Editorials, Opinion

W.Va. GOP stuck in energy past

Two hours before President Biden’s inauguration, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito was already lambasting Biden’s proposed energy orders. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey vowed to fight any clean energy policies to come out of the Oval Office before Biden had even settled into the White House. Two days later, Rep. David McKinley, discussing   the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change, said, “This subcommittee will be the tip of the sphere [sic] in fighting” the administration’s climate change policies.

So many of West Virginia’s officeholders are hyper-fixated on short-term benefits while steadfastly ignoring long-term costs. For example, Rep. McKinley said in a statement, the “goal of stopping the use of fossil fuels in the power sector by 2035 is not feasible and would decimate our economy.”

To Rep. McKinley and the likeminded: That doom and gloom prediction will only be the case if we do absolutely nothing in the next 14 years to move our economy away from fossil fuels and toward green energy.

Every day, green energy becomes cheaper and more efficient. At this exact moment in time, renewables can’t meet all of our energy needs, but the solution is not to continue stonewalling green energy development.

Sen. Capito and Morrisey referenced the cancelation of the Keystone XL Pipeline as an economic disaster, promoting the claim that Biden killed 11,000 jobs with one executive order. First,  the company in charge of the pipeline, TC Energy,  said,  “Keystone XL is expected to employ more than 11,000 Americans in 2021” — emphasis on “expected” —  so 11,000 people aren’t suddenly out of a job. Second, of those 11,000 jobs, only 50 of them would remain after the initial construction was complete, Of those 50 positions for pipeline maintenance, only 35 are permanent, according to PolitiFact. And finally, if lawmakers are so concerned about oil jobs, then they should actively promote geothermal energy, which uses much of the same technology and skills as oil drilling but is renewable and causes a fraction of the environmental damage.

And the best part? According to the West Virginia Geologic and Economic Survey, the Mountain State is a perfect candidate for geothermal energy. According to WVGES, West Virginia has “subsurface temperatures high enough for geothermal energy generation on a commercial scale.”

Geothermal energy uses the hot water deep in the earth’s crust to generate electricity. The binary steam method would work well in West Virginia. It uses not-as-hot water to “boil a working fluid, usually an organic compound with a low boiling point” which is “vaporized … and used to turn a turbine,” according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The water is then sent back underground, where it naturally heats up again and the cycle continues. This produces little to no air emissions.

In short: We’re tired of hearing West Virginia politicians beat the same dead “fossil fuels forever” horse. West Virginia can and should continue to be at the forefront of American energy — but if we, as a state, continue to cling unrelentingly to our past, we will lose the opportunity to pioneer the future.