by Steve HanerFirst published in the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star Feb. 26 then distributed by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.  

The lesson of the Texas grid collapse is not just about electricity. Imagine the week Texans would have had if once the power went out and stayed out, they had no gasoline, diesel, propane, or natural gas to fall back on. How much worse would their plight have been without natural gas heating homes and businesses, propane space heaters and grills, and gasoline or diesel-powered cars and trucks to get where they needed to go? 

You might think it alarmist to imagine that, but it is not. An all-electric economy, with the electricity itself reliant on unreliable wind and solar generation, is exactly the future envisioned for Virginia and being put into place by Governor Ralph Northam and the majority in the General Assembly.

The 2020 Virginia Clean Economy Act already requires the retirement of coal and natural gas electricity generation in the state in less than 30 years. That’s what zero carbon means, although fortunately Virginia’s main electricity provider maintains a fleet of aging nuclear plants not mandated to close. Yet.

Electricity is just the start. There is not one aspect of our economic lives where the debate is not being driven by the assumption –- unproved and hotly contested — that our very existence is threatened by carbon dioxide emissions. The constant drumbeat of such claims have evolved into conventional wisdom. The lesson of Texas is we must slow down and think before we find ourselves over this cliff.

The proposed carbon tax and rationing scheme known as the Transportation and Climate Initiative is just a first step, with advocates admitting the ultimate goal is to eliminate gasoline and diesel as transportation fuels and make us totally dependent on electric vehicles.

This General Assembly was not asked to impose TCI with its taxes on Virginians. Yet. Once the 2021 election is past, the state is likely to join the interstate transportation fuel compact it has been negotiating for a decade. This year’s General Assembly, however, did authorize joining with California and other states in a regulatory structure intended to ultimately end the sale of new internal combustion engines. Virginia is ceding control over that process to California and other states.

A serious effort was made this year to impose a tax on your electric bill to finance, among other things, converting the homes of lower-income Virginians from natural gas or oil heat to electric heat pumps. Nothing would make the power companies happier, but that just makes us even more dependent on a single energy source. Another bill tax would have financed a fleet of electric school buses, destined to grow.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline to bring a huge new natural gas supply into the state was crushed by environmental opposition, as was a modest expansion of an existing Virginia Natural Gas line into Hampton Roads. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is fighting for its life in the western part of the state. One of the first actions of President Joe Biden was to kill a major Canada-to-Gulf Coast oil pipeline.

People see the threads, but not the whole cloth. The war on coal is now a war on every fossil fuel. Coal miners will be joined in fighting for their livelihoods by the entire oil and gas industry, from auto mechanics to the service station industry.

It took probably fifteen minutes into the Texas crisis for the climate change warriors to begin to claim that the cold snap was caused by global warming. But the cold weather there was not out of line with past experience, and one day could do the same to parts of our electric grid. All of the extreme weather claims tied to global warming collapse when compared to historical records. But extremes will happen and will threaten the grid.

When those dark days come, we will not want an all-electricity economy, especially if dependent on intermittent sources. We will need – as Texas just proved – gasoline, diesel, propane and natural gas for at least some of our homes, vehicles, stores, and workplaces.

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45 responses to “The Virginia War On Fossil Fuels”

  1. billokeefe Avatar

    The General Assembly’s mandate, if achieved, will make Virginia California East. The all electric economy not only is unnecessary but is dumb climate policy. We’d be much better of by investing in carbon capture for natural gas generation and small modular nuclear units.

  2. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    Jim had three posts along this theme in a row while I was waiting for this to be published in the Fredericksburg paper, so I almost didn’t share it. But why waste a chance to irritate the “we’re all gonna die unless you do as we say” crowd? The vaccines are slowly taking away all their COVID fun….

  3. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Hmmm, this sounds like “we’re all gonna die without fossil fuel.” Which crowd are you in?

    Texas proved what Texas always proves, “Ya can’t fix stupid,” especially stupid and corrupt.

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” It took probably fifteen minutes into the Texas crisis for the climate change warriors to begin to claim that the cold snap was caused by global warming.” – which came about the same time the climate deniers claimed it was caused by dead wind turbines! 😉

    So, a good chunk of this energy food fight is how one feels about global warming with the deniers/skeptics just beside themselves worrying about a world without fossil fuels to keep them warm and “go juice” in their cars. Those who do believe in Global Warming – also do believe that fossil fuels are the cause and without reducing them, really bad stuff will happen, not the least of which is trumping the usual claim of what bad things we leave to “our kids”.

    We REALLY, don’t need a pipeline clear across Virginia to power a gas plant that could easily be located in Western Virginia off an existing pipeline.

    But I do agree with the premise that people will say in polls, one thing, but they expect it to just happen but not take away their warm homes or cars or other necessities of civilization.

    And so, when/if this happens and people can, for instance, no longer buy backup generators or propane or natural gas costs 5 times as much, etc… when those type things happen – the reaction at the polls will be swift and everything the GOP and deniers/skeptics could ever hope for.

    In the meantime, before doom actually happens, every possible effort should be directed towards pointing to that impending fossil fuel disaster and the foot soldiers for denial/skepticism/fossil fuels will continue parading and DO give credit to that leftist biased media rag, FLS, for giving Haner/TJI a place to pontificate their fears and loathings.

    1. Paul Sweet Avatar

      “We REALLY, don’t need a pipeline clear across Virginia to power a gas
      plant that could easily be located in Western Virginia off an existing

      Underground pipelines are nowhere near as ugly as high-voltage electric lines.

  5. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive×788.jpg

    Alive and well. That which was is. That which is will always be. That which is coming is wrong.

    When VDH calls, Steve, ask for penicillin since nothing newer can be better.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      Got dose 1 late yesterday….

  6. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    “Imagine the week Texans would have had if once the power went out and stayed out, they had no gasoline, diesel, propane, or natural gas to fall back on.”

    Imagine the week they would have had if they had distributed power generation at every house with appropriate battery storage. There may have been excess grid capacity then to power the water treatment plants…

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    ” Texas Power Market Is Short $2.1 Billion in Payments After Freeze
    Electric retailers failed to make payments for power purchased when prices skyrocketed during the freeze, state grid operator says

    The financial consequences of the Texas blackouts are beginning to emerge in the state’s electricity market, with some players failing to pay for power they purchased last week and others disclosing sizable losses.

    The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates the state’s power grid, said Friday electric retailers had failed to make $2.12 billion in required payments, about 17% of the total amount owed for a stretch of last week.

    Ercot, which collects that money and uses it to pay operators of power plants, said it would use $800 million in a revenue account to pay them for some of what they are owed but would be $1.32 billion short.

    It also said it had initiated drawing collateral payments from the retailers who didn’t settle their bills, a sign that some may no longer be solvent.

    An Ercot spokeswoman said she was unsure whether this was the total amount owed by retailers or more late payments would be disclosed later.”

    Just love that “competitive” free-market! 😉

  8. What I’m seeing in the response to Steve’s column is a lot of snark and distraction that amounts to denialism. Some people simply do not want to think about the systemic vulnerabilities of an all-electric energy system. To prevent one existential crisis (the warming of the planet) we are making ourselves vulnerable to another existential crisis (systemic collapse of the energy system), which our enemies will be only too eager to exploit in a time of warfare.

    Which existential crisis is more immediate, and which is more potentially devastating to our society? The answer is obvious.

    Our snowflake children lie awake at night worrying how we’re destroying the planet. They should like awake at night and contemplate the descent into anarchy, disease, and starvation that awaits them in a world in which a 100%-electrified energy system collapses.

    1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
      Eric the half a troll

      You ask us to trust that somehow, when it is absolutely necessary, mankind will deliver a just-in-time system to avert the predicted catastrophe headed our way. You, however, don’t trust the same society to be able to deliver the far more manageable transition to a carbon free energy system without “descent into anarchy, disease, and starvation”. The difference being any possible negative impacts felt during this transition would be temporary and easily rectified. The impact of inaction are assured and neither temporary nor easily rectified.

      And really… “snowflake children”? No snark there. Frankly, this generation knows what a mess the boomers left for them and wants to fix it. If there are “snowflakes” involved here it’s the ones who whine about only being able to purchase pickup trucks that get more than 12 miles to the gallon.

    2. energyNOW_Fan Avatar

      Jim – human risk perception behavior basically means that we perceive outrageous risk for activities that we oppose, whereas on the other hand, we are willing to accept tons of risk in the activities we favor. Liberals accept there may be inconveniences (forcing folks out their SUVs etc) and different risks and a learning curve with their preferred direction. They are ready, willing, and able to face these issues as long as they get their political way on energy choice.

      I think we in activist Blue States have to go the liberal direction until they run into probs with it. Just hope I live long enough to say I told you so.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Actually, fairly simple. Conservatives don’t care how the spray can “works” as long as it “works” whereas liberals care if it works from CFCs.

        Conservatives don’t care if their stuff comes in plastic but liberals care what happens to the plastic after it’s thrown away.

        Conservatives don’t care where their electricity really comes from as long as they got wenever they want it. Liberals care if it comes from blasting off mountaintops or the particulate matter kills people.

        pretty simple, eh? 😉

        1. energyNOW_Fan Avatar

          Conservatives= Deplorables …got it.

          Houston, we have a problem!

  9. disqus_VYLI8FviCA Avatar

    I keep forgetting that electricity is magic. It just appears. It’s just there.

    If we were to truly be an all-electric society (which is a horrible objective for many reasons) how is the exponential increase in required electricity production going to be generated? Certainly not from wind or solar, it doesn’t scale and isn’t reliable. The demand for electricity in an all-electric society would sky-rocket. I’ve yet to hear a reasonable proposition on how we would meet the demand. Inane platitudes and threats of unlikely environmental catastrophe are neither a strategy nor actionable.

    Diversification is a critical asset in any portfolio. Our energy portfolio is not immune to this reality.

  10. energyNOW_Fan Avatar

    If you convinced the Liberals that Armageddon was not happening, they would still ban fossil fuels. They (1) hate industry (2) want to go another direction. That is the definition of Liberal. I thought Biden needed to start to telling Americans that we need fossil fuels, but no John Kerry says people working that area are bad people who need to repent and take new jobs in solar panel installation

  11. LarrytheG Avatar

    What “failed” in Texas was not wind and not gas per se but the false expectation that the “free market” provides “reliability” cost-free.

    The “free market” wants to sell you whatever it can – for a profit – but without govt or a contract, they’re really not on the hook to provide reliable power 24/7, just whenever they are able to.

    In the East, PJM has that expectation formalized and priced with their Capacity Market but in Texas, they had no such requirement – and it really didn’t matter where the power came from – gas or oil or wind or solar – there was no proffer for 24/7 reliability so when things broke – the price for power skyrocketed – which is exactly how less or unregulated markets actually do work – it’s a feature, not a bug.

    So who got blamed? Government? ERCOT or the “free market” – and it might be interesting to see what changes might be forthcoming – from the Government. I doubt seriously after the inquiry is completed that the conclusion will be: ” The energy market performed exactly as designed”.

  12. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    How come Steve looks like James? Is this a Clark Kent thing?

  13. Jim, what happened to having the comments box at the END of the comments string, and why do we have to click on “See more comments” to get to the end? Of course this is just a design issue — just sayin’ . . . .

    1. There is an option at the top of the comments threat to “sort by oldest,” “sort by newest,” or “sort by best.” Your choice.

    2. This new system is going to take a while to get used to. It posts things in unexpected places, and won’t post replies under 30-minute-old “old” posts.

  14. William O'Keefe Avatar
    William O’Keefe

    Unless we change direction, we’ll end up being California East. Alternatively, since Virginia is part of a regional system, we could end up importing electricity from a non zero emission state. The General Assembly needs a Texas like shock to get real. Dominion has the best of all worlds. It makes a lot of profit and can blame the General Assembly when its all electric doesn’t work. We probably would be better off pursuing carbon capture for natural gas plants and small modular nuclear reactors.

  15. LarrytheG Avatar

    “So, let’s recap. The pipelines delivering gas to Eastern Virginia are currently able to deliver enough natural gas for the coldest winter day, assuming no upsets in upstream facilities. If a compressor station goes down in PA during a cold stretch, and all bets are off. And there’s no capacity for economic development. And we don’t have the money or the land or the technology to replace it. Those are all facts.”

    I don’t think so. No independent study by PJM are similar confirmed such claims. Dominion was hanging out there with unsubstantiated claims that walked and talked like an at-will, for-profit private venture.

    Dire claims would have confirmation from the government and none was forthcoming because everyone knew it was actually a competitive proposal for Dominion to enter a gas market already served by Columbia.

    What the ACP and Mountain Valley pipelines are really about is Columbia and Dominion both wanting to make a profit selling cheaper gas from Appalachian fracking than existing gas from pipelines from Texas/Louisiana and as far as I could tell Columbia actually intended to use existing and sufficient pipelines and pipeline corridors to send that gas to VNG and eastern Virginia.

    You can bet if, for instance, a power line was identified as a true “need”, the government would approve it even if it had impacts. In fact, they did just that for the new Dominion lines over the James near Jamestown.

    All that happened is that Columbia ended up providing the expansion to eastern Virginia.

    We continue to get “sky is falling” scenarios though.

    I trust PJM and other government agencies to differentiate between something that is a true public need – and Dominions ambitions.

    1. Verified Former Utility Exec Avatar
      Verified Former Utility Exec

      Those who say pipeline capacity to Eastern Virginia is adequate need a refresher on college physics and Newton’s Potential Gas Law. You simply cannot “squeeze” more gas into a pipeline than it was designed to deliver. Moreover, your prior point about not needing a pipeline when you can build a plant in western Virginia and ship the power East also disregards the fact that a substantial portion of electricity generated is LOST when transported over distance – pipelines, on the other hand, are 99+% efficient. From a climate perspective, why would you kill 50+% of the energy to generate electrons in Alta Vista to have them delivered to Pungo? It’s absolute nonsense.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Let’s see an objective study from an entity that has no profit interest. If there is a real shortage, it should be documentable and we’d actually KNOW just how much gas is really needed.

        All we have is unsubstantiated claims from those who have an interest or boosters of those who have an interest. Where is that objective study?

        Second. If electricity is “lost” over distances, then what is the purpose of PJM and the interconnection?

        1. Verified Former Utility Exec Avatar
          Verified Former Utility Exec

          How do we know you have no profit interest? I have none. I submit that a quick internet search will yield this (and again, physics): to create electrons from natural gas, you must combust it, and you lose about 60% of the energy in the combustion process. Tack on line losses from AC transmission (which loses power to thermal and other factors that DC transmission does not) and the yield is about 36% of the original energy gets delivered to the customer. This may vary depending on the heat rate of the electric generation unit but probably not materially given the age of the fleet. The natural gas system delivers 90+% of the original energy to the end user. My 92 AFUE furnace has a far smaller carbon footprint that your Energy Star heat pump, because almost 3X the original energy gets to my meter. Look it up.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            Not you – Dominion. Where is the independent study from PJM or FERC os similar that validates the claims of the ACP?

            In terms of electricity loss – how does PJM work if that’s a big problem?

            ” How Electricity can Travel Long Distances With Minimal Power Loss”



            PJM operates across a wide region and it determines “need” for generation as well as transmission and reliability.

            I trust their word over any company with a profit motive.

            If there is a real need in Eastern Virginia for gas for electricity – PJM would confirm it just as they supported powerlines over the James but did not cite a need for more generation.

            Just having Dominion claim it is a whole different horse of color.

            In fact, if PJM HAD said that there was a shortfall of electricity in Eastern Virginia, then the ACP would have been a slam dunk!

        2. I can’t speak to that “objective study” you want, Larry, but I do want to respond to VFUE below: I’m with you about the efficiency of natural gas combustion for generating electricity in the 36% range, and for a modern high-efficiency gas furnace delivering heat to the home at 90%+.
          But, VFUE, then you add something that’s quite incorrect: you say, “My 92 AFUE furnace has a far smaller carbon footprint that your Energy Star heat pump, because almost 3X the original energy gets to my meter. Look it up.” No — a typical heat pump has a mild weather coefficient of performance in the 3.5x range (350%), so if you multiply the losses making the electricity by the gains using that electricity to compress ambient air as the heat source, the net efficiency is 36% x 350% = 126% which is substantially better than 90%. Geothermal heat pumps do even better. Look it up yourself!

          Now I freely concede that in cold weather (mid 30s and below) an air heat pump gets increasingly less effective and struggles to keep up with the increased heat losses in the typical house; that’s why there is always a second heat source with a heat pump. But for the typical mildly cold day in the 50s or 40s F. a heat pump is unbeatably efficient. IMO the most efficient, lowest operating cost homeowner setup is a heat pump for the milder days with a gas furnace as the second, low-temperature heat source and the crossover set at a balance point in the mid-to-high 30s (outside temp.).

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            I sorta felt like the dialogue about HVACs veered off the main point anyhow.

            The most efficient and least polluting way to heat a house is a ground-based HVAC that has a pump circulate 54% fluid and top it off with something. Think of heating your home when it is 20 degrees outside by using a base of 54 degrees and only having to get to 70 from that base.

            Yes, this is a lot like LEDs on steroids. LEDs cost substantially more than incandescent but use far less energy – over time. Same thing with ground-based HVACs. If one has the up-front money, it’s no contest on the downstream costs and less pollution generated.

      2. energyNOW_Fan Avatar

        Unnamed participants here say absolutely no need for the gas in Virginia: NONE, no possible reason, as we have enormous over-supply. They advise fossil fuels are killing millions of people (it is overseas eco-issues that they are posting articles about, but they hope readers infer Americans are being poisoned en masse).

        Anyhow, I wonder if the TX crisis ends up helping MVP get finished. Now we see why there might be some needs. If I was West Virginia, I would want to get that gas over the state line. If I was Virginia, I want to see West Virginia get the gas so they can generate power for us, and keep the CO2 in their backyard (as if state or Country boundaries matter).

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          A key issue for obtaining govt approvals is a substantiated and true “public need” not just a claim.

          Neither PJM nor the SCC supported the claim that it was a legitimate public need for electricity or even economic development.

          The use of the police power of eminent domain to forcibly obtain private property they do not own – to satisfy a “need” – that need is more than a private for-profit venture.

          We actually had TWO competing pipelines with not a single study showing that even one was a genuine public need, much less two.

          What actually did the ACP in was a court decision that they would have to get a permit for each stream crossing rather than on a (nationwide) permit that allowed to cross all streams.

          A nation-wide permit requires that there is a legitimate public-need, ergo, the public would be harmed if that need not met.

          If PJM had concurred that electricity was needed AND only a plant in Easern Virginia could supply it, they might have gotten that umbrella permit.

          PJM DID concur and support new powerlines over the James even though they impacted Jamestown scenic views. Few disputed the public need, the opposition was to where they crossed.

  16. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    I like it… if you “Sort by Best” then the first comment is one that is “marked as spam”.

    Except this one.

  17. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    I like it… if you “Sort by Best” then the first comment is one that is “marked as spam”.

    Except this one.

  18. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    We have eleven (11) +1000MW nuclear facilities just waiting to be hooked to the grid. All we need to do is take ’em from the Navy.

    1. energyNOW_Fan Avatar

      Where are reactors that big? My father was a sub nuke engineer, and they were small rxrs.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive There’s two per carrier. Each rated at 550MW. Each drives 2 props plus together are used to generate 100MW of shipboard electricity.

  19. Post Recap:

    Hanner 5 6.33% Article Author
    Larry 21 26.58%
    Nancy 20 25.32%

    Jim 3 3.80%
    Etroll 7 8.86%
    Acbar 4 5.06%
    Paul 2 2.53%
    Energy 10 12.66%
    Bill 2 2.53%
    Verified 7 8.86%

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