Our Energy Future: Subsidies, Incentives and Regulatory Obstruction

There are some interesting tidbits buried in Greg Edwards’ story in the Times-Dispatch today about a Washington, D.C., conference on nuclear power. One of the panelists was Eugene Grecheck, Dominion’s Vice President for nuclear development.

  • Dominion would never have proposed building a highly controversial coal-burning plant in Wise County purely on the technical merits of the location. As Edwards paraphrases him, the decisive factor was “General Assembly support for the plant and incentives state lawmakers had offered a company willing to build a plant in the state’s coal fields.” Bacon’s Bottom Line: It’s all about the pork, baby!
  • Among all the electric utilities applying to build new nuclear power plants in the United States, Dominion Virginia Power is likely to be the very first to get the go-ahead. Grecheck based that appraisal on a permitting schedule posted on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s website. BBL: Has anyone calculated how economically competitive the nuclear plant would be without federal subsidies?
  • Other than the Wise County plant, another coal plant is not an option for Dominion Virginia Power “because of the economics of building a coal facility and the permitting difficulties.” BBL: Translation: The environmentalist foes of the Wise County project have done their job well. Who wants to lay odds that their next target is the nuclear plant?

Final question: Is it even possible to build energy sources in this country any more without economic signals distorted by subsidies, incentives or obstructionists? Do we even know which the most economical energy sources are?

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  1. Anonymous Avatar

    It has been difficult to build refineries for a long time, and refinery capacity has become a problem. As a result the FEDS may step in and overide local options to get more capacity built.

    When the lights go out it will get easier to build new plants.


  2. Anonymous Avatar

    “Do we even know which the most economical energy sources are?”

    This will require that we agree on prices for presently unpriced externalities AND the probable value of unprobable events.

    The probability of a nuclear event is low, but the cost is very high. We are not very good at evaluating this type of thing.

    Both of these issues require that we make decisions some people find morally or ethically reprehensible, even though we make these or similar decisions every day.



  3. Jim Wamsley Avatar
    Jim Wamsley

    SCC blamed the General Assembly for the Wise power plant decision according to this paragraph from the Bristol Herald Courier reported by Business Week.

    “In the ruling on Monday, the SCC judges said they could not consider whether the plant was in the public interest because the Virginia General Assembly approved a law in 2004 that basically took that task. In its ruling, the SCC also said its environmental review authority is limited by Virginia law and it has no authority to require any environmental protections because those permits are issued by the DEQ.”


  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    well heckfire…

    all they have to do for the Power Lines and the Nuke in North Anna is the same deal .. right?

    who said those GA guys were feckless?

  5. Anonymous Avatar


    More impressive solar news- What about Solar Richmond?

    Senate passes solar tax credit bill.

    Massachusetts continues to impress.

    California’s Solar City company embraces rentals.

    Washington is no slouch either.

    New Jersey continues to put Virginia to shame. Push for solar on municipal buildings!

    What about Virginia?

    What about Richmond?

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    I believe it is economically (and therefor envrionmentallY) stupid to push or solar on municipal buildings or anyplace else where the don’t pay back in a reasonable period of time.

    I also believe we are not so very far from making breakthroughs in solar power. We would be better off to fund the research than build a lot of solar that will be outmoded before it is paid for.


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