What Could the General Assembly Do to Slash Virginia's Greenhouse Gas Emissions?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Note: We're having an interesting discussion in this post's comments section, and I thought it was worthwhile to kick it up to the "front page" of the blog. Here's my response to DJ Rippert's question to me about climate change, "what do you propose we do?" (specifically in 2014 in Virginia). I'd also add that the following policies wouldn't just help the environment, they'd be great for Virginia's economy as well. Enjoy.Here are just a few policies that Virginia's General Assembly could, in theory, enact in 2014. Note that other states have done these things, so they're not pie in the sky.
1. Enact a strong, mandatory RPS as many other states have done.
2. Impose a robust "net metering" requirement so that Virginia business and home owners can sell the power they generate back to the grid. (See herefor more on this one)
3. Change Dominion's business model by "decoupling" its profits from the amount of power it produces. Also, as part of this, provide strong incentives for energy efficiency and conservation. (See here for more on that subject)
4. Provide tax credits and other incentives, as many other states do, for individuals and businesses to install renewable energy and energy efficiency upgrades.
5. Encourage innovative financial vehicles for renewable energy, like REITs, Master Limited Partnerships, and green mortgages. (See here for more on this)
6. Capture the "externalities" from fossil fuels - pollution, health care costs, etc. - by putting a serious price on carbon and/or enacting a "cap and trade" (or "cap and divident" or whatever) system.
7. Rapidly phase out all fossil fuel subsidies, both direct and indirect (e.g., new roads that encourage sprawl development, ergo more fossil fuel consumption).
8. Instead of investing in roads, pour money into smart growth-oriented strategies - integrating transportation and land use, building high-speed rail, streetcar systems, bike trails, pedestrian improvements, Bus Rapid Transit systems, etc, etc.
9. Repeal the hybrid fee. Slap on a gas guzzler fee to replace the lost revenue and to discourage gas guzzlers.
10. Subsidize fuel-efficient homes and vehicles; disincentive inefficient homes and vehicles.
That's just for starters, but it's certainly all doable. The problem? Bill "ALEC" Howell and the fossil-fuel-bought-and-paid-for House of Delegates will never go along. Grrrrr.