Pipeline Creates Opportunities
By Frank Wagner (Guest Editorial Column in Virginian Pilot)
In 2006, I introduced legislation that led to the creation of the Virginia Energy Plan. This law directed the commonwealth to plan for the development of resources, including clean coal, oil, natural gas, wind and nuclear, coupled with conservation and energy efficiency. The ultimate goal is to achieve energy independence in an environmentally responsible manner.
The decision by Dominion and other energy companies to invest $5 billion in a new natural gas pipeline through Virginia and into Hampton Roads further moves the commonwealth toward energy independence and dominance in the mid-Atlantic. It will give us a real economic advantage over competing states and countries with higher electricity rates.
The companies involved would not be making this investment if they weren’t sure the demand was there. Clean-burning natural gas is the wave of the future as a fuel for electricity generation, transportation, heating and manufacturing.
How does natural gas compare as a source of carbon emissions? The Wall Street Journal recently reported that according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, natural gas carbon emissions are half those of coal and three-quarters those of gasoline per unit of energy produced.
The Obama Administration’s war on coal has forced numerous industries to find new, inexpensive sources of energy. Located in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York, the Marcellus and Utica gas deposits are cheap sources of natural gas because it is difficult to get this abundant supply of natural gas to market. This announcement changes the equation for Virginia because once this pipeline is built, we will have access to this supply.
There are currently two major pipelines bringing natural gas into Hampton Roads and they are reaching their capacity. What will the new pipeline spur to Hampton Roads mean to our region?
It will allow us to expand efforts to convert larger fleets of vehicles from gasoline and diesel to safe natural gas.
It will spur a local industry to convert cargo ships that call on the Port of Virginia away from diesel to natural gas. This is a huge economic opportunity. Already, ships that call on ports in the Baltics must be natural gas-powered due to local environmental regulations.
It means local coal-burning power plants and other large users of electricity can convert to natural gas, reducing pollutants and helping our region meet its EPA-mandated air quality goals.
It will allow us to better diversify our local economy. Local industries that use natural gas as a raw material for manufacturing can plan energy costs far into the future and remain price-competitive. This new supply of natural gas will be an important tool in attracting manufacturers and to encourage existing companies already here to expand.
Whether last week’s announcement is a “game-changer” is really beside the point. What is important is that the commonwealth, working with industry, has secured a reliable, inexpensive source of energy that, when combined with our nuclear power and clean coal plants, should ensure low electricity rates far into the future.
When combined with our efforts to grow an offshore wind energy industry and new, safer nuclear reactor design and construction, the latest news about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is further proof that Virginia is serious about keeping energy inexpensive and environmentally safe so that we can successfully compete in this global economy.
Frank Wagner is a member of the Virginia Senate representing western Virginia Beach and portions of Norfolk.