Home Uncategorized Union of Concerned Scientists Analysis: Virginia Dangerously Overreliant on Natural Gas

Union of Concerned Scientists Analysis: Virginia Dangerously Overreliant on Natural Gas

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by Lowell

You might have noticed Dominion Power, Gov. McAuliffe, and other FODPs (“Friends of Dominion Power”) pushing Virginia to increase its reliance on natural gas. I’ve long argued that this is a really bad idea, for a number of reasons: economic, environmental, much better options (first and foremost, energy efficiency, the cheapest source of energy by far; also increasingly inexpensive solar power, onshore wind and offshore wind) available, etc. Yet Dominion and the FODPs continue to push ahead with their gigantic, and gigantically foolhardy, “Atlantic Coast Pipeline” and other boondoggles.

Now, a new analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) provides additional ammunition for those of us who believe increasing Virginia’s reliance on natural gas is wrong on almost every level. A few key points from the UCS analysis include:

  • “Two-thirds of U.S. states may be putting their electricity consumers at financial risk because of an overreliance on natural gas.”
  • Among other problems with natural gas, its price is “volatile,” which means that increased reliance on it can lead to “price spikes hit[ting] consumers that much harder.”
  • Yet another problem with natural gas is that it’s a fossil fuel (note: I’d add that it also largely comes from the dirty, dangerous process known as “fracking”) and thus contains carbon, emissions of which are driving global warming. In addition, increased reliance on natural gas could end up “saddl[ing] their customers with higher electricity rates to account for the cost of carbon pollution.” Not smart at all.
  • Natural gas pipelines require “decades-long financial committments,” which could result in “billions of dollars’ worth of underused, idled, or even abandoned plants and pipelines.” Uhhhhhh.
  • The UCS rates Virginia at “high risk” due to its rapid increase in the share of in-state electricity generated by natural gas.
  • The UCS also rates Virginia at “high risk” due to the crazy overreliance — more than 90%! – on natural gas for power plants currently being built. Brilliant.
  • According to the UCS, Virginia is also at “high risk” due to its projected natural gas capacity in 2017 being far too high relative to other, better options.
  • Finally, the UCS rates Virginia as at “moderate risk” of its overreliance on natural gas being a liability as the necessity of slashing CO2 emissions becomes increasingly urgent in coming years.
  • Add all this up and what do you get? According to the UCS, Virginia has a “high risk” rating in three categories and a “moderate” risk in one other category. Needless to say, that is not where our state wants to be in terms of its energy picture.

So what should we be doing instead of ramping up our already-too-high reliance on natural gas? As the UCS writes, “smart state policies would ensure that natural gas plays a supporting role in reducing global warming pollution instead of a central one.” Ergo, the answer: “expanding renewables and efficiency gives consumers better odds and leads to deeper carbon reductions.” So, the UCS asks, “what’s it going to be? Will your state play its cards right?” In the case of Virginia, right now the answer to that question largely – and unfortunately – appears to be a resounding “no.”