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Watermelon Greening of Virginia

On June 10th, the Governor issued an executive order entitled the “Greening of State Government.” See the Press Release for an abstract of this order. It is a “watermelon” order, meaning it is green on the outside and red on the inside. On its face, the Governor has expanded his direction to state government to tighten their energy belt.

Reducing energy use is good if it reflects getting the same work out of less energy. Just cutting energy use, however, usually means just reducing productivity. The order is a mixture of do less and do better with less.

Beneath the green exterior, however, are some elements that only mean more red ink. For example, any new construction or major renovation requires the buildings to conform to LEED silver or Green Globes two-globe standards, unless an exemption from such standards is granted upon a written finding of special circumstances that make construction to the standards impracticable.
While the Green Globes standards are usually cost-efficient, LEEDs silver standards often are not. One wonders if the special circumstances that allow an exception include budget shortfalls or plain old cost-inefficiency. If cost can’t be fully considered in these decisions, the Order is more for red ink than green government.

The same applies to procurement of diesel fuel containing at least two percent biodiesel fuel or green diesel fuel. By many standards, these fuels have larger carbon footprints than the lower cost diesel, and they cost more. They are red ink fuels with at most a light green patina.

If we were an energy exporting state (think off-shore oil and gas), we could amass sufficient wealth to afford these kind of luxuries.  We aren’t.

Further, if reducing the state’s carbon footprint by this tiny amount were likely to make a meaningful contribution to reaching climate change alarmists’ greenhouse gas reduction goals, arguably these red ink actions might be sensible. Based on a Financial Times report showing China refuses to reduce its carbon footprint, any efforts by Virginia to reduce our footprint have but one effect – we sacrifice state dollars for no environmental gain whatever. For a brief explanation on why this is true, see Virginia and Climate Change.
For a longer report on Virginia and climate change, take a look at the Science and Public Policy Institute’s state level analysis on this issue.  A couple of highlights from that report include:

  • Natural year-to-year and decade-to-decade scale variations dominate Virginia’s temperature, precipitation and drought history. Averaged across the state of Virginia, there has been no statistically significant long-term trend in the state’s annual temperature history, nor in precipitation and drought, since 1895.
  • If Virginia were to immediately cease all carbon dioxide emission, now and forever, the rate of year-over-year growth in global carbon dioxide emissions (primarily fueled by massive emissions increases in China and India) would completely subsume Virginia’s contribution in less than two months’ time. China alone adds four Virginias-worth of new carbon emissions to its total emissions each and every year.
  • Governor Kaine’s call for a partial reduction of Virginia’s greenhouse gas emissions will have absolutely no effect on global or local climate, global temperature or sea level.

While it is the season for watermelon, it is never the time for watermelon environmental politics.

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