Dear Friends, Virginians, citizens of Fairfax:
Labor Day weekend, we are traveling to Virginia Beach for the last days of summer. While the kids enjoy the sand and surf, I will be running in the annual Rock and Roll Half-Marathon. Local bands and cheerleaders help the struggling runners (like me) make it to the finish line.
Sandy beaches and recreation are not the only exciting things happening at Virginia Beach.
"The Beach" is ground zero in the ongoing battle over offshore drilling and coastal wind energy. While moderating gas prices have muted the battle, it is not going away. It will heat up in 2010 when the Assembly next meets.
First, a review of off-shore drilling. We all remember "Drill Baby Drill." Virginia's coastline, which faces the Continental Shelf, is the epicenter of this controversy which has caused pro-drilling advocates to clash with environmentalists.
Despite the passion and proximity, drilling for oil off Virginia's coasts is negated by three major factors:
(1) the amount of available petroleum (10 billion barrels) is actually minor, not enough to fuel the U.S. economy for a week;
(2) there are few, if any, private entities willing to explore for this oil when existing land sites have better yields;
(3) by U.S. law, leases for drilling are only permitted 50+ miles off the coast -- well outside Virginia's jurisdiction
The reality of #3 is that off-shore leases are only awarded by the U.S. Department of Interior, Minerals Management Services, not by the Commonwealth. And there is no provision in the U.S. law awarding compensation to neighboring states from drilling. We are spectators.
As a result, state transportation proposals which rely on "royalties" from off-shore oil drilling are laughable -- you'd have better luck relying on royalties from the next Jonas Brother album. At least they have a product.
That's not to say that all off-shore drilling is pointless. Under the same shelf, MMS estimates there are 45 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, a huge potential deposit which could power our economy for many years. However, finding and using that resource are years away, although Virginia has requested MMS to permit exploration. Until that exploration occurs, it's too early to rely on that resource.
Now let's talk about wind ...
The coast of Virginia Beach is home to "Class 6" winds, the strongest and most consistent wind pattern on the Atlantic Seaboard. Also the ocean there is relatively shallow, only 30 feet deep even ten miles off-shore, which makes driving monopolies -- for turbines -- relatively inexpensive. Third, there is a transmission infrastructure on land to handle new power generation and a major customer (the U.S. Navy) at hand. Finally, there is community support for the project.
The combination of these factors make the Beach the best opportunity for wind energy on the Atlantic Coast. In fact, it's conservatively estimated that off-shore wind there could sustain 3,000 megawatts of energy. That renewable energy would become Virginia's third-largest energy source -- and could be an export to neighboring states legally required to use renewables. That's 21st century economic development.
It won't be easy. There are multiple Federal permits which need to be obtained. Second, the off-shore leases must be secured from MMS. Finally, wind energy has significant start-up costs which take many years to amortize. Private industry needs to step up.
Next year, the Assembly can take the lead on this critical project by expediting the early approvals and authorizing the application to MMS for the lease. It must be a bipartisan effort. It it works, then we can all take credit.
So there are a lot of exciting things going on at the Beach. Maybe I'll see you there this weekend.
JCP Notes: I'm winding up the summer door-knocking in Vienna. I've met many fine people and some not-so-friendly dogs. I'll plan to hit some more doors in Oakton in September and then finish up in Lake Braddock in October.
On September 29th, I will be co-hosting a major fundraiser for Senator Creigh Deeds, Democratic candidate for Governor, at the Blenheim House in Fairfax City. Stay tuned for more details.
I will be holding my own re-election fundraiser in Richmond at the 88 Garden Restaurant on September 10th. Contact us for more details or if you would like to contribute.
We've had great discussions recently at my blog, with subjects ranging from the usual RoVA vs. NoVA articles in the Post to self-dealing in the General Assembly. If you enjoy reading or writing about Virginia, please feel free to contribute.
We are in Fairfax through the end of the year. Feel free to contact my Senate office at (703) 349-3361 or email@example.com.
Let us know how we can represent you better.