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Innovative Policymaking Supports Renewable Energy in North Carolina

John Skvarla, Tea Party ‘expert’ and newly-appointed Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources under Republican Governor-elect John McCrory, is widely expected to make things more friendly for the energy industry activity in the state.

In a
recent interview, Skvarla acknowledged that “North Carolina has a law that requires power companies to buy a certain portion of their power from renewable sources.” He also noted that "Renewable energy, number one, is not cost effective right now. It requires subsidy."

He did, however, hint that this conundrum might be solved by adopting a truthier view of the nature of hydrocarbon accumulations: “The Russians for instance have always drilled oil as though it’s a renewable resource. And so far they haven’t been proven wrong.”

Well, it might be true that
Russia last year overtook Saudi Arabia as the world’s biggest oil producer, but crusty old geologists like ourselves would suggest that this has rather more to do with old Soviet fields being redeveloped – and some new ones being discovered – than with new oil being generated by magic beneath them.

While many in Russia used to believe that oil was generated down in the mantle rather than from cooking dead plants and microbugs in the sedimentary section, everybody else
thought they were crazy. Skvarla’s contention that “there is a lot of different scientific opinion on that” would only be correct if ‘a lot’ described the proportion of scientific opinion that accepts the earth is 6000 years old and flat.

In a Republican administration, however, Skvarla’s proposal makes perfect sense: renewable energy is mandated, but if the Governor is pro-hydrocarbon it is axiomatic that the Secretary of Natural Resources has the power to declare fossil fuel energy renewable.

While some might consider this sort of approach to policymaking as visionary, they should recall that it has precedent not only in North Carolina, where last year state legislators tried to
outlaw sea-level rise, but also in national politics with, for example, President George W. Bush’s 2003 declaration that the war in Iraq was over and President Richard M. Nixon’s assurance that he was “not a crook.”

Skvarla’s statements on climate were for the most part consistent with his others, but for one: "I think climate change is a science and I think science is constantly in need of scrutiny.”

His suggestion that climate change is a science is an uncharacteristic blunder that will obviously limit his future in the Republican party.