9th District Democrat Anthony Flaccavento, a farmer and sustainability consultant challenging freshman Congressman Morgan Griffith, traveled to Radford this afternoon to tour ACME Panels.
ACME Panels manufactures energy-efficient building materials. Co-owner Joe Fortier said that homes built with his company’s panels — which look like thick Styrofoam wedged between panels of plywood — are 50 percent more efficient when it comes to heating or cooling than a stick-built house. Fortier claims the typical household will save $700 a year in utility costs — he says that number will go up if “this country accepts that global warming is real and decides to do something about it” and energy costs rise in response.
The tour fit into Flaccavento’s argument that efficiency and conservation is a key part of the equation in replacing fossil fuels over the long term. If you reduce the amount of energy required to heat or cool homes, Flaccavento said, then “renewables become a plausible source of energy to the degree that we get the same amount of heating from a smaller amount of input.”
Flaccavento dismissed Solyndra, a solar company that received a $527 million federal loan before going bankrupt, saying that “you can find horror stories” in any industry.
And he dismissed questions about what the Republicans have termed a “war on coal,” arguing that many of the regulations targeted by the GOP originated under President George W. Bush. He said the Environmental Protection Agency under the Bush administration relaxed those regulations, but that the coal industry still lost roughly 20 percent of the jobs in mines during that time due to mechanization and market forces. But Flaccavento said the “war on coal” has been “an amazingly effective term” that’s “worked well for the industry and the right wing of the Republican Party.”
Flaccavento received the endorsement of the United Mine Workers of America earlier this year, but Griffith has been a vocal proponent of the coal industry, as well as an outspoken critic of the EPA, particularly under President Obama, since he successfully defeated longtime incumbent Rick Boucher in 2010.
– Mason Adams