Virginia Must Move To Clean Energy

This letter to the editor appeared in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch.

At Gov. Bob McDonnell’s energy conference, the participation spoke for itself. Virginians want renewable energy. As an attendee at the conference, I was struck by the fact that the sessions covering renewable energy topics were relegated to tiny meeting rooms, while the sessions about traditional fossil fuel sources were granted huge spaces similar to a college lecture hall.

The irony of this? The renewable energy sessions were jam-packed while the fossil fuel sessions were nearly empty. After the first day, event organizers moved the “dirty energy” sessions into much smaller spaces, but a common theme emerged during the three-day conference: We want clean energy but the state is falling behind the pack.

Presenter Cody Nystrom from SJF Ventures noted that companies located in states with mandatory renewable portfolio standards (RPS) have a much greater chance of receiving funding for clean energy projects than non-RPS states like Virginia.

Meanwhile, McDonnell claims to be fully committed to his “energy capital of the East Coast” idea. If he’s serious about that, he must not sit idly by and continue to allow surrounding states to reap the benefits of tax revenue and jobs from new clean energy projects.

Following the conference, it became more clear than ever that Virginia is ready to move beyond dirty fossil fuels and we have the strong economic incentives and necessary support from state energy professionals to make this overdue shift. It’s high time McDonnell and the General Assembly stopped planning energy conferences and started acting to give the burgeoning clean energy sector the support it sorely needs. We’re ready.

Chelsea Harnish

Cape Wind: the reality

Today at the American Wind Energy Association’s annual conference, Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, and Jim Gordon, CEO of Cape Wind signed the first permit for an offshore wind farm in US waters, marking the end of a nine-year regulatory hurdle. “Responsibly developing this clean, renewable, domestic resource will stimulate investment in cutting-edge technology, create good, solid jobs for American workers, and promote our nation’s competitiveness, security, and prosperity,” Salazar said in a statement. He also reaffirmed his commitment to streamlining the permitting process for future offshore wind projects. This is something CCAN has been working very hard on. It shouldn’t take longer to permit an offshore wind farm that generates clean, renewable energy than an offshore drilling rig that can cause enough damage to shut down our entire coast, harming important industries to our coastal towns.

The Cape Wind announcement comes just days after Secretary Salazar approved the first large-scale solar-power projects on U.S. public lands in California and a announcement from President Obama about his plans to put solar panels back on the White House roof after a 30 year absence. Hopefully we will see a continued commitment to the environment from this administration.

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, this victory is personal for me since I spent almost 4 years working to make Cape Wind a reality. With today’s announcement, I can breathe a sigh of relief that it’s finally becoming real.

CO-OPting the Power

In the climate movement, we often find ourselves butting heads with utilities, fighting their resistance to investments in energy efficiency and renewables and constantly working to match their financial influence on policy with people power. Usually, customers are powerless to the energy decisions of their utility and don’t have much of a say in whether their electricity comes directly from a dirty coal-fired power plant or clean alternatives such as wind and solar.

However, that story is changing in Virginia and across the country as electric cooperative members, where ratepayers are also part owners of their utility, are building power and making changes in their coop. In electric cooperatives Continue reading

Old Technology, Just With a "New Spin" :)

Wind power. It lauded as this futuristic form of energy. A possible solution at some point in the future but not commercial ready now.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Wind has been around well forever. It’s the source of all our electricity, if not for the ability to harness the power of wind with a kite, Ben Franklin may have never discovered electricity in the first place!

But obviously it takes more than lightning and a kite to power a society. But Wind power is not a myth, just this week the New York Times ran a story on an ancient italian town generating a surplus of energy off of wind and making a profit!

It might seem like a stretch to link an ancient town in Italy to a thriving modern metropolis like Virginia but this dream is more of a reality than you think! Oceana released a report just this week that stated:

Offshore wind power could exceed Virginia’s current electricity demand and create up to 26,660 in-state jobs, according to a report issued Tuesday.

Written by Oceana, an ocean-oriented environmental group, the report examines the East Coast. It found that wind farms could supply nearly half the region’s current electricity generation and provide up to 212,000 jobs.

The report looked at water that averages at least 12.5 mph winds, is three to 24 miles off the coast, and is no deeper than 100 feet. It excluded 67 percent of these areas due to potential military, environmental and shipping conflicts

Wind has blowing since the time of the dinosaurs and it’s not stopping any time soon. It’s time we start tapping into this infinite resource.

Rahall: Protecting Appalachians Is Harming National Security

This is cross-posted from AppVoices Frontporch blog

A set of so-called pro-coal Representatives have introduced HR 6113 to prove that they care more about Don Blankenship’s approval than their constituents; health. This bill asserts that Obama’s EPA threatens national security.

Continuing their march to ignore evidence, make stuff up, and push for an entirely rampant and unregulated coal industry, coal-bound legislators have introduced what they are calling the Electric Reliability Protection Act” (HR 6113). If signed into law, this bill would defund EPA’s efforts to protect Appalachian citizens from the toxic valleyfills associated with mountaintop removal. In addition, the Representatives assert that the Obama Administration’s very attempt to protect citizens from toxic drinking water is indeed a threat to national security, which we’ll go into below. This is an election season bill that has little chance of passage. However, stunts like this allow Congressmen like Nick Rahall to prove that he needs Don Blankenship’s support more than he needs his constituents to have clean water, a decent job, or an average lifespan. This legislation is as cowardly as it is nihilistic, and just as irresponsible.

Of course, one of Senator Byrd’s final messages was that a majority of Congress opposes mountaintop removal, and it certainly shows in the lack of support for HR 6113. While a good bill like the Clean Water Protection Act (HR 1310) has 172 bipartisan cosponsors, HR 6113 has just 15, nearly all of them with some vested interest in the coal industry.

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