Yes Virginia, there are forward-thinking leaders in your state. I know it seems like all hope is lost with the Republican legislature, governor and attorney general determined to turn the clock back by forcing a radically divisive social agenda upon the residents of the Old Dominion. The right-wing regime in Richmond would like to roll back all the progress that has been made. That’s one reason why it was refreshing to hear former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe give a positive message about clean energy jobs and growing the green economy.
The McLean resident spoke this past November at George Mason University’s School of Public Policy in Arlington about his electric car company and how to get Virginia and the United States competing in the global green economy. The event was titled “The Green Economy: Competing Globally for Jobs of the Future.”
“I believe renewable power is the future for all you young people here. I’m passionate about it,” said McAuliffe, who co-chaired former President Bill Clinton’s successful 1996 re-election campaign and has been involved in the renewable energy industry for over a decade. “I realized that we can’t continue to do what we do in America. As you know we spend a billion dollars every day importing oil and petroleum products, many of which come from Middle East countries, some of whom particularly don’t like us. You saw what happened last spring with all the nations in the Middle East. We don’t know what could possibly happen in the future. We cannot continue to rely on nations to provide us with oil. It really can become a stranglehold on us. A billion dollars a day results in half of the trade deficit in America. We spend a hundred billion dollars a year on the Department of Defense just protecting (oil shipping channels) like the Strait of Hormuz between Qatar and Iran. We spend about 65 million dollars a year on respiratory problems from CO2 emissions that come out of cars.”
McAuliffe pointed out that Virginia is the only state in the Mid-Atlantic region that doesn’t have a mandatory renewable energy standard and that makes it hard to bring in jobs and start new businesses.
“Why am I doing business in the only state that is not required by law to buy the product that I’m making — renewable energy? I could go to North Carolina, D.C., Maryland, Ohio or Pennsylvania. They have a mandatory standard, meaning some mix of their power supply has to be renewable,” said McAuliffe. “We’ve got to get in the game here. We ought to have wind turbines off the coast of Virginia Beach. We have the highest wind content in the entire East Coast. We have a very shallow outer shelf to put the pylons in. We have the largest transmission port on the entire East Coast outside of New York City. We could light up hundreds of thousands of homes and create hundreds of thousands of jobs if we started to get serious about it.”
He has invested in wind energy in Europe for years and talked about how in Europe if you burn coal you can only burn 80% so the rest has to be renewable. Because of this many utilities in Europe are buying wood pellets to fill the 20% renewable mandate and the wood pellets are being shipped overseas from America. McAuliffe was excited to discuss his plans to produce wood pellets in Franklin, Virginia where 1,100 people were laid off when the hundred-year-old paper plant shuttered. The wood pellet factory will save 832 jobs and export 500,000 tons of wood pellets annually to Europe.
Greentech Automotive is the name of McAuliffe’s electric vehicle company. The headquarters are in Virginia and there is a plant in Mississippi. But the story of Greentech started in China when McAuliffe bought the largest Chinese electric car company and moved the entire company to the United States. He said EV-friendly Denmark has already purchased the whole first year of production.
“In Denmark if you buy a new vehicle there is a 180% excise tax and they exempt electric vehicles. That’s why there is such a huge market in the Nordic countries, particularly Denmark. We will start delivering those cars to Denmark the beginning of next year. So a Chinese company brought from China to the United States is now made by American workers and shipped overseas,” said McAuliffe.
McAuliffe warned that America cannot become a service economy and that we need to boost our manufacturing sector and lead the world in manufacturing, pointing out that China is going to invest 10 billion dollars to manufacture 10 million electric cars and we cannot allow them to out-compete us in the electric vehicle industry.
So Virginia, I know you are worried about losing residents to the progressive state across the Potomac with the Democratic governor committed to clean energy jobs and growing the green economy (read about Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s offshore wind power push). And I’m sure O’Malley would welcome Virginia taxpayers with open arms. But maybe, just maybe bold visionary leaders like Terry McAuliffe can turn Virginia blue again and move the state and the country towards a green future.
“We’ve got to move forward in America and we’re going to do it with renewable energy,” said McAuliffe.