Make no mistake Virginia’s upcoming gubernatorial election is perhaps the most important – and most contentious – on the ballot this November. This was in full display as two candidates with very different ideologies convened at Consumer Energy Alliance’s (CEA) Virginia Energy & Opportunity Forum this past week in Arlington.
As the Washington Post reported, Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe sparred on just about every issue with one notable exception. That exception was the importance of an “all-of-the-above” energy policy to the state’s continued economic success.
Of course, it’s not surprising these sharply different candidates would agree on this important issue. After all, our energy policy is the lifeblood of our economy and as such has a large impact on our nation’s consumers and businesses.
In fact, an adherence to this “all-of-the-above” energy policy has helped position Virginia as one of the top five states in which to do business in each of the past five years – serving as a model energy approach that enables a strong economy and an improved environment.
Take for example, that nearly 80 percent of Virginia’s electricity is sourced from low, or zero, emission sources. According to the Energy Information Administration, nearly 40 percent of the state’s electricity is provided by nuclear energy and 34 percent is generated using natural gas. At the same time, energy from renewable sources has doubled in recent years and now provides five percent of Virginia’s electricity supply.
The remainder of the state’s electricity is provided by coal. This industry is not only of great economic importance – in 2012 it directly supported $2.9 billion in economic activity and 10,637 jobs – but it also helps keep Virginia’s energy costs low while providing the stability needed for continued economic growth.
With Virginia’s electricity use expected to grow by 1.5 percent each year, Virginia will need to grow its energy supply by 14.6 percent to meet expected demand through 2020. While the state’s renewable electricity goals will help meet some of this need, natural gas and clean technology coal will continue to be an important part.
With this in mind, it is no wonder why Terry McAuliffe stated at CEA’s Virginia Energy & Opportunity Forum that he had a goal of making Virginia the “capital of the new energy economy” and Ken Cuccinelli told energy consumers that “Energy policy is economic policy.”
As our nation’s politics have become increasingly divisive, it’s reassuring to know that the importance of a pragmatic energy policy can bridge a political divide between two gubernatorial candidates who agree on little else. With nearly every sector of the economy relying on affordable energy to transport its goods and services, power its facilities, and manufacture its products, now, more than ever, we need to advance responsible energy policies that support energy innovation, economic growth and a healthier environment.