An ‘all-of-the-above’ approach to energy policy

Jul 27, 2019

By David E. Ballantyne

I have, in the recent past, heard many people express the phrase; “I believe in an all of the above approach to energy policy.” It is mostly those persons who self-identify as Conservatives who use this phrase. I fall into that group. I support the phase. It is catchy and somehow “all-American.” How could anyone NOT support such a democratic and capitalist view?

However, I think it important to “unpack” this phrase and define terms as it applies to energy and energy public policy. “All-of-the-Above” implies all of the various commercial, exchangeable forms of energy; coal, natural gas, nuclear, hydroelectric, solar and wind. These compete in the marketplace. Your light bulb shines just as bright regardless of which of these “sent the electrons your way.” Consumers evaluate energy primarily on price and reliability; but, they rarely know where the energy truly comes from.

On the other hand, when added all together (transportation, residential heating/cooling, industrial, and all other), energy is a substantial cost to the consumer. However, with the advent of global climate change, there are big differences in the environmental impact among these sources of energy. This difference in climate impact is only recently being understood — related to climate change emissions. Nuclear, hydroelectric, solar and wind have no climate impact, while coal, oil and natural gas have substantial climate impact. Do we care?

Large and growing segments of the population do care where their energy comes from, including Conservatives. So, how does public policy offer the principles of free enterprise, free & fair trade, let the market decide, don’t pick winners and losers, each paying their fair share, no barriers to trade plus no inappropriate incentives and subsidies, avoiding plus paying for the damage they are doing to the environment? This is a difficult challenge. What is the role of government in public policy to assure the preceding benefits of orderly markets — globally?

A growing majority of Americans plus countries globally are encouraging adoption of “carbon picing.” The principal cause of global climate change is CO2 in the atmosphere. Economists plus climate scientists agree that carbon pricing allows us all to “vote our pocketbook.” CO2 is impartial. Once it reaches the atmosphere it doesn’t care where it comes from. Do you care? If you care, don’t buy it. If you don’t care or can’t avoid it, go ahead. History and experience indicates that carbon pricing, together with rebate/dividend of the revenue to all citizens is the most effective way to encourage innovation, substitution, avoidance and overall reduction in CO2 emissions — globally.

Economists forecast that two-thirds of the US population will receive more in dividend of their share in the carbon fees paid than they will pay in higher carbon prices. There are bills pending in the US congress for various forms of a climate change solution. Most of these include carbon pricing and dividend. We strongly need a climate solution. It�s time for bipartisan bargaining.

David E. Ballantyne is a ember of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action and co-leader of the Marietta Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action sets Earth Day events

Apr 18, 2019

From staff reports

editoral@newsandsentinel.com

PARKERSBURG — Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action has announced plans for Earth Day events.

Activities include the presentation of the National Geographic documentary, “Paris to Pittsburgh,” 7 p.m. today in the fellowship hall of the First Christian Church, 1400 Washington Ave.

Climate Action will have a display at the Marietta Earth Day Celebration 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday at Armory Square.

On National Earth Day, Climate Action will have a table at Earth Day on Monday at West Virginia University-Parkersburg where it also will sponsor a 1 p.m. showing of “The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilization?”, a film looking at economist David Fleming’s answers to creating a resilient, thriving world.

Climate Action’s Third Thursday programs are open to the public and free of charge.

Wake up to the reality of climate change

Apr 17, 2019

As we approach Earth Day on April 22, I am thinking about the first Earth Day as a teach-in by Sen. Gaylord Nelson from Wisconsin to draw attention to what was happening to our earth after a huge oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif. in 1969; the burning of the Cuyahoga River; the smog in our large cities, etc. On Dec. 2, 1970, the Nixon administration signed into law a newly formed agency of the federal government, which was to improve water treatment plants, set standards for vehicle emissions, reduce automobile pollution, seek regulations concerning the dumping of wastes into the Great Lakes, clean up the foul air and water, etc.

Well, 49 years later and many more oil spills, contaminated water in Flint, Mich., and West Virginia as well as many other states — we are going backward especially since Jan. 20, 2017. With the more intense storms, droughts, fires, you would think people would begin to put two and two together that the climate is changing.

Why won’t people accept the findings of scientists? Why won’t Catholic Christians especially in this area listen to the Pope, who is a scientist and representative of the founder of the Catholic Church? In 2015 Pope Francis invited all to “care for our common home” in his encyclical, “Laudato Si.” When the current president visited the Pope, he was presented with a copy of the encyclical.

Sadly, it was not read by the president and he withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Agreement. The Environmental Protection Agency, under this administration, is rolling back regulations on air and water quality, as we have seen devastating hurricanes hitting the east coast, Puerto Rico, Florida, Alabama, and now the widespread flooding in the breadbasket of our country.

Many of our senators and representatives applaud the rollback so fossil fuel companies can make more money.

People wake up. Scientists say we have 12 years to make a difference. People make fun of the Green New Deal Proposal. In what kind of world do you want your children and grandchildren to exist?

The United Nations’ weather agency says extreme weather last year hit 62 million people worldwide and forced two million people to relocate as man-made climate change worsened.

The theme of Earth Day 2019, which is Protect our Species, “grew out of the recognition that human activities (climate change, deforestation, habitat loss, trafficking and poaching, unsustainable agriculture, pollution, and pesticides) are the leading causes of what Elizabeth Kolbert calls the Sixth Extinction, which may well be our own.”

Margaret Meeker

Williamstown

WVU-P Ecohawks to host Earth Day event

Apr 16, 2019

PARKERSBURG — West Virginia University at Parkersburg’s student environmental group, the Ecohawks, will host an Earth Day celebration from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. April 22 in the College Activities Center. The event is free and open to the public.

The Ecohawks will teach local elementary school children the benefits of reducing, reusing and recycling. There will be reading and coloring stations, tree and vegetable seedling giveaways, educational games and a Smokey Bear meet-and-greet.

“We have an obligation to take care of the world we share,” said Ecohawks adviser Valerie Keinath. “The WVU Parkersburg Ecohawks hope to inspire and encourage others to find beauty in nature and become more conscious about their environmental impact as to preserve that beauty.”

Other individuals, groups and organizations providing environmental resources and materials are Friends of the Lower Muskingum, Keep Wayne Wild, author Callie Lyons, Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action, Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, pollinator garden specialist Rebecca Phillips, Raccoon Creek Conservation group (AmeriCorps) and the West Virginia Division of Forestry.

Guests will have the chance to view screenings of “The Toxic Tour” presented by Lyons and “The Sequel” presented by the Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action Group.

For more information, contact Valerie Keinath at vkeinart@wvup.edu or 1-304-424-8327.

Humans drive climate change

Apr 14, 2019

A study out in March in the British peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change showed that anthropogenic (human-caused) global climate change is a virtual certainty. Global scientists are 99.9999 percent sure, according to the study, that humans are the cause of global climate change, leaving only a one-in-a-million chance that we are not the cause. This is referred to as attaining the “gold standard” of certainty. Study lead author Benjamin Santer with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory stated “. . . the narrative out there that scientists don’t know the cause of climate change is wrong.”

This “gold standard” of certainty is a measure normally reserved for particle physics, such as the certainty of the discovery of the Higgs boson particle confirmed in 2012. Technically speaking, the scientific conclusion is stronger than a one-in-a-million chance. This result reaches what is referred to as the 5-sigma confidence level. This means that if the result were due to chance and the experiment determining its cause were repeated 3.5 million times then it would be expected to see the strength of the conclusion in the result no more than once. In short, five-sigma corresponds to a probability of about 1 in 3.5 million that global warming is not human-caused.

Bottom line: the discussion has moved past questions about whether global climate change is happening and whether it is caused by human beings. The answer to both is unequivocally and emphatically yes. The next logical question pertains to urgency, though that has been answered as well. For example, to quote from the Center for Climate and Security:

“The Trump Administration alone has issued three Worldwide Threat Assessments that acknowledge the security risks of climate change, three Department of Defense reports on climate change, three GAO [Government Accountability Office] reports on climate and security, and a USAID report on global fragility and climate risks. All have been produced through comprehensive processes with rigorous reviews. President Trump also signed into law a 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that stated: Changing climate is a ‘direct threat’ to U.S. national security. Further, at least twenty-one senior defense officials during the current Administration have publicly highlighted the security risks of climate change, including the former Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

The time to act is right now and the best way to act is through a Green New Deal, which represents a number of solutions that combined reach the scale of the problem. Let’s get to work addressing this dire, global issue and ignore the climate deniers and climate delayers with their heads in the sand. Posterity will judge us by what we do right now!

Eric Engle

Chairman

Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action

Fourth annual W.Va. Solar Congress coming to Charleston

  • By Clint Thomas Metro staff
  • Apr 11, 2019

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The fourth annual West Virginia Solar Congress will meet from 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center in downtown Charleston.

The West Virginia Solar Congress is a free, public conference designed for solar energy supporters from around the Mountain State to learn and share information. Along with a series of presentations and policy topics regarding solar technology, the event will conclude with a participatory open forum for all attendees to discuss priorities and opportunities in West Virginia.

The Solar Congress agenda includes:

9:30-10 a.m.: Registration. Breakfast will be provided.

10-10:20 a.m.: Opening remarks by Solar United Neighbors of West Virginia Program Director Autumn Long.

10:30-11:20 a.m.: The first session of breakout presentations, which includes:

• Option 1: Introduction to Solar PV

Participants will be told about the basics of solar PV technology and ways to reduce their energy costs by going solar. They will also have an opportunity to join the Charleston-Huntington Solar Co-op and become a member of Solar United Neighbors. Long will oversee this program.

“Our solar co-ops are essentially local buying clubs that folks can join to go solar together with our assistance and guidance,” Long explained last week. “As a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people go solar, join together and fight for their energy rights, our co-ops are free to join, with no obligation to go solar.”

Long said the Charleston-Huntington Solar Co-op will be open to residents and businesses throughout the Kanawha Valley and Metro Valley region.

“We provide a series of free public education opportunities throughout the co-op area,” she said, “and once at least two dozen people have joined the group, we solicit bids from local solar installers to service the co-op. Co-op members select a single installer to service everyone in the group, so everyone receives the same competitive pricing and high-quality equipment options. We are there every step of the way to serve as a consumer advocate and help our co-op members navigate the entire process of going solar.”

• Option 2: Capturing the Solar Dollar: Sustainable economic development opportunities in West Virginia from investments in solar.

From locally owned business and employment opportunities to large-scale corporate investment in the state, participants will learn about the economic development opportunities solar can provide for West Virginians. Joey James of Downstream Strategies and Hannah Vargason of Natural Capital Investment Fund will be the session leaders.

11:30 a.m.-12:20 p.m.: The second session of breakout presentations, which includes:

• Option 1: Electric Vehicles and Driving on Sunshine: Turning light into light speed

Electric cars and solar-powered homes have arrived in West Virginia. West Virginia Electric Auto Association President Marty Weirick will lead this program, joined by Robert Fernatt, a solar homeowner, electric-vehicle driver and advisory board member of the Solar United Neighbors of West Virginia, will discuss the technologies.

• Option 2: Solar Policy Priorities for West Virginia

James Van Nostrand, director of the West Virginia University College of Law Center for Energy and Sustainable Development, will conduct this program. He will discuss pro-solar policies from around the nation that could be beneficial in West Virginia, including the West Virginians for Energy Freedom campaign to legalize power purchase agreements for on-site, renewable energy-generation facilities in the state. Long will also take part in the program.

12:30-1:20 p.m.: Lunch and informal networking. During this time, a solar trivia game will be played and electric vehicles will be on display outside the Coliseum and Convention Center’s main entrance.

1:30-2:20 p.m.: The third session of breakout presentations will get underway, including:

• Option 1: Energy Efficiency for the Home and Business

Energy efficiency in conjunction with renewable energy generation will compound savings, can minimize upfront system costs and will improve the comfort of the home. In this presentation, Xavier Walter, co-director of Energy Efficient West Virginia, will explain how energy efficiency bridges the gap between energy production and consumption while ensuring adequate indoor air quality and reduced reliance on the power grid.

• Option 2: Solar + Storage

Residential and commercial energy storage systems are becoming more common and affordable. Participants will learn how battery storage works and how it interacts with the energy produced from solar. Long will conduct this program.

2:30-3 p.m.: Solar owner panel discussion

Local solar owners will share their experiences of going solar at their homes. Speakers will include Paul Hayes of Marmet, Robin Blakeman of Huntington, Robert Fernatt of Falling Waters and Steve Wellons of Charleston.

Hayes said he became involved with the Solar United Neighbors co-op in Kanawha County because, “I wanted to be able to predict my costs for my energy use and that was one way to do. If I have solar, a certain percentage of my bill will be taken care of because of the power I get from the sun.”

Hayes said the installation of 36 solar panels on the hillside behind his Marmet home was completed three-and-a-half years ago.

“When they built my project, I said I didn’t want a power bill.”

He said his panels provide approximately 70 percent of his overall energy use. “The reason for that is twofold,” he said. “When you get solar panels, they told me, you often pay more attention to how much energy you’re using and you’re able to decrease the amount, because you’re more mindful of what you’re using. Secondly, if you have it for 100 percent of your energy, that increases the price significantly.”

Hayes said he has witnessed a surge in solar as a more common energy source in the Mountain State. “I see a lot more solar in West Virginia than in some states in the West even,” he said. “A lot of people are curious about it, and some people have made the step towards it. I just encourage people to understand when the price of their energy goes up, my prices are not increasing.”

3-3:30 p.m.: Open forum, facilitated by Long.

4:30-6 p.m.: Post-Congress Happy Hour.

To RSVP for the Solar Congress or read more about the gathering and the organization, visit www.solarunitedneighbors.org

Marietta City Council expanding solar energy

Apr 10, 2019

Janelle Patterson

Special to The News and Sentinel

jpatterson@mariettatimes.com

MARIETTA – Marietta City Council is moving forward on a new power purchase agreement with Pickering Energy Solutions to add solar power to another city building this summer.

Chip Pickering, founder of the energy company, explained to council’s Lands, Buildings and Parks Committee Tuesday that the proposed agreement to utilize the roof of the streets department garage would offset the power usage at the city site by 85 percent.

The contract proposed follows the parameters set forth in the current power purchase agreement between the city and Pickering for use of the Marietta Municipal Court roof.

“That’s been in place for about a year,” said City Engineer Joe Tucker. “And originally the estimate was that the savings to the city in energy costs would be about $800 in the first year.”

Dave Hendrickson, also with the city’s engineering department, explained that the savings to date for the city on the municipal court building is $743.41.

The proposed new power purchase agreement follows the lines of that court agreement, selling power to the city for that building at a 10 percent lower rate than the going rate of AEP.

“For the streets maintenance garage, we put a new roof on there in February of 2016 for $174,955,” explained Tucker. “Pickering Energy Solutions is prepared to place 132 solar PV panels at 350 watts on that new roof to save the city $550 annually and it will surprisingly support 80 percent of our energy needs at that facility.”

Pickering’s Kerri Dunn, project manager, explained that the use of clips to adhere the new panels to the roof would not invalidate the city’s warranty on the roof.

All council members voiced support for the proposed 20-year agreement with an option to renew for another five years after 2039.

The $10,010 purchase from Recreonics will add a six-piece floating attraction to the city’s pool this summer, according to Safety-Service Director Jonathan Hupp.

Pickering to speak at League of Women Voters meeting

Apr 7, 2019

From staff reports

editoral@newsandsentinel.com

PARKERSBURG — A local authority on solar energy will speak to the League of Women Voters of Wood County at 6 p.m. April 22 in the Parkersburg City Council chambers.

Chip Pickering started Pickering Energy Solutions, a West Virginia company that installs, owns and maintains solar photovoltaic power systems in the Mid-Ohio Valley.

The meeting is open to the public.

“As citizens of the world we must protect our planet from the physical, economic and public health effects of climate change while also providing pathways to economic prosperity,” Charmaine Dotson, president of the League of Women Voters of Wood County, said.

Pickering is the chief executive officer of Pickering Associates, an architectural and engineering firm in Parkersburg, and vice president of Davis, Pickering and Co., an electrical contracting firm in Marietta.

He is responsible for development, training and construction quality programs for Davis Pickering.

He is a professional engineer, a project management professional and has a LEED certification for building design and construction. Pickering also is a certified photovoltaic installer through the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners.

Pickering has worked on several projects in Haiti and Africa.

Pickering’s company mission is to encourage, develop and facilitate the use of solar and other forms of renewable energy. Pickering Energy Solutions brings individuals and organizations that would like to incorporate renewable energy into their lives together with investors that are looking to invest in renewable energy technologies.

“The preservation of the physical, chemical and biological integrity of the earth’s ecosystem is essential for maximum protection of public health and the environment. The interrelationships of air, water and land resources should be recognized in designing environmental safeguards. The federal government should have the major role in setting standards for environmental protection and pollution control,” Jane Burdette, a public relations chairman of the League, said.

Climate documentary to be presented at Parkersburg forum

Apr 7, 2019

From staff reports

editoral@newsandsentinel.com

PARKERSBURG — “Paris to Pittsburgh,” a National Geographic documentary, will be shown by Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action at its Third Thursday public forum 7 p.m. April 18 at the First Christian Church, 1400 Washington Ave.

Third Thursday programs are open to the public and free.

“Paris to Pittsburgh” is about individuals battling the most severe threats of climate change in their own backyards. Set against the national debate over the United States’ energy future and the Trump administration’s decision to exit the Paris Climate Agreement, the film discusses what’s at stake for communities around the country and the inspiring ways Americans are responding, the organization said.

The film was produced by the Academy Award and Emmy-winning production company RadicalMedia with Bloomberg Philanthropies. Directed by Emmy Award-winner Sidney Beaumont and Emmy-nominated filmmaker Michael Bonfiglio, “Paris to Pittsburgh” spotlights the cities, states, businesses and citizens taking action and explores the social and economic impacts of climate change-fueled disasters, from America’s heartland to the nation’s coastlines.

Local leaders and citizens present stories behind climate-related recovery and resiliency, as well as innovative efforts to reduce carbon emissions, including boomtowns formerly reliant on coal such as Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh, led by Mayor Bill Peduto, is a city committed to energy efficiency and one of the many examples of bold economic and climate leadership in the film, the organization said. Other locations featured in the film include Puerto Rico, California, Iowa, Florida and New Jersey.

“From innovative ways to improve our food supply chain through Fleet Farming, parking lots shaded by solar paneled roofs to passionate college students making an impact in sustainable energy jobs, this documentary provides a hopeful roadmap for the future,” Geoff Daniels, the head of unscripted programming for National Geographic, said.

Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action said it focuses on raising awareness of the science and danger of climate change. It is affiliated with 350.org and is the Parkersburg chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby and a Science Booster Club for the National Center for Science Education.

Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act

Apr 5, 2019

It was with grateful appreciation that I learned that the U.S. House of Representatives had added to their docket H.R. Bill 763; The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. Bill 763 offers for the newly elected Congress a replacement for the earlier bill first offered for the previous congress — a “revenue neutral” legislative initiative for addressing the human causes for global climate change. There are two notable features about this bill.

First, it is a “fee” rather than a tax. The fee is paid by the producers of those products which generate the CO2 emissions which cause most of the climate damage. What makes this a fee rather than a tax is that all of the money raised is by law required to be refunded as a dividend in equal shares to each U.S. citizen. The government doesn’t decide how to spend the money – you do. Clearly, the fee will raise prices of CO2 generating products. However, economists estimate that two-thirds of the U.S. population will receive dividends larger than their added costs. Who typically uses the most CO2 generating products? Those who can afford them. This proposal collects from the wasteful to distribute it equally to all. The riots in France over a proposed carbon tax are an example of “taxed enough already – TEA applied to Climate Change.” I agree with the feeling that taxes are high, and raising them to pay for a climate change solution is unwarranted. We’re already paying public money to repair climate change damage from storms and wildfires. Why pay triple; for the cause, the consequence and the solution?

Second, no money is withdrawn from the economy. How would you spend your dividend? You’d spend it on things important to you; such as, education, health care, housing and basic living expenses. These industries don’t generate much CO2, and would flourish. Those industries which do generate CO2 would be incentivized for efficiency, productivity, innovation, investment and substitution, as would consumers also. A border adjustment fee for imports would “plug loopholes” plus incentivize global application of this same approach.

The Yale Center for Environmental Communication polling data, Aug 7, 2018, indicates that 77 percent of Americans and 76 percent of Ohioans support regulation of CO2 as a pollutant. The economic impact of this proposal is projected by economists to be both economically positive and job creating. So, I encourage you to write your congressional representatives asking for their support of H.R. 763.

Dave Ballantyne

Member of Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action

Newport