Climate change is real. That argument is over, and has been for decades now. If you want to keep litigating why it’s happening, be my guest, but it is happening… and it’s now a crisis.
If we don’t prepare for the consequences of that right now, Virginians will suffer- plain and simple. Even the Trump Administration is now admitting that climate change is caused by humans and is so bad— forecasting up to a stunning seven degree average in global temperatures by the century’s end— society as we know it will not survive.
I refuse to accept that.
Maybe it’s too late for my kids and grandkids to have the sort of future that I had- and often squandered growing up. I never figured that simple things like playing baseball, camping, hunting, fishing, etc, would be in jeopardy- not to mention the litany of more extreme problems that can result from climate change.
Climate change is already hurting Virginia. Hampton Roads already experiences routine flooding as a result of rising sea levels, a situation that will get worse and require significant investments in the coming years to build dikes and wetlands and repair and replace roads. The flooding may also eventually dislocate residents. The US Military bases in Norfolk, Langley, and Virginia Beach, which pump billions of dollars into the Virginia economy, experience significant flooding now. If another round of base closures come, and the situation is worse, you’re going to have to watch Virginia politicians stand up for political expediency instead of our national defense to keep them from being shuttered and their infrastructure moved somewhere more stable.
Continued failure to address these problems will destroy Virginia’s economy and leave our coastal communities vulnerable to the type of crises Louisiana, Texas, and North Carolina experienced in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Harvey, and Florence. We need to collaborate with localities, business leaders, farmers, and scientists to plan and pay for sea level rise, adaptation, and resiliency infrastructure projects now- before it’s too late.
Rejecting Campaign Contributions from State Regulated Monopolies
Virginia will only lead on clean air, clean water, and clean energy jobs if we also lead on clean governance. That’s why I’ve joined dozens of other candidates from offices ranging from statewide office to Board of Supervisors in refusing corporate donations from state-regulated energy monopolies, and will fight to ensure that our Commonwealth protects our people and not powerful interests.
For decades, efforts to foster renewable energy, energy efficiency, and decentralized energy production in Virginia have been blocked by corporate utilities who profit off the status quo and regulators stuck in the past. In making this promise, it’s with the recognition that the next generation of solutions should be determined not by the size of the campaign contributions, but the quality of the ideas presented.
No To Fracked Gas Pipelines
We need to use all our power to prevent the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipeline projects from proceeding. This issue should have been dead when the subject of eminent domain for corporate gain came up. I can understand the limited- LIMITED- use of eminent domain for building a dam or a high school or security zone around a military base, but once we’re using the power of the state to take away land that belongs to Virginia families, in some cases for as long as the Commonwealth has existed herself, we are in blatantly immoral territory. Period. End of story.
Beyond that, however, these pipelines pose immediate harm as well as serious risks to communities across Virginia. Wasting billions on capital investments in pipelines will just lock us into the use of outdated fossil plant technology and limit our energy options for decades. In an era when climate change is a real and very present threat, it makes no sense to sign up for another generation of dirty fuel instead of looking for real solutions.
Distributed Energy and Fixing the Grid
The rise of renewable energy and "distributed generation"- or the ability of individual homes and businesses to produce their own power- just makes sense. It means that Virginians and Virginia businesses will have more resiliency from natural disasters (widespread blackouts can occur even when only a few components of the electricity grid are compromised), the ability to resist pressure and influence from bad actors (such as the manipulation of foreign countries in the energy market, or by directly attacking our power infrastructure), as well as powering Virginia to take its place as a national leader in economic development.
Our current laws on net metered solar are asinine, placing a host of arbitrary restrictions on the ways in which ordinary residents and business-owners are blocked from using solar as much as they want and in whatever ways they want.
We need to fix that, now, and while we’re at it, make sure our energy grid is ready for the challenges the Commonwealth will face in the coming years, so we can ensure the people and businesses of Virginia have power when they need it most.
Clean, Renewable, and Carbon-Free Energy
The free market has changed the face of the American energy economy: according to Forbes, there are now more Americans employed by the solar industry than oil, gas, and coal combined. Virginia now has more solar workers than coal workers. Much like the energy wildcatters of a hundred years ago, we are seeing thousands of jobs and fortunes created in a new clean energy revolution. Virginia should take advantage of this revolution, and be the heralds and leaders of a national movement to put more money in workers' and investors’ pockets.
Let’s step up and commit to it: pass Delegate Sam Rasoul’s bill and have the Commonwealth show the rest of the nation what leadership looks like, setting, as part of enacting a Green New Deal, a goal that all electricity consumed in Virginia by 2035 must be generated by greener sources, including solar, wind (both on- and off-shore), hydro, geothermal, sustainable biomass, and renewable natural gas, as well as clean sources such as Generation IV nuclear reactors and remaining fossil fuel with carbon capture.
Empower & engage Virginia’s land grant institutions
With a changing climate comes the danger of agricultural disasters on a scale we’ve rarely seen before. Crops that wither and die from too much heat, that rot on the vine from too much rain, that cannot survive weather conditions that vacillate from one extreme to the other. Agriculture adds almost $91 billion to our state’s GDP, and provides almost 350,000 jobs. It goes beyond that, too- every job in agriculture and forestry supports 1.7 jobs elsewhere in Virginia’s economy.
Virginia is an agricultural powerhouse, and I intend to make sure we keep it that way, not just to keep that economic engine roaring, but our people fed, no matter what. That means we need to provide our land grant institutions- Virginia State University and Virginia Tech- with the funding and support they need to make sure that our Commonwealth is prepared.
Efficiency is key!
Obviously the cheapest form of energy is that energy you don’t use— from buildings and vehicles that are more energy-efficient. The obstacles here are mainly regulatory and legislative, not technological.
We must start constructing and retrofitting to the highest performance standards now to avoid locking in outdated technology and to reach these goals by mid-century. New technological innovation every year will push the potential of building and industrial efficiency, helping Virginians and Virginia businesses lower energy costs and be more competitive. And we need to take a leading role in that as a state, because when we show that it’s not only possible but economically and environmentally beneficial, others will follow suit.
Our neighbors in Maryland have a $1 billion dollar energy efficiency program funded by the state, in part using emission credits auctioned by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. They used that to set and meet a 2015 goal for 15% energy reduction, and have since mandated a 2% per year additional rate of energy use reduction. For every $1 spent on this program, consumers save $1.80. And it’s an enormous job creator.