Letter: Look after energy, economy and environment, please

An open letter to Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-26th) and Del. Michael Webert (R-18th):

The Unitarian/Universalists of the Blue Ridge (UUBRidge) congregation located in Sperryville wishes our state to expand the use of solar and wind energy sources instead of fossil fuel. We wish to promote alternative energy to replace fossil fuel wherever possible. Thus, we support the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club’s efforts to bring about energy security, protection of the environment and economic efficiency — three worthwhile goals.

So far, the state of Virginia has done little to bring in solar and wind due to the opposition of Dominion Power and the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is a “conservative-leaning group that has urged repeal of state renewable standards and other pro-renewable policies … all over the U.S…” The council is a coalition of such corporations as Koch Industries and Exxon-Mobil and corporate-friendly legislators.

Recently, big-tech companies like Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Yelp, as well as Amazon, GE, Apple, Coca-Cola, GM, Bank of America and Proctor and Gamble are “unfriending” themselves from ALEC. Why? Let Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, explain it: ALEC is “literally lying” about the reality of climate change … It’s hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place.”

We citizens of Virginia suggest that it’s also time for our senators and delegates to “unfriend” themselves from Dominion Power and ALEC. Just because fossil fuel-based corporations like Koch and Exxon-Mobil lobby lavishly to protect their profits, governments should not serve only the 1 percent while ignoring the 99 percent. When viewing the recent Virginia General Assembly record, however, that seems to be what has happened.

We suggest a change in direction:

Do away with standby charges on solar installations which penalizes homeowners for using solar. This is just a subterfuge to keep solar development out of Virginia. No major installers like Solar City or Sungevity operate visibly in Virginia. While neighboring states have seen laudable increases in solar power and jobs, Virginia under Dominion Power is dead last among neighboring states in renewable energy.

In 2014, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) claims that solar capacity was increased in the US by 40 percent over the previous year and that 143,000 people now have jobs in the U.S. solar industries at more than 6,100 American companies. Solar energy offset an estimated 20 million metric tons of harmful carbon emissions in 2014, the equivalent of taking four million cars off the highways. But little of this is happening in Virginia: No energy security, no protection of the environment, and no energy efficiency. As a start, then, let’s get rid of ALEC-generated standby penalties.

Change the voluntary goals for alternative energy use from its present anemic 12 percent by 2022 to the 25-plus percent mandatory goals of California, Colorado and Hawaii by 2020. It would generate solar jobs in Virginia to offset the long-continuing decline in coal-mining jobs.

The EPA’s long-awaited Clean Power Plan with its 38 percent reduction of carbon pollution under 2012 levels suggested for Virginia by 2030 should be embraced. Its flexibility allows Virginia to achieve this carbon reduction target by promoting jobs besides bringing great health benefits to the state. According to NRDC modeling, limits on carbon pollution could create more than 5,600 new jobs in Virginia by 2020 alone.

ALEC opposes what is good for Virginia, the country and the planet when it threatens fossil fuel profits. Two thirds of Koch Industries’ wealth is based on fossil fuel. Thus, the Republican-introduced SB 740 bill launched in the 2015 General Assembly seeks to eviscerate the intent of the Clean Power Plan.

We hope your vote on SB 740 corresponds to representing people, not corporations. We would like to see a change, a real democracy at work in Richmond, not a plutocracy.

Ian Fitzsimmons
Chair, UUBRidge Environmental and Social Justice Committee

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1 Comment

  1. The problem with solar is that the energy is widely dispersed (spatially and temporally) and is impractical and expensive to collect. This is why solar has been the energy of the future since the 60s, and will continue to be so as we roll into the future. No technological innovation can change the amount of energy that reaches the earths surface.

    Solar will be a loser unless/untill fossil fuel and nuclear power become far more expensive. The time frame on fossil fuels is expanding with new techniques of oil extraction and new deposits discovered. In the meantime, let solar sink or swim on its own merits. Stop subsidizing a losing technology.

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