Commentary

Clean energy, climate action not to blame for pain at the pump

April 5, 2022 12:02 am

Dominion Energy’s Whitehouse solar farm in Louisa County generates 20 megawatts on a 250 acre site. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is imposing more stringent stormwater regulations for solar development. (Dominion Energy)

By Debra Rodman

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is being televised. While some choose or choose not to follow the deadly conflict via the news, one thing you can not ignore is the price of gas, which in Richmond remains around $4 per gallon, adding to the pain Virginians are already feeling in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During this time of inflation, and when 10 million Ukranians have been displaced, the fossil fuel industry and their political allies have wasted no time in taking advantage of this crisis, price-gouging us at the pump and blaming rising energy costs on domestic clean energy policy. While price volatility has always accompanied global conflict, it is being exacerbated by existing supply constraints manufactured by the industry itself.

The oil and gas industry wants to use this crisis to build even more infrastructure, lock in long-term contracts, and in doing so, create higher costs and more instability.

The world’s top oil and gas companies earned $174 billion in profits last year, with just five oil and gas companies netting more than $75 billion, the biggest increase in profits in seven years. With profit margins on the rise, U.S. oil companies have indicated they do not plan to increase production and instead, are going to reward investors and pay down debts, instead of investing in new production. This is why more than 9,000 existing leases are going unutilized.

It is past time for Congress to pass President Biden’s full climate agenda, and to recognize that to ensure true energy independence, we must invest now to secure a clean energy and transportation future – one that reduces our reliance on foreign and global markets, cuts pollution, and lowers energy costs. The electric vehicle and clean energy incentives that the House passed this fall would cut U.S. oil demand enough to completely replace Russian imports within the next five years. Energy costs will also decline and accelerate the production of cheaper, cleaner energy. The House-passed reconciliation package will reduce energy bills for families through clean energy tax credits and other climate investments and will save the average household $500 every year.

Our future depends on transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy, which researchers anticipate will decrease household energy costs by 63 percent and result in 5 million new jobs! Clean energy investments passed in the House bill would lower 2030 US energy expenditures by 6.6 percent, delivering an annual savings of $67 billion dollars for households, businesses and industry, and help counter inflation. Solar and wind are the cheapest energy sources available and domestically produced;investments in these technologies are not only the less-expensive option, they are also more reliable than fossil fuels. They grow our domestic energy supply and boost the production of cheaper, cleaner energy that is less impacted by foreign supply chain disruptions and conflicts overseas.

The time has never been better for the change we need. Seven in 10 Americans support clean energy development over new oil and gas drilling, and support for climate action has never been higher.

Now is the time, and I urge the U.S. Senate to act and pass President Biden’s ambitious climate action agenda.

Debra Rodman is a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates representing the 73rd District in Henrico County. She is a professor at Randolph-Macon College and also works in government relations. Contact her at [email protected].

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