A Path to Zero Carbon: Comments on the Virginia Energy Plan

The Virginia Energy Plan is currently being updated as required under Virginia Code § 67-201. The plan is updated every four years and covers a ten year period. The Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy is leading the effort and has hosted a number of public input sessions. They also are accepting written comments through Virginia Regulatory Town Hall online forum. Below are the comments made by Zero Carbon’s Dr. Harrison Crecraft at the August 16 public input session at George Mason University.

We have all heard the alarms about greenhouse gases (GHGs) and global warming. I would like to start by offering a bit of geologic perspective. Since the start of the industrial period, CO2 has soared from 290 to 410 ppm. Its timing and isotopic signature leave no question that this spike in CO2 is from burning fossil fuels. At current rates, CO2 will reach 500 ppm within 45 years.

The last time CO2 was at today’s levels was 3 million years ago. Geologically speaking, this is the recent past. At that time, according to a 2017 Yale University report, global temperatures were 4-5°F warmer; the arctic was 20° warmer; and sea levels were at least 60 feet higher. Although the precise response of elevated GHGs on climate is complex and the details are debated, there is no debate about the basic science: elevated heat-trapping gases requires higher global temperatures in order to balance the solar energy input.

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Planning for Zero Carbon 2050

The Virginia Energy Plan is currently being updated as required under Virginia Code § 67-201. The plan is updated every four years and covers a ten year period. The Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy is leading the effort and has hosted a number of public input sessions. They also are accepting written comments through Virginia Regulatory Town Hall online forum. Below is an expanded version of comments made by Zero Carbon’s Scott Emery at the August 16 public input session at George Mason University.

Over the decades, Virginia built its electric power industry following the common path of building big, centralized production facilities and expanding the electric power grid to make affordable electricity accessible to all. Abundant, energy-dense fossil fuels power most of our generation, and  have significantly shaped how our electric power industry operates. In many ways, this has been good for Virginia, but it is time for a change.

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Statement on Proposed Energy Legislation – HB 1558

Zero Carbon Virginia is a group of Virginian scientists, engineers, economists and public health experts who seek to guide our state toward practical, cost-effective, sustainable, healthy, and therefore ultimately carbon- free, energy production and distribution technologies. Driven by the urgency to address public health, climate change and the economic and quality-of-life opportunities that are enabled by advanced technologies, we seek long-term solutions, in collaboration with legislators and other groups, that will allow Virginia to lead in low cost, clean energy production.

We applaud the efforts of all who are working to move Virginia’s energy infrastructure and economy forward. HB 1558 represents an ambitious plan to shape Virginia’s energy future. Such a consequential plan must be deliberated, must be clear and transparent, and must serve the interests of all Virginians. Currently this bill does not meet these criteria.

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A Time for Bold Action in Richmond

Virginia’s 2018 legislative session begins on January 10. On January 7, I spoke at the Loudoun delegation’s legislative hearing in Leesburg, Virginia. Here is what I said.

President Obama said, “The climate is changing faster than our efforts to address it… and if we do not get this issue right, every other issue we deal with will be adversely affected.” Taking action on climate change is a moral imperative.

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The Paris Agreement

In June, 2017, I attended The future of the Paris Agreement and global climate change cooperation without U.S. leadership at the Brookings Institution. The event focused  on what is next for the Paris Climate Accord following Donald Trump’s announcement that the US will leave the agreement. There were many good insights, but what struck me most was the enormity of Trump’s actions.

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