A Free-Market Energy Blog

Virginia Renewables: Taxpayer Santa

By Charles Battig -- December 29, 2010

Bridging the gap between the insightful analyses at MasterResource and what emanates from the halls of government remains a challenge. No matter how clear the issue might be to those who follow this and similar logic-based web sites, the formulation of public policy seems to rely on overt political calculation and tailored science in the service of a political objective.

Free market logic needs to reach beyond our own “choir of believers.” And this means improving our penetration with the general media, a challenge indeed.

In Hoodwinking the Nation, Julian Simon noted that even after he had so convincingly debunked the “vanishing farm land” scam, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture reversed its original position, the press largely ignored the correction. Simon ruefully noted “false bad news” sells.

In the case of the official position of Virginia, as documented in the 2010 Virginia Energy Plan, one sees the 2007 plan scripted under a Democratic Governor carried forward under a proclaimed conservative Republican governorship. The tax carve outs for renewable energy interests continue under the guise of the “all of the above” energy sourcing mantra of Governor McDonnell.

Special interests find favor no matter the administration. The 2007 “Virginia Re-regulation” of utilities legislation illustrates the success of the regulated to shape legislation on their terms. Now the same core of Virginia utility producers have been given “enhanced rates of return” in the renewables market, and other taxpayer funded incentives. Wind farms are promoted as job building enterprises.

The VA Scientists and Engineers for Energy and Environment (VA-SEEE) has sought to have the Commonwealth identify the source of their science data, if any, used to formulate public policy. The vast majority of ranking state officials are lawyers by training.

My letter published in the Richmond Times Dispatch, on Christmas Day, is an attempt to educate the public, and call the Commonwealth to task on the use ( or misuse) of taxpayer funds to the benefit of corporate interests. It is perhaps a quixotic effort confined to the publication limit of 350 words or so. However, as the Tea Party movement has demonstrated, it is only by direct public involvement and engagement that the political class will take notice, no matter what the topic, be it energy, climate, or health care.

Letters to the editor

By Times Dispatch Staff
Published: December 25, 2010

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

In this season of giving, it is worthy to note the generosity of the Virginia legislature to the renewable-energy lobby. State Sen. Frank Wagner’s website lists his visionary Virginia Energy Plan (VEP), passed in the 2006 Virginia General Assembly, during the heyday of climate change hysteria.

Gov. Tim Kaine’s 2008 roving Climate Change Commission sought vindication for various imagined catastrophes arbitrarily attributed to man-made climate change. The commission considered it axiomatic that climate change was man-made and resulted from fossil fuel usage; the validity of that assumption justified by “science is settled” U.N. reports and Kaine’s views. The final commission report included recommendations for increased use of renewable fuel sources and energy conservation. Higher consumer utility cost was seen as a desirable incentive for lowered energy usage.

The next year brought Climategate and evidence of climate science malfeasance, collapse of the U.N. Copenhagen climate-change agenda, recognition of 10 years of flat temperatures since 1998, and public awareness that dire forecasts of global climate catastrophes never materialized.

The McDonnell administration has brought changes to the commonwealth. However, the 2010 VEP still carries the imprimatur of Wagner and the favored place given renewable energy at the cost of the under-represented Virginia taxpayer.

Financial failure of green-jobs projects in Spain is ignored. Al Gore has recanted his support for corn ethanol, explaining it as a political calculation of the moment. Yet, McDonnell and Wagner continue to play Santa with taxpayer monies by promoting legislation for offshore wind power even though the 2010 VEP characterizes the 12.5 to 22.5 cents per kilowatt hour price as “not cost effective.” Massachusetts’ Cape Wind project imposes a ratepayer cost premium for wind of 2 to 3 over conventional fuels. Little mention is made of necessary, additional conventional-powered plants to provide base load when the wind fails. Ho,ho,ho!

Charles Battig, VA Scientists and Engineers for Energy and Environment. Charlottesville, Virginia.


  1. John Droz  

    Dr. Battig:

    Thank you for your concern and efforts.

    In my view, one of your most valuable contributions is that you have “sought to have the Commonwealth identify the source of their science data, if any, used to formulate public policy.”

    Of course you’ve undoubtedly found that there is zero real science behind any of these artificial and arbitrary decrees.

    THAT is the message that citizens need to have drilled into their heads.

    Keep up the good work.


  2. David Schnare  

    Wind energy is neither clean nor free, and any republican administration that believes government interference in free market competition to subsidize wind is a republican in name only.


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