Frank Ruff: We need to rethink energy

Published 11:38 am Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Recent polling shows that, when asked, most people are in favor of green energy if the question is asked are you for or against it. (They are also for Mom and apple pie).

However, when the question is posed in the proper terms of more expensive green energy or cheaper reliable traditional energy, you get a much different response. When asked if they want to see trees removed to build solar farms, you get a far different response.

If one were to ask many people their thoughts without fully understanding all the issues, often they will repeat they support green energy with no hesitation.

Rethinking

Now might be a good opportunity to rethink the reality of where we are going.

Consider these facts, a few years ago it was believed that about 10-12% of our energy came from wind, solar, and hydroelectric dams. Now, with solar panels being sited all around us, those renewable sources now make up about 9% of the needs in the state. The fact is that we need more power to charge our cell phones, big screen televisions, and for the elite few driveways with electric cars. Therefore, our need for electricity is growing far faster than our ability to produce new energy. This forces our energy companies to import more power than we produce.

This is before the woke Democrats passed legislation in 2021 mandating that in the future no new gasoline powered cars can be sold in Virginia. At that point, only 30,000 of Virginia’s 3 million vehicles were electric. Imagine how much more energy we are going to need for millions of electric cars!

Currently, coal is only producing 4% of our needs, natural gas 53%, nuclear 34%, and solar, wind, and hydro the balance. As our demand increases, tough decisions will have to be made. Will we have brownouts, or will we restrict driving on hot days?

President Biden is going the wrong direction. His attacks on coal and gas have changed our country to a net importer of oil after the previous administration had allowed the free enterprise system to make us a net exporter. He is now trying to do the same damage to hydropower, making it harder to harness the flowing waters around us.

Meanwhile, Governor Youngkin has focused on small nuclear reactors that could be used around the state with most of his focus in abandoning coal mines in Southwest Virginia.

Many of us are anxious to return to the philosophy of “all of the above”. This would allow energy to come from multiple sources competing in the market for reliability and price. Reliance on multiple sources, the need for at least a substantial amount of electricity not dependent on weather, is at the heart of the recommendations coming forward for Virginians. Dominion Energy’s new Integrated Energy Plan incorporates this thinking.

Polling of Opinions

Virginians are receptive to the message because they already believe that fossil fuels will continue to be needed, and many of them would like to see their use expanded. The number of Americans dubious of reaching the poorly defined target of “net zero” by 2050 is higher than the percentage who believe it is possible.

A recent poll by Hearts + Minds Strategies found 72% of Americans, even 69% of identified liberals, want the U.S. to be energy independent. Asked about whether they wanted traditional energy sources, renewable, or both, 64% said both. Only 13% favored only renewable.

Considering various energy sources, solar and wind were the most popular, with oil and coal the least popular. But 67% favor either expansion or retention of natural gas. Even a quarter of Democrats favor gas expansion.

Given just two choices, support or opposition, 56% overall favored expansion of domestic energy production (oil and gas included).

When asked whether they believed “net-zero” was probable by 2050, only 5% said definitely yes and 22% probably yes. The definitely not and probably not groups added up to 39% with 33% not sure.

In Conclusion 

Every time anybody preaches the message that we can run a modern economy on wind and solar, it should be challenged. Leaders should not be afraid to engage with a contrary message of the need for balance, diversity, and reliability. The American people are smarter on this than many give them credit for.

Frank Ruff Jr. represents Lunenburg in the state Senate. His email address is Sen.Ruff@verizon.net.