Frank Ruff Jr.: Understanding science and pressure science

Published 12:30 pm Friday, March 10, 2023

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Frank RuffI have written in the past that things would go much better in the General Assembly if every member understood economics. That is also true with science. It amazes me that so many members either do not understand how science works, or they are willing to simply ignore science to cater to special interest groups.

A perfect example of this is that the majority in the Senate have done everything possible to end the use of any carbon-based fuels. In this case, I will ignore the issues surrounding coal and natural gas and, rather, focus on wood products. The ‘green’ energy advocates have done everything to close down any commercial power plants. They have been successful in all but two plants, one in Southwest Virginia and another in Halifax that is owned by Northern Virginia Electric Co-Op.

The science involved is as follows. A tree will absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. The carbon remains in the wood. When the tree is harvested for lumber, there is much that is unusable. In a perfect world, much of these byproducts could be used for fuel. However, if it must be transported too far, there is no economic value. Therefore, the closing of the Hurt plant operated by Dominion was not only the loss of a business and the jobs it provided but also left the waste of harvesting on the land.

What is missed by too many is that once a tree is down, if it is not used for commercial purposes, it will lay in the open and rot. As it rots, it will release that carbon in the form of methane gas. These same people believe that if we don’t burn it in power plants, they have accomplished something. Where they are wrong is that modern power plants have very effective scrubbers that capture most of the residue. Left in the forest, 100% of the carbon is released into our atmosphere. If these folks understood science, they might make wiser decisions.


Many are relieved that the General Assembly reached a compromise ‘skinny’ budget to address some very important fiscal issues. Our school systems are relieved that they will not have to cut programs before the end of the year. Contractors are relieved they won’t have to shut down construction projects that are currently under construction but have been caught up in spiraling inflation. The national rating companies won’t downgrade Virginia’s AAA rating because of concerns about gridlock in the General Assembly.

On the other hand, that action reduces the pressure needed for a timely budget to be agreed upon. Without that pressure, the budget conferees have little pressure to complete their business. Last year, there were headlines talking about the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee going fishing for a week and others doing this and that.

In most situations, deadlines and pressure are good. It keeps everyone’s nose to the grindstone. Imagine if all 140 legislators were required to stay in Richmond with 125 of us doing nothing. There would be extreme pressure to come up with a budget. At this point, the only urgency will come when school systems, colleges, and local governments want to know how to prepare for their fiscal year beginning July 1.

The question is not where we will end up but when we will. There will be give and take, neither side will get everything they want. With a $3.6 billion surplus, there will be something for everyone. There will be some tax relief. There will be more for our schools and law enforcement. There will be more to address mental health issues and other important issues.


As expected, several Senators have decided to retire. Many are the most senior members that chose to delay their retirement announcements until the end of session or after it ended. Some have yet to announce. Several others are not coming back for various reasons – Jill Vogel for time for family and her law practice, John Bell for health reasons. Both are good people and effective legislators from both parties.

Others will announce to avoid primaries or will lose in their party’s primary. I fully expect a 40% turnover in the Senate. The House turnover will be similar. The loss of this many members will be a shock to the system.

Frank Ruff Jr. represents Lunenburg in the state Senate. His email address is