So why did Berkshire Hathaway buy Dominion Energy's natural gas assets in 2020, just as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was shut down and the natural gas industry was on the rocks? It made no sense at the time, but like a miracle, natural gas demand and prices are now soaring all over the world. At the same time, Russia's latest gas pipeline to Europe (Nord Stream 2) is being strangled by U.S. sanctions. Meanwhile, the Appalachian Basin is now leading U.S. natural gas production. It’s almost like someone at Berkshire Hathaway knew what was about to happen.
But there is a problem. How does the 214 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in the Appalachian Basin make its way to an international seaport like Norfolk, Virginia, so a small band of scrappy billionaires can become trillionaires? First, they need a state that has no limits on political contributions and no independent ethical oversight. Next, they need a governor who can push through pipelines whether people want them or not. As a bonus, it would be awesome if the local electric utility is allowed to operate as a monopoly so they can use ratepayer money to pay for the whole thing.
By a huge coincidence, Terry McAuliffe's biggest, long-time donor, Philip Munger, is the son of Berkshire Hathaway’s vice-chairman (and billionaire investor), Charles Munger. Problem solved. In fact, when McAuliffe was governor last time, he was so into pipelines he held secret meetings for 18 months to negotiate a $58 million liability waiver agreement with Dominion and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. What a pal.
But won’t the tree huggers stop this? Maybe, but I would expect a big announcement about "new clean fracking methods and new methane capture” along with new EPA restrictions that match those methods. I would also expect to hear from energy and national security experts telling us that Russia and China will take over the world unless we crack open the Appalachian Basin and build more pipelines so we can sell to Europe.
It’s all a big scam because utility-scale wind, solar, and storage would be less expensive and would create many more jobs. The bottom line, however, is it is much easier to rake profits off of a product like natural gas than from wind, solar, and storage. There is also the small matter that clean energy would not cause catastrophic climate change that kills all life on earth. So we are stuck in this billionaire murder-suicide pact unless we all make sure Terry McAuliffe or any other status quo Democrat does not get the nomination in the Virginia primary for governor on June 8th.
NOTE: Berkshire Hathaway is the third largest fossil-fuel fund in the world