Most of these solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries—or their components, or the metals and minerals required to manufacture those components—will likely come from China or from Chinese-owned operations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, under mining, air and water pollution, workplace safety, fair wage, child labor, mined land reclamation, manufacturing, and other laws and standards that would get U.S. and other Western companies unmasked, vilified, sued, fined, and shut down in a heartbeat.

H. Sterling Burnette, Paul Dreissen

Heartland Institute

DESTROYING THE ENVIRONMENT TO SAVE IT

“We had to destroy the village in order to save it.” The infamous Vietnam-era quotation may or may not have been uttered by an anonymous U.S. Army major. It may have been misquoted, revised, apocryphal, or invented. But it quickly morphed into an antiwar mantra that reflected attitudes of the time.

For Virginians and others forced to travel the path of “clean, green, renewable, sustainable” energy, it will redound in modern politics as “We had to destroy the environment in order to save it.”

Weeks after Gov. Ralph Northam signed Virginia’s “Clean Economy Act,” which had been rushed through a Democrat-controlled legislature on partisan lines, Dominion Energy Virginia announced it would reach “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. To do so, the utility company will raise family, business, hospital, and school electricity bills by 3 percent every year for the next ten years, as these customers and state and local governments struggle to climb out of the financial holes created by the ongoing coronavirus lockdown.

Just as bad, renewable energy mandates and commitments from the new law and Dominion’s “integrated resource plan” will have major adverse impacts on Virginia and world environmental values. In reality, Virginia’s new “clean” economy exists only in fantasy land, and only if we ignore “clean” energy’s CO2 emissions, air and water pollution, and other environmental degradation around the world.

Dominion Energy plans to expand the state’s offshore wind, onshore solar, and battery storage capacity by some 24,000 megawatts of new “renewable” energy by 2035, and far more after that. It will retain just 9,700 MW of existing natural gas generation, and only through 2045; build no new gas-fired units; and retire 6,200 megawatts of coal-fired generation. This will reduce in-state carbon dioxide emissions but certainly won’t do so globally. The company intends to keep its four existing nuclear units operating.

To “replace” some of its abundant, reliable, affordable fossil fuel electricity, Dominion intends to build at least 31,400 megawatts of expensive, unreliable solar capacity by 2045. The company estimates that will require a land area some 25 percent larger than 250,000-acre Fairfax County, west of Washington, D.C. Dominion Energy’s new solar facilities will blanket 490 square miles (313,000 acres) of beautiful croplands, scenic areas, and habitats that now teem with wildlife.

That’s almost half the land area of Rhode Island, eight times the District of Columbia, 14 times more land than all Fairfax County parks combined, blanketed by imported solar panels. Still more land will be torn up for access roads and new transmission lines. All this is just for Dominion Energy’s solar panels.

The panels will generate electricity maybe 20-25 percent of the year, once you factor in nighttime hours, cloudy days, and times when the sun is not bright enough to generate more than a trifling amount of electricity.

Dominion and other Virginia utility companies also plan to import and install 430 monstrous 850-foot-tall bird-chopping offshore wind turbines, plus tens of thousands of half-ton battery packs to provide backup power for at least a few hours on days when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. The batteries will prevent the economy from shutting down even more completely during each outage than it has during the corona lockdown. Similar policies across the United States will impact hundreds of millions of acres.

Most of these solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries—or their components, or the metals and minerals required to manufacture those components—will likely come from China or from Chinese-owned operations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, under mining, air and water pollution, workplace safety, fair wage, child labor, mined land reclamation, manufacturing, and other laws and standards that would get U.S. and other Western companies unmasked, vilified, sued, fined, and shut down in a heartbeat.

It is those minimal-to-nonexistent laws and regulations that govern most of the companies and operations that will supply the “clean” technologies that will soon blight Virginia landscapes and serve the new, “clean” Virginia economy. As Michael Moore observes in his new film, Planet of the Humans, other states that opt for “clean” energy will face the same realities.

Thus far, no one has produced even a rough estimate of how much concrete, steel, aluminum, copper, lithium, cobalt, silica, rare earth metals, and countless other materials will be needed. All will require gigantic heavy equipment and prodigious amounts of fossil fuels to blast and haul away billions of tons of rocky overburden; extract, crush, and process tens of millions of tons of ores, using acids, toxic chemicals, and other means to refine the ores; smelt concentrates into metals; manufacture all the millions of tons of components; and haul, assemble, and install the panels, turbines, batteries, and transmission lines, setting them on top of tens of thousands of tons of concrete and rebar. All of it beyond Virginia’s borders.

No one has tallied the oil, natural gas, and coal fuel requirements for doing all this “Virginia Clean Economy” work, nor the greenhouse gases and actual pollutants that will be emitted in the process.

Nothing about this is clean, green, renewable, or sustainable. But Virginia politicians and Dominion Energy officials have said nothing about any of this, nor about which countries will host the mining and other activities, under what environmental and human rights standards.

Will Virginians ever get a full accounting? Just because all of this will happen far beyond Virginia’s borders does not mean we can ignore the global environmental impacts. Nor should we ignore the health, safety, and well-being of children and adults in those distant mines, processing plants, and factories.

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