Wealthy Greenies Dump Millions into Virginia Elections

Virginia after the climate apocalypse… or after a green energy policy?

by Hans Bader

You may not be following Virginia’s legislative elections, which will occur on November 5. But liberal billionaires across the country are. They are spending millions to help progressives take control of the Virginia legislature.

The Washington Post reports that heaps of money are flowing into Virginia political campaigns ahead of the election.

As John Massoud notes, Charlottesville hedge-fund manager Michael Bills and his wife Sonjia Smith have injected $3 million in donations to Democratic candidates. He says this is to elect a legislature that enacts California-style alternative-energy rules. Such rules enrich investors in alternative-energy schemes by requiring utilities (and their customers) to pay for them. Massoud argues that such schemes are not “able to power a modern day economy. If allowed to have their way, we will soon be having the same blackouts that California is having.” PBS reports that 1.5 million people lost power in the latest round of California blackouts.

A group called Beyond Carbon, funded by a liberal out-of-state billionaire, is spending $335,000 this week alone on TV ads to defeat a single Republican member of the House of Delegates, Del. Chris Stolle, R-Virginia Beach. On first glance, Stolle may seem like an odd choice as a target, given that he backed legislation to mitigate the effects of climate change, making him a relative moderate in the state legislature.

But Beyond Carbon wants Stolle’s progressive challenger to win so the legislature will enact alternative-energy mandates similar to California’s. Such mandates could increase the price of electricity a lot — electricity is a lot more expensive in California than Virginia. They may also reduce the reliability of the state’s power supply. Due to widespread blackouts in California, many people there are currently without power. Polling suggests that Stolle’s race is one of the four closest races in the legislature.

Trying to achieve alternative-energy goals can come with a substantial cost. The Virginia “Green New Deal” backed by progressives could easily double Virginians’ electric bills. In Germany, an ambitious alternative-energy program has doubled citizens’ electric bills, yet greenhouse gas emissions still rose in three of the last four years.

Progressives are favored to take control of both houses of the state legislature, in next week’s election, especially the state senate. But many races are very close. It will likely be the first time in history that progressives control a southern legislature, boasts Arlington Delegate Patrick Hope.

In Virginia, the legislature is very powerful. It even selects the state’s judges.

Hans Bader, a former Competitive Enterprise Institute scholar, is an attorney living in Northern Virginia. This column first appeared in the Liberty Unyielding blog.

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17 responses to “Wealthy Greenies Dump Millions into Virginia Elections”

  1. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    His group is Koch all the way. I give it a discount for that.

  2. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    Either you or Larry have used the “Koch Connection” to dismiss the Thomas Jefferson Institute group that I work with, and I checked – the total Koch support there was maybe $2500 or so , on one project or conference. Very small potatoes…..yet now tainted!! Hardly in the league with these mega donors being discussed. The Koch’s do pour money into that Americans for Prosperity group.

    It will be interesting to see if there is a backlash against this massive infusion of special interest money. This is first time I can recall that TV ads directly sponsored by Planned Parenthood are touting or attacking candidates by name. The money is flowing in mainly on the Democratic side, but largely because of the conventional wisdom of their likely success. Conventional wisdom is right only some time.

  3. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Steve, want to bring up the Beacon Hill Institute? I can but would rather not.

  4. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    Yet another misleading post by Mr. Bader.
    1. He gives no evidence of the “liberal billionaires across the country” who are supposedly hijacking our election. (The Washington Post article he cites does not talk about where the money is coming from.)
    2. He is worried about California alternative energy rules will enrich investors by having utilities and their customers pay for them. Don’t we already have that with Dominion?
    3. He repeatedly refers to California’s electricity blackouts, implying that they are the result of alternative energy rules. That is entirely wrong. The blackouts are imposed by PG&E, not because it is short of electricity, but because it is worried that its poorly maintained infrastructure will cause more fires.
    4. Where is the evidence that Virginia’s “Green New Deal” (whatever that is) will double our electricity rates? An example from Germany hardly suffices.

    If one is going to make claims like this, there should be something more than hot air to back them up.

    1. Regarding PG&E: The Wall Street Journal has made a strong case (perhaps you can rebut it) that under the prodding of state politicians and regulators PG&E has spent billions on programs to combat climate-change while starving basic infrastructure maintenance… even while increasing electric rates.

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        I have heard that argument. I don’t have enough data to rebut or accept it. I don’t have a subscription to the WSJ, so I couldn’t read its feature article on this issue. However, one analysis suggests that the WSJ reporters blamed PG&E’s policies for compensating executives and investors in lieu of maintaining its infrastructure, while it was the WSJ editorial board that tried to point the finger at politicians and climate change programs. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/10/california-fires-and-pge-toxic-debt/600979/

    2. Analogies are never perfect. No two cases are identical. But the German case is instructive. It bears strong similarities to what Virginia’s environmental movement is pushing for — 100% renewable energy and no nukes. The biggest difference is that Virginia greenies look to battery storage as the miracle technology that will make the transition to 100% renewables possible, while the Germans tried to make the leap without large-scale battery storage. So, it’s possible that next time will be different. But…. maybe not.

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        I have never supported the position of getting rid of nukes and couldn’t understand why the Europeans opted to do so. I can understand not building new nuclear plants because of the expense, but not shutting down existing ones. Those facilities are about as “green” as they come. There are safety issues, but it seems that as long as we run them better than the Russians did, there should not be a major problem. The only real problem is what to do with the spent nuclear rods. (That was a big issue a few years ago, but has not been heard of much lately.)

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    WOW – what a load of BS from the CEI folks… who Jim has chosen to give a platform to push this offal!

    The Dems are going to DOUBLE electricity prices AND make the grid unreliable?

    Good LORD!

    Of course this will fly quite well with many folks who vote “conservative” these days.

    ANYTIME a given election seems to favor one party or the other – it’s NOT rocket science that money flows when they see blood in the water!

    It’s called politics.

    But methinks the folks on the right crying “wolf” – i.e. the baby-killing socialists are the “walking dead” getting ready to turn us all into financial zombies. living in caves … is more and more amusing – though I will admit their base still loves it. The question is – will the urban voters buy it?

    Has the GOP no ideas of their own other than FUD when it comes to major issues like energy, health care, immigration, these days?

  6. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    Acbar – I thought you wrote that all this GND stuff is aspirational. The left wants to destroy our way of life even as they try to bring in millions more illegal immigrants to emit more carbon.

  7. Jane Twitmyer Avatar
    Jane Twitmyer

    GEEZ … when are you guys going to stop putting up such blatant lies so that I can get about doing some reading?

    John Massoud says … “And the California people want to give us wind and solar and all electric vehicles which are proven to not be able to power a modern day economy. If allowed to have their way, we will soon be having the same blackouts that California is having. “
    Just what renewable energy caused CA blackouts and wildfires? Wind? Solar panels? No, just a 5-year drought and some transmission line maintenance that was not done according to the SFChronical. Now rotating blackouts are designed to accomplish that maintenance.

    Regarding Germany’s high prices … this is old news and in fact now that the German wind industry is getting established prices are going down, though still the highest in Europe. Yes, the high price was partly because of the mandate to close nuclear plants after Japan, but it is also because “taxes, levies and surcharges accounted for nearly 53% of the total household power price. … 24.4% of the total price is grid fee so the argument that building renewable energy is the primary culprit for the high costs is pretty hard to make and looks basically wrong.

    Renewable generation comprised almost 50% of German energy consumption this year. Worry now turns to grid structure and its ability to handle more renewables.

  8. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    “….but it is also because “taxes, levies and surcharges accounted for nearly 53% of the total household power price. … 24.4% of the total price is grid fee so the argument that building renewable energy is the primary culprit for the high costs is pretty hard to make and looks basically wrong.”

    Now, in all fairness, Jane, some of those taxes and fees are for feed-in tariffs, probably, or for low-income subsidies. The “grid fee” may be collected differently there than here, but similar costs are coming at us in this proposed “grid transformation” project, also beloved of many activists. Our prices will climb toward’s Germany faster than it comes down in ten years if we really go the way you want.

  9. Jane Twitmyer Avatar
    Jane Twitmyer

    No reading yet … “Our prices will climb towards Germany faster than it comes down in ten years if we really go the way you want.”

    Steve, I am not sure how you reached the conclusion that clean energy will dramatically raise prices. In fact, LCOE values for alternative energy technologies continues to decline. Utility scale solar and onshore wind are already the lowest cost electricity energy resources. in some locations the “full-lifecycle costs of building and operating renewables-based projects have dropped below the operating costs alone of conventional generation technologies. Actual numbers there. How can they lead to dramatic increases in rates?

    Mofe reasons that clean energy won’t raise rates … When generation occurs on-site, or locally, there is no ‘line’ loss which averages about 5%. Wind and solar have no fuel costs to worry about AND the Offshore wind industry is just getting started in US. Costs will decline rapidly as the industry develops. The potential is huge, and I have discussed storage that is also demonstrating a rapid cost decline.

    On the contrary staying the course will raise rates. Many see the ‘grid hardening’ project of burying transmission lines, building a pipeline to transport natural gas from questionable WVA fields, where drillers have yet to show a positive bottom line, to Virginia where we do not need more gas, and proposals to build environmentally destructive and expensive hydro proposals when the storage market is about to grow dramatically.

    What might have made sense 5-6 years ago is just no longer true and WILL escalate rates.

    Re Germany’s prices: the renewable energy fee that is 21% of the residential electricity costs, which is a part of that 53% of the price listed as taxes. Could be used for Feed-in-Tariffs which are about to be phased out.

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Lower price is crap. Look at other markets that have experienced disruption. Let’s take cell phones for instance. Over time, the industry has lowered prices; offered faster, more reliable connections; nationwide calling; dropped charges for text messages; offered more features; and made their handsets smaller. This all occurred while spending billions for radio licenses, constructing towers, upgrading switches and technology, building huge backhaul networks. And making boatloads of money. Many other industries show the same set of facts, more for less.

      If alternative sources of generation were, in fact, less expensive, we’d see companies offering to sell renewable power at prices below what the incumbent charges. We’d see ads saying that, if Virginia’s regulatory law was changed, ABC company would offer power at a discount of say 15% below Dominion’s prices. Now and then, I get something in the mail that offers to sell me green power at a markup of X% over Dominion. It hits the recycling pile before I finish reading it.

      The energy and environmental industries are both controlled by rent seekers.

  10. Jane Twitmyer Avatar
    Jane Twitmyer

    Me thinks you are the “rent seeker”, but glad to see you recycle your paper.

    Yes, there really are lots of regulatory reasons why Dominion is still in control, mainly Dominion’s political power in Virginia. Your competitive description simply cannot happen here. Look at the trouble the major corporations, doing businesses in Virginia, have had trying to find a way to meet their national corporate goal of running their businesses on 100% renewable energy. They wrote to the SCC, and then had to follow up with a rejection of Dominion’s proposal because it included fossil-based energy.

    You well know that Power Purchase Agreements are limited, a financial structure that does not require upfront money. On-site and community owned renewable generation needs upfront funds. With a good loan, the monies saved on utilities can more than pay the loan and after the life of the loan, energy is free for maybe ½ the life of the generator. Your competitive price example is apples and oranges.

    Then there is the $20 billion in tax write-offs and offloaded environmental costs that makes a joke of fossil fuel prices. How about that golf course built with toxic coal ash? And finally who will pay for the high seas flooding and all the other damages that we can see coming.

    So, your explanation is “crap”. You are rent seeking for the American Petroleum Institute who answered the call to create doubt about climate science in the 90’s, in response to corporations like Exxon whose own excellent scientists presented the climate science to the executive committee in the 1980’s.

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      This one sailed by you. If a company that could generate electricity using all renewables has sufficient capacity to supply a significant number of Dominion customers at a price significantly below that of Dominion, there would be sufficient grass roots pressure that would force the GA to amend the state’s regulatory law to allow for competition at the generation level. There is no way a legislator of either party would not vote to save her or his constituents say 20% on their electric bills with green energy to boot. Dominion cannot win that one.

      But this has not happened because no one can deliver sufficient quantities of reliable, lower-priced, green power. The average Virginian doesn’t truly care whether a data center in Loudoun County uses “green energy.” And buying credits is not the same as using 100% green energy. Put sufficient solar panels and windmills sufficient to cover 100% of the usage on the data center’s property. That’s using green energy. I would have bought Dominion’s argument as well. 100% means 100% not 20% plus 80% credits. If a business really wanted to be 100% green, it would self-generate 100% of its energy (like many think ordinary people should do).

      Most people care first and foremost about their own situation. What will lower their cost of living.? I have been uses for my money than installing solar panels on my roof, being responsible for their maintenance and paying off a loan. And by the looks of my neighborhood, I’m far from alone.

      I don’t really care about the risk of rising water for people and businesses that are in flood plains. When governments prohibit more building in flood plains and impose new taxes on waterfront property owners, I might start being concerned about them.

      I don’t work for any fossil fuel businesses. The only work I’ve ever done for a power company was for Exelon and its nuclear power plants’ radio licenses. That was about 15 years ago. I’m not seeking rent for them.

  11. Jane Twitmyer Avatar
    Jane Twitmyer

    I find it quite amusing that neither you nor Steve actually addresses the facts, “nothing but the facts” that I put out to argue against your generalized statements. Instead you each have gone off on a new argument that isn’t really related.

    As for the statements … “Most people care first and foremost about their own situation.” … and “I don’t really care about the risk of rising water for people and businesses that are in flood plains. When governments prohibit more building in flood plains and impose new taxes on waterfront property owners, I might start being concerned about them,” … Well, like I said before, most of us crazed lefties care about ‘community,’ and think you can judge a community by the care it takes of the least among us.

    Even George Bush won his election as a “compassion conservative.” What happened to that kind of conservatism? The kind of conservatism that won’t let our utility run roughshod over its customers and our environment.

    Gone I guess, which is probably part of what gave us the ‘malignant narcissist”, an actual diagnostic term, who is now in the White House. Oh well, this too will change.

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