Richmond Gas Works Back on Energy Death Row?

Pending Termination

by Steve Haner

The Richmond City Council member seeking to kill Richmond Gas Works is finally asking her colleagues to put some money behind her dream, seeking a budget amendment to pay for a study on a path to ending the government-owned utility.

Thus reports Patrick Larsen of Virginia Public Media, who wrote (and presumably also broadcast) on March 31 about Councilwoman Katherine Jordan’s request for $200,000 to be added to the next Richmond budget. This is about 18 months after she sponsored a successful council resolution committing the city to an anti-fossil-fuel future that would include ending the provision of natural gas to its residents.

The city natural gas monopoly also has the exclusive right to serve all of Henrico County, much of Chesterfield County and even a part of Hanover County. Along with residential and commercial customers it also serves several major industries using natural gas in their manufacturing processes. Those outside city lines have had no vote in electing Richmond’s City Council.

No state law requires the city to maintain its natural gas service, but contractual and debt obligations could complicate an effort to shut down the utility without selling it to another provider. Selling the physical assets and territory to another provider, very much a viable option, would not advance the goal of eliminating the use of natural gas to heat homes, cook food or run factories.

Larsen’s report also mentioned that the City of Charlottesville has already retained a firm to study closing its municipal gas works, with a report due March of next year. The movement is underway in several Democratic-dominated American cities and states.

Jordan also spoke up when Republicans in the General Assembly pushed legislation during 2022 and 2023 to create legal protections for natural gas customers, and her fellow Democrats voted in lockstep to kill the legislation. Democrats representing the suburban counties around Richmond have shown no concern that a local governing body not elected by their constituents will be making this decision.

Jordan’s vision as outlined in the Virginia Public Media article is for the city to remain a major energy provider for the city’s residents. Given that phasing out natural gas would require a massive conversion to electric appliances, costing thousands or tens of thousands of dollars per residence or business location, that alone will hit the city (and county) residents hard. If subsidies are offered to low-income energy users, that means other taxpayers will fork over even more.

If such conversions occur, however, Dominion Energy Virginia already has the monopoly to serve that new customer demand. The idea that the city is taking that over from Dominion, building its own fleet of solar or wind facilities, is unrealistic. And remember that gasoline and diesel are also targeted for elimination as energy choices, so thousands of vehicle charging stations would also be needed.

No, Dominion is not ceding that business to the city.

Larsen’s report dives right in on the new narrative opposed to natural gas. The claimed detrimental impact of carbon dioxide and methane emissions, which may be responsible for slightly higher atmospheric temperatures, has now been joined by far more shaky scientific claims that natural gas use causes asthma in children.

Since this claim surfaced recently, it has been hotly disputed by industry, but it persists as the reason behind the Biden Administration’s continuing efforts to eliminate natural gas as a fuel choice.

Finally, and most ironically, Jordan claims that natural gas must go because of the variability of its price. From Larsen’s report:

“What’s the next 20 years for a city that has decided it’s going to be an energy provider for its residents, for its businesses?” Jordan said. “Is natural gas the energy source we want to be relying on? Personally, you know, to me, no — I think we need to be transitioning towards renewable energies.”

She’s concerned with recent fluctuations in the wholesale price of natural gas and said the city can take steps to provide energy sources minus the health and environmental risks associated with the fossil fuel.

Prices spiked recently due to the supply disruptions from the Russian war on Ukraine, but also due to continued environmentalist battles to prevent natural gas drilling and transportation. The war-related world prices have subsided. The price pressures from the U.S. war on fossil fuels continue and are now being used to argue that gas can’t be relied upon in future decades. At least a circular argument is an argument, right?

It is the same with the complaints about gas infrastructure costs. Force people to stop using gas, prevent any new customers from signing up, and as demand retreats the per-customer impact of the infrastructure and maintenance increases. If you make the assumption that the replacement wind, solar and possible battery facilities will be free, and will never need maintenance, along with all those new power lines and transformers, you arrive at an even more insane economic decision.

But here is the burning question. Will the pathetic Richmond Times-Dispatch now finally report any of this?

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6 responses to “Richmond Gas Works Back on Energy Death Row?”

  1. Ronnie Chappell Avatar
    Ronnie Chappell

    Here’s hoping Richmond democrats pursue these policies aggressively and with the zeal of true believers. They will not survive another election as gas stove lovers rise in revolt.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      I love it. I’ve seen the cannon from that incident in Texas history, BTW. Quite small.

  2. Hey, here’s an idea. Once Richmond City Council shuts off all our natural gas, maybe it can pass an ordinance compelling all grocery stores to ban meat. Unless it comes from insects, of course.

  3. DJRippert Avatar

    How many times have I read liberal commentators on this blog insist that the unsubsidized economics of so-called green energy are already superior to fossil fuel generated energy?

    If that’s true, no action is required.

    The free market will incentivize people to switch from natural gas to clean energy without government interference or coercion.

    The Richmond Gas Works will see a steady decline in business until it is no longer a viable economic entity. Seems like Richmond should sell that soon-to-be-defunct business now. Get something for it before it becomes worthless. Let some conservative suckers buy it.

    The more I see liberals and progressive politicians insisting on mandates and subsidies, the more I am convinced the economics of competitive clean energy have not yet been achieved.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      The Net Zero maniacs are frantic in Great Britain, where even with heavy subsidies the citizenry is turning down the conversion to electric heat pumps in droves. This would, of course, be the idiot Tory government. Labour, if empowered, will just send in troops and force things….

  4. disqus_VYLI8FviCA Avatar

    The tolerant left once again demanding that we live according to their flawed constructs. The Greenies love to talk of “net zero” carbon footprints. Richmond eliminating fossil fuel consumption will have net zero impact on anything related to climate. It will impact the quality of life, cost, and viability of living in the Richmond area…towards the negative, but let’s not let realty intrude on ideology.

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