such as what happened in the natural gas market a few years ago. Our future generation plans would continue this trend.

Certainly energy conservation will play a growing role and Dominion is testing programs to see which ones our customers will adopt vigorously. But no one should expect conservation and renewable energy sources to replace generation; it will play a role in slowing the growth in electric demand.

I am confident that conservation and renewable fuels will play a huge part in Virginia’s long-term energy future. I am worried, however, how long it will take and what it will cost to get from here to there. Clearly, we need to move faster than Dominion and other electric utilities want to go. But we cannot do so heedless of the costs. It’s a tough balancing act.

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  1. Anonymous Avatar

    “Clearly, we need to move faster than Dominion and other electric utilities want to go. But we cannot do so heedless of the costs. It’s a tough balancing act.”

    Exactly. We can expect the cost of making biodiesel from algae to go down. We can expect the cost of fossil diesel to go up. We should be ready to switch when the curves cross.

    No sooner, no later.


  2. floodguy Avatar

    Each region in this nation is blessed with certain natural and environmental resources by which to create usable and affordable energy. Mandating renewable portfolio standards for states isn’t something that sounds viable to me. I believe a national RPS initiated by a national energy approach is best for solving climate issues.

    Virginia isn’t the southwest, so the availability (space) and efficiency (sunlight) for solar is quite limited, and forcing solar as an option towards complying with our state’s RPS as an alterative to utilities here in VA, is not rational.

    The same goes for wind. I’m an adamant windsurfer and I am quite familar with the availability of wind both onshore and on the water is located. This state isn’t the upper Midwest, west or south Texas, the NE, or the Pacific NW; and our state’s natural thermal wind “pipes” are very insignificant and lining wind turbines on our mountain ridgetops for generation @ a 25-35% efficiency rating, is the equivalent of 1980’s version of betamax cassette technology.

    Plowing over fields formerly meant for food or replacing tobacco to be use for biomass generation, is only going to prod commodity prices higher, adding to inflationary pressure which only appear to have reached the 3rd year of a 10-year commodity pricing cycle.

    And tidal, wave and thermal opportunities are very limited in our crowded and ecologically sensitive state.

    So just what is it that we here in Virginia have to fight C02 production?

    Virginia is blessed with some coal, some uranium and a tie for last place out of 50 states in the nation in terms of implemented energy conservation programs. It seems to me, therefore, our efforts should be geared towards implementing capacity based on the resources most available to Virginia. Shutdown old higher polluting coal plants and replace them with new coal plant technology. Expand on safe nuclear with or without uranium. Thorium technology was discovered when uranium was first studied, but since thorium isn’t weapon-grade compatible, thorium was shelved for uranium for its dual-purpose. In this age of nuclear weapon reduction, nuclear by thorium should become our established new nuclear power resource. Energy efficiency and conservation (EEC) cannot forever solve the constant need for more electricity, but it can supply up to 20% more capacity in some regions, and significantly avoid the need for new generation for more than several years. Furthermore, implemented EEC will allow for more efficient grid expansion when expansion is unavoidable, reducing the overlap of utility investments, which saves consumers money.

    Aside from that, offshore wind should be seriously look at. The Univ of Delaware believes some 300 GW of power can be captured from 200k-300k turbines 10-15 miles off the mid-Atlantic coast. This area will allow for higher efficiency in wind generation than what onshore or inshore resources provide, as this oceanic region is subject to summer thermals, as well as from more drastic barometric changes during the spring, winter and fall. 10-15 miles is far enough distance that shoreline visibility of 200-300 foot tall structures are nearly invisible. Shipping lane and avian flight patterns need to be studied more, but if decreased C02 is the goal here, then offshore wind should join the reality of what truly exists here in Virginia’s in terms of a viable state energy portfolio.

    All these other feel good, neat-o, engineering ideas are great on paper and are great sounding when venture capitalist speak of them, but they are too little, too expensive, and too immature to rely on, and certainly to bank on in terms of multi-millions in investments by our states utilities (which eventually get passed onto consumers.) Furthermore, combined together, their implementation will do little to accomplish the 50-80% CO2reduction goal to by 2050, so why bother pursuing these kinds of renewables in the first place? Why subject the state of Virginia to a RPS of 12 or 20% by 2020? Let other states become the testing grounds for these renewable experiments first.

    I’m for sticking with what we here in Virginia: EEC, Nuclear, New Coal Technology and Offshore Wind. Let other states with other “significant” renewable sources available to them contribute in there own ways towards our national goal. Together as a nation we can cooperate and create a safer climate, but I do not see this by setting standards on every 50 state. This strategy in my mind, will only produce the net affect of a “victory” against big energy, by forcing a set percentage of non-fossil fuel generation at the cost of consumer wallets and pocketbooks. This is the politicalization of climate as a national interest, and is where the pro-environmentalist green movement is derailing or creating division towards the real and true goal of C02 reduction. On a national scale, C02 reduction can be best accomplished where big energy can be part of the solution, and not verbally putdown or handcuffed by laws.

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    Well said.


  4. Groveton Avatar

    The Potomac River at Great Falls should be damed. The resulting hydroelectricity will be given away free to homes and businesses in Farifax County, VA and Montgomery County, MD. Maryland does, after all, own the river to the Virginia shore.

    Any surplue electricity will ber sold at a NIMBY-surplus to other areas in the state.

    The White Spot in Charlottesville will be declared a disconnected part of Fairfax County and will receive free power.

  5. Groveton Avatar

    The problem with the alternative energy driven by economics philosophy is an underlying assumption of continuous change. The cost per unit of fossil fuel continues upward in a steep but predictable curve. That’s potentially the fatal flaw. What happens if the cost of fossil fuel jumps upward along a discontinuous curve? How might this happen? Through the sudden imposition of a large carbon tax in response to a series of global weather calamaties. Consider the following:

    1. Typhoons hit Bangaladesh killing hundreds of thousands.
    2. A hurricane hits New York City (as they do every 75 years or so), kills hundreds (almost all poor people who can’t get out) and destroys billions of dollars of property.
    3. The insurance industry stops renewing insurance for low lying areas leaving millions of Americans without property insurance.
    4. President Obama declares that the world’s largest CO2 polluter (i.e. the US) is going to impose draconian measures to get out CO2 footprint in line with the rest of the western world. He asks a Democratic-contolled Congress to pass an immediate 50% surcharge on all fossil fuels, the funds raised through the tax to be spent on a Manhattan Project for alternative energy.

    How does Virginia fare?

    Rather poorly I’d guess. We have no effective conservation program in place. We have few alternative fuel programs underway. It’s hard to buy electricity made from renewables even if you are willing to pay more. We do not have sufficient mass transit to displace the long, carbon intensive commutes undertaken in many Virginia localities.

    The Day After Tomorrow was a great movie but it was Hollywood fiction. However, the polar ice caps are melting at a rapid rate and weather patterns change of their own accord. One year we’ll have a bad set of weather events (mostly natural but somewhat accelerated by global warming). People will believe the events were caused by global warming and the discontinuous change in carbon prices (through a carbon tax) will occur. Meanwhile, the writers on this blog (if they can still afford electricity in their homes) will wonder how Virginia was caught so woefully unprepared.

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’ll continue to point out that a not unreasonable goal that is within our fiscal and technological ability in this country of per capita electricity usage equivalent to other industrialized country with a similar standard of living.

    Until we commit to this goal.. all the other talk such as arbitrary percentages of green power or .. what I consider intellectually dishonest prediction of draconian measures that harm people and the economy is ..an indication to me that we really are not serious about doing anything at all.

    It’s a reasonable goal. Everyone gets reasonably-priced electricity up to the per capita number and after that – they pay increasingly higher fees proportional to their use.

    Once we reach THAT goal, we can start discussing arbitrary imposition of “draconian” rules.

    For the greatest technologically-driven country in the world to say that … using that same technology to help us meet per-capita usage world standards is not attainable is the biggest bunch of BS I’ve ever heard.

    We use just about TWICE as much electricity per capita as other industrialized countries and 50% of it comes from burning coal.

    We are a nation of hypocrites.

    Any discussion of reducing our contribution to merely what others in the world do – immediately defaults to words and phrases like “draconian” and “wreck our economy”.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    “We use just about TWICE as much electricity per capita as other industrialized countries and 50% of it comes from burning coal.”

    We also have much larger areas to cover, so we transmit electricity longer distances. To the extent that we lose electricity in transmssion it isn’t likely that we can match other, and smaller, industrialized nations, unless we have much more distributed generation capacity.

    As for the other savings, there is a lot that can be done, but just thinking in terms of a blanket 50% reduction is silly.

    We could reduce security lighting, or eliminate it enetirely, since it is light that is “wasted” in the sense that it isn’t doing anything.

    Does anyone believe there would not be external costs associated with such reductions? Costs, that would be paid through crime, vandalism, and even deaths?

    I assure you, the first person that gets raped will think the cuts were draconian.

    We have already seen deaths due to heat waves, and cutting electricity use by half or doubling the price will result in more. One reason France uses less power is that air conditioning is not common there, and they had huge losses during a heat wave a few years ago.

    I agree there is much we can do, but to suggest we can do it at no cost to people and the economy is burying ones head in the sand.


  8. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    the 50% is a starting point for a discussion that will end up with a policy.

    If there is a loss of electricity due to distribution (which I think is bogus).. then.. let’s incorporate it into the policy.

    Talking about people dying in this country because of a lack of electricity is laughable – compared to other people in other countries.

    The people that die in this country due to a lack of electricity are NOT the ones we are talking about that use twice the per capita average.

    This is yet another example of demagoguery of the fundamental issue.

    Any policy EXPLICITLY protects the vulnerable and EXPLICITLY targets those that consume over and above the per capita usage.

    If you want – we can guarantee electricity – at cost or at a subsidized rate to the vulnerable and add those costs to those that are excessive consumers.

    Burying one’s head in the sand .. is demagoguing the issue e.g. – “if we cut lighting we get more crime”.. as an excuse to not set a goal and instead advocate “doing things to reduce”.

    To me .. that is what our current policy is.. tantamount to a refusal to do anything other than what we voluntarily might do….

    People in Europe use tankless water heaters to reduce their energy consumption even though tankless water heaters are more expensive.

    In the U.S., instead of using tankless water heaters to reduce our consumption – we use the excuse that they are too expensive, etc – which if you compare per capita incomes of those in Europe that do use them tells us what?

    What it tells us is that electricity is expensive enough in Europe that people conserve and over here we advocate against a similar policy .. because “people will die”… “criminals will rule” and “our economy will be wrecked”.


  9. Groveton Avatar

    “It’s a reasonable goal. Everyone gets reasonably-priced electricity up to the per capita number and after that – they pay increasingly higher fees proportional to their use.”.

    I agree. America needs to face this issue before it becomes a crisis (or .. a bigger crisis, depending on your perspective). And there will be economic disruption associated with this. You can’t raise the price of a key economic input like energy without creating some economic turmoil. However, that turmoil will prove miniscule compared to the turmoil being funded by gigantic transfers of wealth from the US to the likes of Venezuela and Iran.

    Anybody want to make an over/under bet on how long the House of Saud will stay in power in Saudi Arabia? Tick tock ladies and gentlemen, tick tock.

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    Let me clear up a couple Euro myths here.

    1. In France most residents don’t own A/C because it isn’t very hot in the summer normally and you don’t need it. The weather there is similar to the Pacific NW. The heat wave that year was extremely oppressive and people weren’t remotely acclimated. In Southern European areas like Italy or Spain, A/C is fairly common except amongst the lower class who can’t afford it like here.

    2. People in Europe use tankless water heaters to save space, not energy. They don’t save much gas if any at all. Hot water tanks are quite readily available in any home store and I’ve seen them in numerous avg homes.

    3. Most European countries energy policies come from national energy independence policy. Though the EU is quite successful, individual nations still must look out for themselves as they know the EU could fracture in the future. Contrasted to the US whereby 143 years ago the issue was settled and the states became subservient to the fed. For an EU member, energy independence is a top national priority, thereby high gas prices and 2 step electricity pricing systems come from it.

    The issue for the US is that the whole is so big and has so much buying power that most solutions will have to be top down implementation. That doesn’t mean VA can’t be part of organically grown, bottom up solutions, but it will take dramatic effort and leadership; unfortunately something not common in VA politics.


  11. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I would dispute both of these things referred to as myths.

    water heaters – whether they be tankless or not. don’t take up that different amount of space.

    and the air conditioning deal…

    Paris is at 48 degrees latitude. Virginia is at 38 so yes.. France is like New Hampshire..

    but ask yourself.. if HEATING costs also play a role here in BOTH New Hampshire AND France?

    The bottom line is that most industrialized countries use about 1/2 of electricity whether they be NORTH or SOUTH or do more home heating or more Air Conditioning.

    Claiming that France uses less Air Conditioning because it’s at a higher latitude.. as the reason why they use less power is a lot like arguing that New Hampshire uses less power because they use less air conditioning.

    Is making observations like this conducive to understanding the real issues?

    People in Europe use less power than us – NOT because of geography folks.

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    I think ZS’s comments are accurate.

    Latitude plays a different role in Europe compared to the US because the ocean currents flow north on the American side and South on the Eropean side. Therefore the scandinavian countries are warmer than a similar latitude on the east Coast. They get the benefit of warm gulf waters. The southern countries are cooled by the (Now cold) ocean currents flowing south.

    Even Portugal can be quite chilly along the coast.

    Geography is a factor.

    Despite what Larry says, we can pretty much predict how many people will die because of inadequate cooling during a heat wave.

    He is correct to point out that most of those people using large amounts of electricity are not those likely to die during a heat wave, and there is considerable savings to be made.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that rising electricity costs will cause more people to die.


    We have a lot better policy in place than we have now.

    “If you want – we can guarantee electricity – at cost or at a subsidized rate to the vulnerable and add those costs to those that are excessive consumers. “

    A true Communist statement. To each according to their needs from each according to their ability.

    As far as it goes, it is fine. But as it stands now, everytime there is a heat wave there is an emergency push to distribute fans etc. We need to do a LOT better to have a policy that works.

    And then there is one little problem. As soon as you add the costs of poor consumers to wealthy consumers, the wealthy will cut back on consumption. Now how do you fund your policy?

    This is the same old song, sung over and over: We’ll get it fromn the profit grubbing developers; We’ll make the polluting industrialists pay; We’ll make the land rapers pay.

    Any kind of story that makes it sound like this is free, no cost.

    Sorry Larry, it isn’t. We can conserve some. After that, we are right back to facing the problems we don’t want to look at, yet.

    Your turn, Deny Away.


  13. Anonymous Avatar

    From Science Magazine:

    “Most prior studies have found that substituting biofuels for gasoline will reduce greenhouse gases because biofuels sequester carbon through the growth of the feedstock. These analyses have failed to count the carbon emissions that occur as farmers worldwide respond to higher prices and convert forest and grassland to new cropland to replace the grain (or cropland) diverted to biofuels. Using a worldwide agricultural model to estimate emissions from land use change, we found that corn-based ethanol, instead of producing a 20% savings, nearly doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years and increases greenhouse gases for 167 years. Biofuels from switchgrass, if grown on U.S. corn lands, increase emissions by 50%. This result raises concerns about large biofuel mandates and highlights the value of using waste products.”


  14. Anonymous Avatar

    Here is an example of a law that may have minimal or negative cost benefit, probably isn’t enforceable, but which will be passed anyway.

    Frum the Guradian Unlimited:

    “They have only been popular in the UK for little more than a decade, but patio heaters could become history if MEPs vote to ban them today.
    The EU parliament is expected to back a resolution requiring the use of appliances with low energy efficiency to be phased out.

    Patio heaters are specifically targeted in the motion, which calls on the EU to act urgently and introduce minimum standards for energy efficiency on such appliances as air-conditioning, television “decoder” boxes and light bulbs. It also calls for the abolition of stand-by mode on electrical appliances.

    If the ban comes into effect and is enforced, it could cost pubs, restaurants and caterers in the UK up to £250m in lost revenue per year.

    The use of outdoor heaters increased with the new UK smoking ban, as well as growing use at home as garden accessories for the British summer. But now the heaters have been put in the same hall of environmental shame as the 4×4 vehicle.

    The Energy Saving Trust estimates that use of patio heaters is set to more than double this year, from 1.2m appliances used to 2.6m. An estimate by the Market Transformation Programme, which provides government data, puts their use at a more conservative 830,000.

    However, a climate change expert claims the impact of the patio heater is “minimal”.

    Even if MEPs vote to abolish wasteful energy appliances, the move would not be legally enforceable.”


  15. Anonymous Avatar

    The article goes on to say:

    “Once comparisons start with well-known offenders such as airplanes, outdoor heaters dwarf in comparison. In actual fact, plasma TVs produce far more CO2 than patio heaters when you compare normal usage patterns.

    Televisions in the UK produce 4.6m tonnes of CO2 each year. Judged on stand-by mode alone, it would take an equivalent of more than five patio heaters to produce as much CO2 as one TV does in a year.

    Government figures put emissions from all domestic patio heaters at 22,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide – 0.002% of the total UK carbon dioxide emissions.”

    Given that you have limited resources to work with, do you go after the 0.002%, or some larger emmitters?


  16. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: Geography does play a role

    Remember this:

    Energy Consumption Per Capita

    United States 12,187
    European Union 5,906
    Japan 7,424
    Germany 6,189
    Metropolitan France 7,791
    United Kingdom 5,784

    Sweden 14,685 <---
    Norway 22,859 <--- here’s another:
    Finland 14,872

    do you think LATITUDE might have anything to do with Sweden and Norway’s per capita electricity usage? HELLO….??

    hint.. both of them are further north than France…

    hint: Canada 16,047

    DUH.. do you think LATITUDE might be a factor?

    re: who do you “go after”?

    We don’t go after anyone. We go after wanton consumption by providing average electricity at reasonable rates and higher usage at higher proportional prices and we let consumers decide what appliances and patio warmers and TVs they want to cut back on.

    It’s totally dumb to target particular appliances in my view.

    re: people dying but if you help them.. it is Communism.

    there you go again.. if you can’t use the dying people argument.. you’ll just switch to the Communism argument….

    apparently there is no shame in flaunting ones willingness to blather with on with heroic intellectual dishonest vigor.

    so .. if we let them die we are heathens.. and if we save them.. we are heathens…

    when did you stop beating YOUR wife?

    I say again.

    The folks that are the biggiest/most prodigious consumers are charged accordingly.

    People don’t die from this because it’s not the folks near subsistence that are those prodigious consumers to start with.

    And it’s not Communism to charge people according to their consumption. That is actually called Capitalism.

    What is DUMB is policies that essentially subsidize/incentivize consumption

    and policies based on the concept that the health of our economy is essentially so dependent on high consumption that.. that we cannot afford lower levels of consumption without “wrecking” our economy.

    That’s neither Communism nor Capitalism. that’s Dumbism…

    That’s why Dominion Power will tell us that we need a Coal Plant in Wise or a Nuke at North Anna designed to serve X number of people at an average of 4000KRW per household while industrialized countries figure household consumption at 1500 KWH.

  17. Anonymous Avatar

    Latitude plays a part but it is entirely different onthe west side of the atlantic than the east, due to ocean currents, and ocean influence.

    England and Ireland are much warmer than similar latitudes in North America. France and Portugal are cooler for the same reason Northern California and Oregon is cool.

    Scandinavia is insulated from the ocean currents by the North Sea, so they don’t get the same benefit as England and Ireland.


    If we can keep our economy running without consumption, then why are the Republicans pushing the current rebate program? To put money in people’s hand that they will spend.

    It is an utterly dumb attempt at directly subsidizing consumption.


    “And it’s not Communism to charge people according to their consumption. That is actually called Capitalism.”

    In the capitalism I know, many companies and businesses offer discounts to large buyers? (Including myself.) Because it costs more to make many small sales.


    Since 2000 more than 5 million people have slipped below the poverty line. Increasing energy costs will cause more to slip below the line.

    Poverty kills.


  18. Anonymous Avatar

    “so .. if we let them die we are heathens.. and if we save them.. we are heathens…”

    I think that moral people will have some hard choices to make. So far, they are avoiding the issues by deluding themselves that we can get something for nothing, live as well with much less, and still have the vibrant economy it takes to support a massive defense system.

    Something is going to have to give. When it does, people will get hurt.


  19. Anonymous Avatar

    Which do you suppose we will mandate out of existence first, Television sets, or something that pollutes far less?


  20. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “In the capitalism I know, many companies and businesses offer discounts to large buyers?”

    the problem we have here is a fundamental lack of understanding… to be able to distinguish between a commodity where economies of scale can be gained and the benefits passed on to the customer as opposed to something being sold essentially as a “loss leader”.

    WalMart is NOT going to sell you 10 TVs at a discount cheaper than one TV.

    Why is that?

    Ford is not going to do that either?

    Why is that?

    How come on sales – the fine print says “one to a customer”?

    Why is that?

    When you can answer the above questions successfully – you will know why we should not sell electricity by volume discount.

    And again.. you continue to talk about how people will be “hurt” by pricing electricity according to it’s cost of production completely ignoring that the people MOST HURT are the ones that are the MOST CONSUMPTIVE and not the folks who conserve.

    If you think it WILL hurt folks who use the least amount of electricity – then give them a price break ONLY for the minimum amount – and everything over that – costs you more.

    You could let folks choose their own spot on the sliding scale.

    They get discounted/cheap electricity if they stay below the threshold – and they get major financial penalties for exceeding their plan.

    We do this with cell phones, rental cars, and items that say “only one per customer at this price”.

    Do you see the fees added to folks who exceed their leased car mile as “hurting” the poor and vulnerable?

    then why would you seek to characterize folks who use more than they should or agreed to as “poort and vulnerable”.. dying in the heat… being deprived of TVs and patio heaters and the like?

  21. Anonymous Avatar

    You think Ford won’t negotiate fleet sales?

    Those folks who exceed their car lease miles signed a contract to that effect – up front.

    When it says one to a customer, it is because the purpose of the sale is to draw customers in – to buy other stuff. If one customer buys up all the loss leaders, other customers will be unhappy, thinking they have been suckered into the store.

    You think we should not sell electricity by volume discount, but I imagine you still use aluminum products. We have volume discounts for a reason, and the reason iss that it supports the base load and infrastructure that makes everything else possible.

    You can advocate pricing roads and electricity any way you like, my only observation is that you cannot cout down on 20% of excess consumption of everything – and still have the same economy.

    Someone, is going to get hurt, and it won’t be the guys at the top of the heap. The ones MOST HURT are the ones that have the LEAST MARGIN IN RESERVE and not the ones that are the MOST CONSUMPTIVE. And MAYBE not the ones that conserve wisely, as opposed to conserving foolishly.

    When they get hurt, they will come looking for a scapegoat. If the scapegoat turns out to be environmentalists, then we will have shot ourselves in the foot by beleiving and advocating things that are impossible.

    What you are suggesting; that we can protect the poor and gouge the rich, – and somehow all come out ahead – is simply not borne out by experience or current political technology.


    The point about the patio heaters and TV’s was just an example of how decisions get made politically, instead of based on actual value. It is easier to shut down the beer drinking cigarette smokers on the patio at the pub than it is a bunch of moms with kids watching TV.

    Even if the TV’s waste FAR mor energy (and maybe have external costs as well).


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