Home Energy and Environment Video: Sierra Club’s Ivy Main is Right; Gov. McAuliffe is Dead Wrong...

Video: Sierra Club’s Ivy Main is Right; Gov. McAuliffe is Dead Wrong on Natural Gas

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Over at her blog, Power for the People VA, Ivy Main of the Sierra Club writes about a conference held last Wednesday in Richmond, “The Next Frontier of Climate Change,” organized by The New Republic and the College of William and Mary, and featuring an interview with Gov. Terry McAuliffe on energy and environmental issues. According Ivy Main, the forum:

was supposed to be about moving to clean energy, but it sometimes seemed to be more of a platform for Governor Terry McAuliffe to tout plans for more natural gas and nuclear energy in the Commonwealth. It wasn’t that he neglected energy efficiency, wind and solar-he had plenty of good things to say about these, and even a few initiatives to boast of. It was just that they paled against the backdrop of massive new natural gas and nuclear projects, to which he seems even more firmly committed.

Main also notes that McAuliffe seems to be “persuaded that renewable energy, even with all its job benefits, won’t get him as much economic growth as cheaper fossil energy can, and his friends at Dominion Resources and its subsidiary, Dominion Virginia Power, have convinced him that means backing their plans for natural gas and nuclear.” Main also debunks McAuliffe’s frequently-repeated, but still absolutely false, whiny assertion that the “draft [Clean Power Plan]’s treatment of existing nuclear plants makes it ‘unfair’ to Virginia.” Can somebody please call a waaaaambulance for McAuliffe on this one? My god.

I’ll have more on all of this in coming days, along with video clips from the conference. For now, let’s just say that Gov. McAuliffe has a lot to learn about energy issues, doesn’t seem to “know what he doesn’t know,” and is spending far too muchy time with his pals from Dominion Power, who are about as far from an unbiased source one could possibly imagine on energy and environmental issues here in Virginia.

Finally, with regard to video I’ve posted above, watch as Ivy Main asks McAuliffe whether he’s “worried at all about the gamble we’re taking here” with the massive overrliance on natural gas (and relatively paltry, pathetic investments in energy efficiency and solar – including rooftop/distributed solar, about which McAuliffe doesn’t seem to have the slightest clue — see future posts for more on that one), especially given studies suggesting that the “shale gas boom is going to turn into a bust starting in 2020.”

In response, McAuliffe disingenusly pleaded powerlessness in the face of Dominion (“as you know, Dominion’s authority doesn’t go through me…so all I can do is…cajole them to what I think is in the best interest of the Commonwealth…I don’t get to determine how Dominion invests their resources or what type of power generation, that’s done by a separate authority“). McAuliffe claimed he wants Virginia to be a “global leader on renewables,” also that we’ve (supposedly) “made tremendous project in the last year” on renewable energy. Note, by the way, that McAuliffe is being highly disingenous about his role vis-a-vis Dominion, here claiming powerlessness, but in another part of the forum, he bragged that he basically sat Dominion down in his office and got them to agree to a list of demands, including getting them to invest $700 million in solar, plus low-income housing energy assistance. Bottom line, according to the supposedly powerless (vis-a-vis Dominion, at least) Gov. McAuliffe: “I did ask for four or five things, and they agreed with us.” In other words, McAuliffe simultaneously is claiming that he has NO power over Dominion and LOTS of power with Dominion. Pick one?

As to the substance of Ivy Main’s question on putting so many of our eggs in the natural gas basket, when there’s evidence the “boom” might could “bust” in a few years (not to mention the huge environmental problems associated with fracking, which McAuliffe’s and Dominion’s proposed pipelines will encourage in West Virginia and other states), McAuliffe dodges. Instead, McAuliffe talks about how we have a “diverse energy mix…with nuclear, with gas…we have some coal, and we have renewables.” Except for one problem: when it comes to renewables, Virginia has extremely little according to EIA (much of which is environmentally sketchy biomass, NOT solar or wind), with the vast majority of Virginia’s electricity generation either nuclear (one of the most expensive sources of electricity), coal (the dirtiest source of electricity) and natural gas (which McAuliffe and Dominion are wrongheadedly doubling down on).

Worst of all, McAuliffe continues to ignore and/or give short shrift to what is BY FAR the cheapest form of energy — efficiency. On that note, see Lazard’s analysis here, including a graphic showing energy efficiency as the cheapest form of power, followed by onshore wind, followed by utility-scale solar PV. Sadly, this is just the tip of the (melting) iceberg when it comes to Gov. McAuliffe’s biased, Dominion-centric view of energy issues. More on that in coming posts, including McAuliffe’s almost complete misunderstanding of distributed energy, as well as a jaw-droppingly false claim about the cost of transmitting power from a nuclear power plant vs. a comparable solar facility. It’s head scratching, until you hear McAuliffe repeatedly refer to the hours and hours he’s spent behind closed doors with Dominion Power…then it all starts to get a lot clearer!

  • Jeb Stuart

    “as you know, Dominion’s authority doesn’t go through me…so all I can do is…cajole them to what I think is in the best interest of the Commonwealth…I don’t get to determine how Dominion invests their resources or what type of power generation, that’s done by a separate authority”.



    That comment by the governor was true before the 2007 legislation which returned Dominion to rate regulation. Since 2007, however, the authority of the SCC has been regularly (almost annually) eroded or overridden by the General Assembly, culminating in this year’s bill which basically stripped all of the remaining consumer-friendly elements from the 2007 statute.  The General Assembly has made decisions on funding for North Anna 3, the accounting rules for plant retirements and storm damage, and now has exempted both state utilities from rate reviews and any risk of rebates or rate cuts.  None of those were SCC decisions. All were requested by the utility (and the solar provision this year was also proposed by Dominion and already introduced as legislation long before it was “added” to the other bill as a result of “negotiations.”)  

  • Dan Sullivan

    Ethics on a sliding scale.

  • Liebreich: Mix of clean energy investment has changed very much – energy efficiency booming, also smart grid, power storage, demand respond, third-party solar ownership models, etc. Cost of generating power has never been lower, including “cheap renewables.”  We “really could get off” of coal at this point. “It is now possible to see an economic future…without exploiting huge amounts of coal.”  Shift to renewables is “inevitable,” we’ve had “much faster development” in renewables than had been anticipated, so the transition to clean energy will be “much quicker than we thought.”

  • Jim W

    What happens if natural gas prices triple?  The current regional market may become a world wide market.