Taken Like Hicks At A Carnival

By Steve Haner

Anybody who closely read the so-called Virginia Clean Economy Act and had watched Dominion Energy Virginia’s previous manipulations of Virginia’s General Assembly could see what was coming. Despite its “billing,” that bill was never going to end the use of fossil fuels in Virginia.

As early as February 13, I reported that to readers of Bacon’s Rebellion, in “Energy Omnibus II: It Doesn’t Shut Gas Plants.”  Later bill versions were even less restrictive. 

The sponsors of the bill and groups that backed it have expressed shock and betrayal now that the utility has fleshed out its investment and operations plan in a new integrated resource plan. That May 1 document, filed with the State Corporation Commission, included continued operation of various coal and natural gas generators. The document also highlighted loopholes in the text –- which anybody could read –- that open the door for construction of new fossil fuel plants. (You can find all four parts of the initial IRP filing here.)

Most of the news stories focused on the cost projections in the plan, an additional $550 per year for a modest home bill of 1,000 kilowatt hours per month. That was in line with SCC projections well before the bill passed. But the political explosion in Democratic circles was set off by the plan’s failure to promise or even pretend to promise 100% carbon-free electricity.

The House and Senate chief sponsors issued a statement, dutifully circulated by Blue Virginia:

“Virginians need Dominion to respect and adhere to the intent (emphasis added) of this landmark legislation to grow clean energy jobs and stop the worst impacts of climate change from further harming Virginia’s economy,” wrote Richmond Democratic Senator Jennifer McClellan and Arlington Democratic Delegate Rip Sullivan. “As the legislators who wrote Governor Northam’s goals into law, we urge Dominion to follow through on its previous public commitment – not attempt to run from it.”

After more than a decade of watching legislators fall for Dominion’s games like hicks at a carnival, you have to wonder if some are just pretending to be this dumb. Sullivan and McClellan are both lawyers, good ones, and must understand that a bill’s actual wording trumps a lobbyist’s promises.

Intent? Dominion’s intent all along was the use the legislation to hamstring the State Corporation Commission, for the umpteenth time, allowing a massive and unnecessary capital spending program to be funded by captive ratepayer rate increases. Mission accomplished.

Intent means nothing in the legislative process, not when the words are clear. The bill as passed and signed by Governor Ralph Northam only closed those coal-fired electricity plants Dominion already had planned to close. It kept open other coal and all natural gas plants. And it gave the SCC the authority to keep them open under certain conditions. Dominion is happy to let the SCC retain authority when that works to Dominion’s benefit.

Another lawyer-environmentalist with burning hair is Ivy Main, over at The Virginia Mercury.

Dominion’s flat-out refusal to abandon gas by 2045 poisons the rest of the document. The IRP is supposed to show a utility’s plans over a 15-year period, in this case up to 2035. And for those years, the IRP includes the elements of the VCEA that make money for Dominion: the build-out of solar, offshore wind and energy storage projects. It also includes money-saving retirements of outmoded coal, oil and biomass plants, as the VCEA requires. Heck, it even includes plans to close a coal plant the VCEA would allow to stay open in spite of its poor economic outlook (the Clover plant, half-owned by Old Dominion Electric Cooperative.)

What the utility had actually promised is becoming net zero on carbon emissions. As the IRP explains:

“Net zero does not mean eliminating all emissions, but instead means that any remaining emissions are balanced by removing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere. For example, this can occur through carbon capture, reforestation, or negative-emissions technologies such as renewable natural gas.”

There is an elegance to really good displays of political theater. These advocates must have understood that what they were voting on was not what they had promised their voters and donors. But shock, dismay and betrayal are now required to save political face. The IRP will be just more theater. The battle will join again in 2021.

NOTE: My apology to all subscribers for hitting the “publish” button with an unfinished version.

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28 responses to “Taken Like Hicks At A Carnival

  1. Virginia – The ,most corrupt state in America. When donations are unlimited the moneyed interests will prevail. Why is this hard to understand?

    Ask “Dominion Dick” Saslaw about Dominion and its unlimited contributions. He is the Democratic Majority Leader of the State Senate after all.

    Funny how the liberals in Virginia suddenly get lock jaw when it comes to Dick Saslaw.

  2. re: Taken Like Hicks At A Carnival………… AGAIN!

    I’m not sure what the big hubub is about here..

    This is the same old same old just with some different suckers..

    Dominion is throwing that old singe digit finger at all involved.

    And Dominion is saying if you don’t like their gas plants, they’ll just use other folks gas plants in PJM… presto changeo !

    I don’t know about mandating no gas by some date certain when we have no idea what technologies are available between now and then but then Dom COULD have put something along those lines in the narrative but then that wasn’t as much fun as the finger.

  3. “Despite its “billing,” that bill was never going to end the use of fossil fuels in Virginia.

    As early as February 13, I reported that to readers of Bacon’s Rebellion, in “Energy Omnibus II: It Doesn’t Shut Gas Plants” Later bill versions were even less restrictive. … The bill as passed and signed by Governor Ralph Northam only closed those coal-fired electricity plants Dominion already had planned to close. It kept open other coal and all natural gas plants. And it gave the SCC the authority to keep them open under certain conditions.”

    Steve, you have been all over this story.

    I suggests this bill simple reflects the reality on the ground. Green energy technology today cannot come anywhere near close to fulfilling Virginia’s energy needs today or anytime in foreseeable future alone.

    And now, the current Coved-19 crisis most likely pushes back the green energy revolution even further into distant future. America now does not have the money to rebuild its entire electric grid. And, if America did have the money, it has far better uses for that money now to fill holes created created by Coved-19 crisis, and the world it leaves us in.

    We need to stop chasing the illusions of yesterday, stop throwing away vast sums of monies on those illusions, particularly now with money we no longer have.

  4. “Intent? Dominion’s intent all along was the use the legislation to hamstring the State Corporation Commission, for the umpteenth time, allowing a massive and unnecessary capital spending program to be funded by captive ratepayer rate increases. Mission accomplished.”

    Yep. As we expected. We have law that keeps us from moving forward and hurts renewables. Again.

    Renewables CAN work, but not when you put in rules like we have in Virginia and like PJM keeps pushing and FERC backing. PJM’s rules make renewables too expensive and promote fossil fuels. Dominion had a superb celebration – again. When will decision makers learn?

    • I’ve thought about venturing into the minimum offer price rule (MOPR) debate but it is just so mind boggling. And another missed headline in the IRP, if I were inclined to care: Dom is going to abandon the capacity market anyway. Not said directly, but implied in the document….

    • VCA – how do the PJM rules make renewables too expensive? Can’t the generator offer a lower price to get more renewables into the mix? I thought PJM brought the lowest price at the time power is needed to the market. Or are renewable generators really just trying to get the highest price possible while making sales? If everyone is just profit-maximizing, then everyone is just profit-maximizing and should not crown themselves with store-bought halos.

      Anytime government requires a pot of everyone’s money to be created, the thieves and rent-seekers surround it.

  5. “Hicks at a carnival.”

    Harsh… but fair.

    So, as ordinary citizens, we can look forward to paying a lot more for electricity and for the environmentalists to come back for more, more, more… regardless of cost.

    Meanwhile, we get news like this, as explicated by Patrick J. Michaels, a Global Warming contrarian: “A new paper finds higher than expected CO2 fertilization inferred from leaf to global observations. The paper predicts that the Earth is going to gain nearly three times as much green matter as was predicted by the IPCC AR5.”

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2020/05/15/greening-the-planet-and-slouching-towards-paris/

    Talk about the ultimate irony — higher CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere contributing directly to a greener planet in the most literal sense!

    • As to Jim’s linked in Wattsupwiththat:

      ““…we estimate a cumulative biophysical sink…equivalent to 17 years of anthropogenic emissions at current rates [emphasis added]. … The reduction in warming from the equivalent of 17 years of zero emissions is, of course, spread through the century, but if it took place now (according to the UN’s models) it would reduce 0.5⁰C of the expected warming. The IPCC models have us warming at roughly 0.3⁰C/decade in the near term, but Haverd et al. tell us we will effectively have 1.7 decades of zero emissions thanks to greening.

      A little math: 2.4⁰ (the UN’s expected RCP 2.6 warming to 2100) minus 0.5⁰ (the reduction in warming from 17 years of zero emissions) = 1.9⁰C of warming.

      Thanks to the wonders of photosynthesis on God’s getting-greener earth, we meet the Paris Accord.

      That should have been front-page news. Instead, at least according to google, there hasn’t been one story about this astounding paper.” End Quote.

      So much for global warming scientists and their science. Now back to the pandemic.

  6. You dominion will have fossil after all? As Gomer Pyle said “Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!”

    • James Wyatt Whitehead V

      I have the Best of Jim Neighbors on vinyl. He has a true and pure singing voice.

      • Forest Gump-like in his characters….

        he actually had contracted hepatitis B and had a liver transplant. Still made it to age 87.

        Interesting history and parallels on the Vaccine which was developed in the 1980s

        Because the disease can be transmitted by casual contact, and because about three-quarters of a million to 2 million people are chronically infected with hepatitis B virus (many of whom don’t know that they have it), it has been hard to control hepatitis B virus infections in the United States. The original strategy (started in the early 1980s) was to vaccinate only those at highest risk (for example, healthcare workers, patients on dialysis, and intravenous drug users). But because the disease can be transmitted to those who are not in high-risk groups, this vaccine strategy didn’t work. The incidence of hepatitis B virus disease in the United States was unchanged 10 years after the vaccine was first used! For this reason, the vaccine strategy changed. Now all infants and young children are recommended to receive the hepatitis B vaccine and the incidence of hepatitis B virus infections in the United States is starting to decline. Indeed, the new vaccine strategy has virtually eliminated the disease in children less than 19 years of age. If we stick with this strategy, we have a chance to finally eliminate this devastating disease within one or two generations.

  7. In related news, Walmart is upset about Virginia policy.
    Walmart wants 100% renewable and they want it cheaply.
    Dominion is charging fee and counting wood co-burning coal plants as renewable.

    https://www.utilitydive.com/news/walmart-blasts-virginia-regulators-report-on-pricing-biomass-in-dominion/577938/

    I don’t know if Walmart’s request is reasonable, or instead if their Virginia spokesperson is a card-carrying progressive liberal demanding renewables. But the article does good job of summing up the overall issue of freedom-of-choice vs. state run monopoly. Sounds like AES solved the problem though in that part of our state (in the favor of the monopoly). Why is there a difference for Dominion?

    • Shoot. Walmart is like any other business. They’re going to cut costs any way they can AND they want their customers to believe that Walmart does care about conservation and less pollution.

      If you and I could get a special lower cost electricity- we would too, right?

      But maybe the time is right for Dom to offer a special program where one can choose 100% fossil-fuel-generated electricity for those that contrarian skeptics?

      • “Walmart wants 100% renewable and they want it cheaply.”

        Why? There is no such critter extant, alive or dead. And from Walmart of all people, who use to be sensible folk.

      • That’s a wonderful idea: sign up exclusively for fossil fueled electricity! Yes, that has a certain symmetry with signing up for renewables energy.

        The problem is, it would not save you any money. The bulk of the renewables energy generation being built is solar, and solar generation is now fully competitive with other sources — when it’s generating. I’m confident that any retail customer in the PJM region who excluded all solar power from his electric energy sources today would pay more overall.

        You’re right, LG, Walmart etc. just want the bragging rights to say they are purchasing all from renewable energy generation — but one reason is that it costs them relatively little, incrementally, to do so. Sorry, Reed, that critter is very much extant.

        • ya but you’d get a decal to put on your front door or car to make your statement!

          ” I buy nothing but 100% fossil fuel 24/7 – NO sissy fuel ” Screw Global Warming!

          😉

        • “The bulk of the renewables energy generation being built is solar, and solar generation is now fully competitive with other sources — when it’s generating.”

          So where is anyone offering to sell all comers solar-generated power, when available, at a price that’s equal to, or lower than, the price of fossil fuel electricity?

          Green energy is all about letting a new group join Dominion in rent seeking.

          • Reed Fawell 3rd

            Yes, TMT is right.

            The Green Power People simply want to replace Dominion. This will make the Green Power People as rich as Dominion, at the expense of general public and state treasury. In short, this is a power struggle over who gets and keeps the public goods and wealth. It is all about state sponsored money and privilege. Who has the public’s money and its privileges now, and who wants to take it from them (Dominion) and keep it all for themselves, the Green Power People, while public pays ever higher prices for their energy they must have to live and survive.

      • “The bulk of the renewables energy generation being built is solar, and solar generation is now fully competitive with other sources — when it’s generating.”

        Which depending on circumstances can often be as low as 20% of the times. Plus external costs are often not factored in to costs, plus nobody said solar is all bad, only that it is way oversold and over-hyped, and typically quite weak and unreliable, and typically horrible inefficient in much of the country. An industrial use of land sold as sacred church uses.

    • Another story previously told on Bacon’s Rebellion. Yes, the green tariff is high comedy. Will go find the link. Doing these stories less because not much new. But the whining from VCEA advocates represented something noteworthy.

      Here’s one: https://www.baconsrebellion.com/wp/green-virtue-certified-by-the-hour/
      And this: https://www.baconsrebellion.com/wp/northam-appointee-opposes-devs-green-tariff/

  8. I find the dismay of the Democratic legislators and the professional environmentalists to be nauseating. Expressing revulsion when going 100% green “does not mean eliminating all emissions, but instead means that any remaining emissions are balanced by removing an equivalent amount from the atmosphere. For example, this can occur through carbon capture, reforestation, or negative-emissions technologies such as renewable natural gas.”

    Isn’t that what the glitterati do when they use private jets and yachts to go to zero emission conferences all around the world? If it’s good enough for Prince Harry, why isn’t it good enough for Dominion and its customers? Let’s use the same standard.

    • Expect rampaging political environmentalists to, almost without exception, have a daily carbon footprint exponentially larger than the vast majority of their fellow citizens, the general public.

      The poster child here is Al Gore, whether he is at a one of his many homes, in the air on his private jets, at the office, and otherwise entertaining himself, including his cashing in now up into the $millions on his jihad against the lives and lifestyles of his fellow Americans. The image he promotes of himself, and tries to force on the great majority of his fellow citizens, is precisely the opposite of his own life as he chooses to live it daily, and its in line with those of his political allies, Nancy Pilosi or AOC, for two of endless examples.

      The same self righeous behavior is now happening with Coved-19 crisis, those on fat save payrolls throwing the “unwashed” out of their jobs and homes.

      • The Michael Moore movie Planet of the Humans underlines that – wind and solar are huge and wealthy capitalist behemoths, able to buy politicians just like oil and coal did for decades. Nothing…..has….changed. They also use their power to regulate and constrain competition and consumer choice, to boost their own profits. Owning the media morons helps. The Big Lie That We’ll All Die ( where else have we seen this) is also essential.

        • Previously when you wrote about the new Planet of the Humans, I had not yet watched it. Now I have, and it is partially the same message I am trying to say. We are knee deep in idealistic perceptions based on politically correct beliefs and attitudes.

          This same basic reason why Trump says we have so many COVID test kits, no problem. American public thrives on perception and emotion (snake oil) so you need to operate on that level, no matter which side you are on.

          • Reed Fawell 3rd

            Very true.

            And I agree with you on Planet of the Humans. As mentioned earlier on this blog that movie (that Steve brought to our attention) confirmed everything I have read on subject over the past five years from sources I trusted then and now, sources unlocked many truths that many other people were either willfully ignoring, and/or did not want to see or consider, so they simply avoided looking deeply into those problems because they countered so many arguments against the trendy claims for Green Power that had been pushed since the late 1970s, despite the chronic failures of Green Energy to fulfill the promises their proponents claimed for Green Energy decade after decade, claims that I had not believed since the late 1990s when I had last looked deeply into them, and wrote about, and so I learned directly about the refusal of the environmental movement to consider them or any compromise at all, regarding gas and nuclear power combinations with Green Energy.

  9. Well, here’s part of the problem – In the real world , the protagonists are not the far right and the far left.

    Al Gore does not represent most folks in the middle but then again neither are the folks on the right either.

    You don’t have to be a far left ideologue to know that burning your plastic in a barrel in the back yard or dumping your oil change in the ditch is not good and no it does not mean you’re a hypocrite if you buy plastics or drive a car than needs an oil change.

    Most folks know that it takes some percentage of fossil fuels to make electricity. What they’re after – is the ability to NOT have to use fossil fuel – all the time – to cut back on it’s use the very same way they felt about the use of coal – and the desire to burn less of it if we could.

    The funny thing is that “green” actually used to be to be opposed to burning coal – and my bet now is that even folks on the right with regard to solar/wind – themselves would prefer to NOT burn coal.

    It’s an evolution – We used to dump raw sewage into the Potomac and the James and yet the folks who opposed it were not villified because they were using their toilets…

    This is how dumb this stuff has gotten.

    Heckfire if we can’t fix those CSOs, we all might as go back to just dumping raw sewage and save all that money on “green” sewage treatment.

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