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Editorial: Virginia can’t fix planetwide climate problem

Kingsport and regional customers of Appalachian Power are facing a down payment on Virginia’s Clean Economy Act, which intends to make the state 100% carbon free by 2050 to combat climate warming.

Appalachian Power just announced that it will acquire or contract for 210 megawatts of solar power and 200 megawatts of wind power over the next five years as part of its long-range plan to meet the targets established by the act. Customer bills will increase as the company adds more renewables, the amount to depend on class and usage. Costs related to compliance with the act are expected to add approximately 3.5% over five years to a residential customer’s bill. That’s a guess. It may be more – much more.

The Clean Economy Act passed this year largely along urban vs. rural votes. It prevents construction of new gas-fired power plants and replaces affordable fossil energy with wind and solar. It requires utilities to file an annual plan outlining how they will meet key targets on the way to becoming 100% carbon free by 2050. It also mandates that utility companies set a schedule for closing fossil fuel plants.

All this, Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw said, because Virginia has “a climate problem and you can’t fix it for free.”

Thing is, Virginia doesn’t have a power problem. Its power needs are adequately served. What it has is an elected majority who believe the planet has a climate problem and Virginia’s going to fix it by banning fossil fuels, like the coal upon which Southwest Virginia depends for what’s left of that industry.

The act will shut down some 6,200 megawatts of coal-based electricity. Sounds impressive. But it’s not even a drop in the bucket. China has 900,000 megawatts of coal-fired power plants, another 200,000 megawatts under construction, and plans for 200,000 more, according to Greenpeace.

Worse, the proposed alternatives aren’t realistic.

Greenpeace continues by saying that to replace fossil fuels in Virginia would require thousands of wind turbines and untold new transmission lines, and solar panels covering an area estimated at 3.5 times the size of Washington, D.C., at a minimum.

The Heartland Institute says that eliminating fossil fuel electricity “means lighting, heating, air conditioning, refrigeration, computing and other costs will soar for families, hospitals, schools, churches, businesses, factories and government agencies. Local, state, U.S. and global environmental impacts will skyrocket, with no climate benefits.”

“The ‘fix’ will be pricey on many levels, but won’t make an iota of difference to the global climate,” says Heartland.

Says Food and Water Action, which seeks solutions to food and water needs, “The Virginia Clean Economy Act on its face may seem like a step in the right direction. But under closer scrutiny, the bill exposes itself as a handout to industry, a shoddy and possibly irreparable foundation for good climate policy, and a taxpayer drain.”

It will accomplish nothing, except provide a lesson in how government overreaction can reach deeply into our pockets.