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Manufacturing Boom Depends On Affordable, Reliable Electricity

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A year or so ago, few would have predicted the manufacturing expansion we are seeing here in Virginia. After years of seeing jobs and indeed entire manufacturing industries move offshore, we are thrilled to hear of new operations happening right here in the Commonwealth.

Recent months have brought announcements of new plants and expansions. The Corsi Group will start building cabinets in Virginia. Nabisco producer Modelez International is adding operations in Henrico County. Mayville Engineering will expand in Atkins. IMS Gear just dedicated a new facility in Virginia Beach. Richmond just won the new location for Stone Brewing Company.

Momentum is building as companies here in America and around the world wake up to the fact that our economic climate is ripe for manufacturing expansion, largely due to plentiful and affordable energy costs. Cheap and reliable electricity is just what manufacturers want.

This resurgence could come to an abrupt end, though, if the Environmental Protection Agency continues with its excessive greenhouse gas regulatory agenda. The latest scheme from the EPA would put such severe restrictions on power plants — especially coal-fired power plants — that many would be shut down. And the implementation schedule leaves no time to transition to other cleaner fuels.

With possible new regulations hitting as early as 2016, we could see electricity prices spike rapidly, hitting every family and business in the state. And, sadly, low-income families would be the hardest hit, as they have less ability to absorb these higher prices. Small businesses would suffer similarly.

Manufacturers would face the need to raise prices in order to cover their higher costs, and companies who were considering a move back to Virginia would quickly start rethinking their plans. Job growth would slow, home energy costs would rise, more families would slip into low-income brackets and we would see tougher economic times ahead.

Everyone wants to improve the environment and to have clean air. And Virginia has a great record in this regard. The use of natural gas power is growing every day, and coal power plants have made huge gains in efficiency as well. We are seeing improvements in our environment as a result. But we cannot afford to turn away from fossil fuels irresponsibly, before new alternatives come online. Nuclear plants take years if not decades to permit and build. High cost, unreliable alternative energy sources such as wind and solar are in their infancy and unable to carry the current load. Eliminating low-cost reliable power sources such as coal overnight would leave our economy suffering the consequences.

This administration in Washington apparently is bent on implementing their favored policies, regardless of the impact on American jobs and families. Proposed EPA rules set such stringent targets that once they eliminate coal natural gas will certainly follow. EPA has failed to propose a plan that takes into account the need for low-cost and reliable energy.
Under these proposals Americans would be forced to adjust to a world of expensive and unreliable electricity that is more common in some third-world countries.

We need common sense to prevail as the EPA considers its next steps. Let’s keep the manufacturing boom going in Virginia and across the country. We need a comprehensive energy policy that takes the jobs and budgets of American families into consideration.

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