Virginia House of Delegates Overwhelmingly Rejects Electric Power Fossil Fuel Ban

Published February 19, 2019

The Virginia House of Delegates rejected a bill to end the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity in the state by 2036.

H.B. 1635 would have barred state agencies from issuing permits for electric power generating facilities using fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas, and for the construction of pipelines, refineries, and other facilities associated with fossil fuels, effective January 1, 2021. The proposed bill would also have mandated all the electricity provided by public utilities in the state come from renewable energy sources by 2036.

The bill passed the Commerce and Labor Committee on January 23, by a narrow vote of nine in favor of the bill and seven opposed. It was rejected overwhelmingly by the full House of Delegates on January 31, when 86 delegates voted nay on the bill and only 12 voted to approve it.

‘Impossible’ Phase-Out

Completely ending the use of fossil fuels with current technologies is out of the question because wind and solar power are intermittent, says Tim Benson, a policy analyst with The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News.

“Good riddance to a bad policy,” said Benson. “There is no realistic way renewable power sources like wind and solar could have scaled up in the time allotted under the bill to replace fossil fuel generated electricity, and their intermittency means it is impossible to completely phase out the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity to begin with.”

Benson says the oil and natural gas industries are vital to Virginia’s economy.

“The oil and natural gas industries support approximately 125,000 jobs, produce more than $6.9 billion in labor income, and account for $11.97 billion in economic impact in Virginia,” Benson said. “It’s a good thing Virginia lawmakers refrained from unnecessarily restricting these two vital industries, which are safe and inexpensive and positively impact the Old Dominion state’s robust economy.”

‘Back to the Stone Age’

To avert power shortages, markets, not government, should decide Virginia’s energy mix, says Lynn Taylor, president of the Virginia Institute for Public Policy.

“Any time the government prohibits the use of one product and mandates the use of a substitute, the American people should shudder and race to the ballot box,” Taylor said. “Mandating renewable energy sources, and only these sources, be used, as H.B. 1635 did, would take Virginia back to the Stone Age.

“We would spend most of our time deciding how to maneuver between the inevitable brownouts and blackouts,” said Taylor. “Renewable energy sources should be given the opportunity to compete in the marketplace alongside fossil fuels, with the market, not the government, deciding which energy sources work best for Virginians.”

Ending Fossil Fuels ‘Irresponsible’

Fossil fuels have made America’s economy the envy of the world, says Michael W. Thompson, president of the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

“Wishing for ‘green energy’ to power our economy and light our homes is a dream at this point, since wind and solar energy have not proven to be effective, cost-efficient alternatives to clean coal, natural gas, and oil,” Thompson said. “To a large degree, our economy is the strongest in the world today because of our low-cost sources of energy, which is due to the abundance of fossil fuels.

“For green energy to replace fossil fuels in the future, power production from these sources needs to become much more cost-effective than they are today, and government subsidies for wind and solar should end,” said Thompson. “To dictate a date for fossil fuels to be banned is irresponsible to the future of mankind.”

Ignoring Nuclear Power

Thompson says green energy promoters also ignore the benefits nuclear power provides to the nation.

“The one non-fossil-fuel source of electricity never discussed by the green energy advocates is nuclear power, yet, it is a proven, cost-effective and clean energy power source,” Thompson said. “As long as the ‘green power advocates’ refuse to recognize nuclear power, their credibility cannot be taken seriously.”

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute.