Congressman Peter Welch wants your ideas on how to tackle climate change through
legislation. As a new member of the
House Committee on Energy and Commerce, he’s tasked with helping craft
legislation. Committee Chair Henry
Waxman has said he wants significant legislation to move out of the committee
by Memorial Day. Welch is hosting a Vermont
roundtable discussion with Vermonters representing a diverse set of viewpoints
on this subject, and he’s hoping to take those ideas back with him to Washington.
Congressman Welch joins us in the studio
to discuss those ideas, and to hear from you.
Also, VPR political reporter Bob Kinzel joins us to discuss what’s coming up this week for the legislature as lawmakers continue to tackle budget issues.
And VPR’s Susan Keese takes us to Brattleboro’s
‘Overflow Shelter.’ With the local homeless shelter always full to
capacity these days, this church basement opens up on winter nights to provide
a place to sleep and a hot meal for people with nowhere else to go.
Emails from listeners–
Andrew in Montpelier–
What about raising gas taxes? My daughter lives in England which, like
almost all other developed economies, has much higher motor fuel taxes
than we do and which, not surprisingly, has much more fuel-efficient
vehicles on its roads and more use of public transportation. We should
start raising gas taxes by 4 or 5% each year both to encourage more
efficient transportation and to help develop better infrastructure.
Dean in Burlington–
As a company pursuing the emerging renewable technology originally created in the US, of kinetic hydropower(tidal, river, ocean currents) that has just hired another VT engineer, we need renewed US support for R&D, both in the DOE program and in the stilmulus bill. Especially now with capital markets dried up.
Patti in Burlington–
Can funding or more
funding be made available in the form of grants or low income loans for
individuals to install solar technology and wind power to residences.
We live in Burlington and would welcome help in this direction.
Also, could the
federal government give direction to training plumbers to install solar
and direct the consumer to those who are licensed to do such work.
Likewise, with those technologies and technicians capable of harnessing
wind for residential use.
Timothy in Fairlee-
The most effective means for Vermonters to reduce our use of fossil
fuel energy is to reduce our debt burden. If the USA debt were transfered from Federal Reserve currency to a USA government currency, then there would be the elimination of the debt to European bankers and their interest rates. Without this enormous drain on our finances, we would not have to produce nearly so much to be a healthy economy. We would greatly benefit our economy while reducing the amount of effort needed to pay the debt. We would use much less energy.
Email from Rob–
The current energy production model, whether traditional or green, very
large scale production selling energy to small the consumer. We have
the technology now to affordably put the actual sustainable energy production,
whether it comes from wind, solar, or even non-invasive hydro power,
into each and every home in Vermont and the united states.
being able to power itself and then feed back into the grid to offer
power to others. Now the model shifts from the
traditional top-down/master slave megawatt model to that of a honeycomb
wherein millions of homes each provide small amounts of electricity to
a greater whole.
In a state like Vermont
where there is much concern about the impact of large scale wind and
solar farms, this would be very beneficial because the
production apparatus would be smaller and diffused over a much larger
area. For the homeowner, there would be little if no electrical bill.
They would simply have to pay a grid maintenance fee to the existing
Email from Cameron–
Simple physics tells us that it takes more energy to move more weight. The efficient light vans and trucks sold in the third world don’t meet our crash test standards which require complex and heavy equipment.
Might it be time to roll back some of this well intentioned, yet paternalistic, legislation?
Pat in Tunbridge–
Has there been any discussion on hydro-electricity? Many vermonter
have streams on their property, that run all the time. A government program
might subsidise home owneres to get set up with hydro plants.
Jon in Royalton–
The only way to cut gas consumption is raise the price. We saw this
when gas was $4/gal, people drove less and drove slower. We should
not be paying less than $2.
Bruce in South Burlington–
It is NOT difficult to get
people to slow down, simply ENFORCE the speed limit. People may not be
HAPPY about driving 55 but if they were pretty sure they would get a
ticket for exceeding the limit, they WILL slow down.
Jacob in Burlington–
I think that it would make scene to require that all land used for
strip mining coal be turned into wind or solar farms after. To slow
carbon emissions it could also be required that the strip mining
industries make wind on farms on all the finished strip mines before
being able to make new digs.
Alex in Brattleboro–
The solar tax credits in the 1970s and ’80s were based on cost
(40% tax credit on the cost of a solar water heater, for example), and
this led to fraudulant practices by companies that were selling tax
credits first, and solar energy systems second. I believe the same
mistake is being made with tax credits in the Stimulus Package. Any
new tax credits for renewable energy or energy conservation
improvements should be based on performance not cost. This is
how the production tax credits work for wind. The same approach can
and should be done with residential energy improvements.
John in Chester–
NASA’s Jim Hansen sounded the alarm in 2007. We have too much CO@ in
the atmosphere & must reduce levels from 385 ppm to 350 ppm by 2010 or we rich having the warming of the earth go out of control. Congress should require the phase out of a coal use & require everyone who uses fossil fuels to pay for it.
Mike in Burlington–
Big power companies want incentives to pave the way for new
distribution grids. For example, San Diego Gas & Electric wants a new line
heading east for green power. Yet they won’t support any restrictions that the
lines actually carry green power–it’s really a back door way to get more
Efficiency is 100% local, and it should be the TOP priority.
Renewables are fine, but after after efficiency. And if we look at rooftop
solar PV and solar thermal, massive grid infrastructure isn’t necessary–the
generation itself is distributed!
Email from John–
First, please take the time to consider all the benefits that could be derived from immediately raising the National Gasoline Tax by $.50/ gallon. People found ways to cope when the prices went above $4.00/gallon. We can raise needed funds for road repairs and discourage overuse of gas guzzlers. If the taxes don’t raise the prices the oil companies will. Do it now!
Second, look at the benefits that can be gained from medium-sized gassifiers directly burning wood chips. A great example of this technology is the new Biomass Energy Plant at Middlebury College. This offers a tremendous reduction in the Carbon Footprint because Biomass is already in the naturally occurring carbon cycle.
Jesse in Waitsfield–
Community scale wind energy projects (under 5 MW) have the potential to be a much larger contributor to the national energy supply and green economy than they currently are.
In order to be viable, these smaller projects need special incentives that
are different than the traditional federal support of wind energy. The
current federal wind incentives (Production Tax Incentive) requires the
involvement of huge corporations with a large tax liability. Even the
currently proposed changes in the PTC (i.e. allowing the ITC to be claimed
instead) do not provide enough support to get community scale projects
through the many financial challenges that come with wind projects of this
size. Community scale wind projects need incentives that are based on the
successful policy in Gemany: Feed-In Tarriffs. This would mandate the
value of the wind generated energy (e.g Wholesale Rate + 10 cents/kWh),
allowing for co-ops and entrepreneurs to invest in these local, small scale
projects with a predictable return. The Feed In Tarriff is not an new
idea – it is proven policy in Germany and many other European countries.
Summary of the benefits of a Federal Feed In Tarriff for Community Scale
Wind (Less than 5 MW):
1. Production Based (unlike grants) which means that the most economically
viable projects will be developed first, and that these projects will be
2. Not a Tax Credit: this levels the playing field for smaller and medium
size local investors, municipalities, co-ops, non-taxable entities, etc.
3. Community Wind is Distributed Generation: Allows for generation to be
added closer to the load without transmission upgrade requirements.,
4. Community Scale Projects have Lower Enviromental Impact – Place like
Vemont should be developed using European size wind farms (1-20MW) as
opposed to the Texas Size wind farms of 100-300MW.
5. Community Wind is Local: Main Street should have the ability to invest
in wind energy projects – not just big taxable corporations.
John in Essex–
White roofs, walls, cars, trains and trucks to reflect soar gain back into
space to compensate for glacier and sea ice losses.
Jeremy in Danville-
Most incentives seem to be directed to corporations that
produce electricity. I would like to see more incentives for
individuals/families who would like to use solar or wind including net metering
with accounts that last longer then 1 year. The incentives need to include
people who take the initiative to reduce or eliminate their own carbon
footprints. Think of it as a grass roots effort.
Anne in Waitsfield–
I would like Congressman Welch to bring the message to Washington that
we need more and better public transportation in order to combat climate
change. Moving us out of our cars will reduce greenhouse gases, dependence on fossil fuels, and wear and tear on roads and bridges. It will also enable the poor, elderly, and the young greater mobility, which is important for employment and quality of life. Here in Vermont we need improved rail access to Montreal, NYC, and Boston, as well as daily commuting options, not only between Burlington and Montpelier but via smaller buses from places like the Mad River Valley to Montpelier. Small park and ride lots could be established in cooperation with local businesses, schools, and community offices in most towns.
Bill in North Bennington–
Advice for Rep. Peter Welsh on Climate Change: It is likely that low fossil fuel prices, the result in of world recession, will weaken our resolve to burn less. The cheap political gimmick is to keep price low and give out money to encourage us to use less. This has been tried, with insignificant effect, over 30 years. A year of very high energy did far more than 30 years of rebates and hot air. The correct answer, 50 times more effective, is MAKE FOSSIL FUEL EXPENSIVE BY TAXING IT VERY SERIOUSLY. This will help us balance
our national books too, which has to be done fairly soon or the US could
default. High energy cost means hard but intelligent choices that HAVE to be
made and will be made. Example: grandma lives alone in the ol’ farmhouse and burns 2000 gallons of oil every winter. She can’t keep doing that if oil costs $5 a gallon. Sorry. She can sell the place. She can insulate the crap out of it. She can live there in a snowmobile suit. It’s up to her. But she can’t keep burning 2000 gallons a year. I love her but that’s the cruel truth.
Dee in Sharon–
I feel it is imperative that legislation directly addresses climate change. As individuals, we can do many things to reduce our personal carbon footprint – we can change lightbulbs, drive hybrids, recycle and buy local. But as individuals, we cannot make big changes like regulating emissions from coal fired power plants, or changing mileage standards for automobiles. Climate scientists agree that only gigantic, sweeping reductions in carbon emissions will give humanity even a chance at a climate conductive to life as we know it. Please, Representative Welch, as a mother of two beautiful children, I am urging you to do all in your power to enact the swiftest, most comprehensive carbon reduction legislation possible, and to enact legislation to dramatically increase incentives for renewable energy for both businesses and households.
Chris in Middlebury–
First, do no harm. Do not allow permits for any energy sources that create more CO2 per unit of energy than burning coal. That would mean oil shale, tar sands, etc. Strip mining vast amounts of land, using energy to "cook" the oil out of the crushed rock, and using up scarce water to do it seems totally nuts. This is not the way to go. The Western states where these deposits are located want to develop them. But those areas are also perfectly suited to solar thermal power plants and wind turbines, and that’s where the effort should be made.
Steve in Craftsbury Common–
Please deliver to your colleagues on the Hill–especially
Representative Waxman–the importance of including including adequate
resources for helping fish and wildlife populations survive the
inevitable changes we see on the horizon. These populations will be the
first to experience the threats of climate change and if we are to
protect the character of "real" Vermont, we need to start with these
resources, important elements in our social, cultural and economic
Graham in Hinesburg–
1. Tax bads, not goods – and tax them heavily. Paying a lot for things
that hurt the environment and produce climate change is the most
efficient way to change people’s habits.
2. Create communal property rights on natural resources. When
privately owned, natural resources tend to be exploited because the
goal is profit. If controlled by the community (Vermont Commonwealth),
resources are measured properly and sustained because other uses are
realized, besides just raw materials (i.e. waste absorption capacity,
riparian buffers, wetlands, biodiversity, etc.).
3. Appropriate government subsidies – target money towards
farmers, companies, and industries that are helping, not hurting.
Corporate farms that overload their fields with pesticides and
fertilizers only damage the environment, ruin their soils, and send
chemicals down rivers and into lakes and oceans creating huge dead
zones. Take the subsidies away from them and help out family farms who
are practicing sustainable farming techniques. Give the money to solar
and wind industries who are creating clean energy, not coal and gas
companies who exploit natural resources for their own gain. Give the
money to companies that treat and pay their workers fairly – not those
who are only interested in profit.
Simply, enact legislation and allocate resources to things that
truly help Americans and make us happy. Don’t just sell out in the
pursuit of ever increasing economic growth (which is impossible anyway,
so I don’t know why we keep striving for it).
Email from Kate–
1. 79 cents per kilowatt hour…that’s what the German government pays its citizens for privately generated solar power. The response to the German program was so great that, for a time, we couldn’t purchase solar panels in the USA.
2. Hoover Dam? What about large scale wind and solar public works projects, including required modifications to the power distribution network?
3. Fund public transportation. It should be free, or at least cost less than driving. Increase the gas tax.
4. Restore the rail system, get the trucks off the road. Increase the gas tax.
5. Tax credits for purchasing electric and hybrid vehicles.
6. Support locally grown foods. At least tax foods imported from outside the USA. Provide tax credits for farmers who sell food products within a 50 or 100 mile radii of their farms.
7. Tax credits for farmers who use animal power for plowing, etc.
8. Public schools: mandate climate change education in public school curriculae. School children from every other industrialized country in the world know about climate change.
9. Public school teachers: mandate climate change education for all of them.
10. End the property taxes on productive farms. Make it affordable to farm near urban areas.
Kate and Leon in Plainfield–
Even if we DO move to higher efficiency cars (and we MUST), there will still be
millions of gas guzzlers on the road for years to come. A federally mandated
lower speed limit would be the easiest, cheapest way to enhance fuel efficiency for the whole fleet.
Some time ago, Vermont’s Interstates had signs that read, "55 Saves
Lives." Those signs were intended for the stated reason and as a fuel-saving
measure. Our recollection is that Vermont reluctantly changed the speed limit from 55 to 65 as a direct result of pressure from the federal government (if you want federal money, you have to increase the speed limit.)
Peter, we realize it would be difficult to get people to change their habits,
but it is a matter of safety and a matter of climate change. We suggest that
Congress enact legislation that would change the speed limit in two steps,
first to 60, to help people adjust, and then to 55 a year later. The
legislation should include reductions in federal highway funding if there is
failure to enforce.
Email from teacher Anne Bergeron at Blue Mountain Union School in Wells River–
We are a Humanities class
of ten students at the Blue Mountain Union School in Wells River,
Vermont. Currently,we are studying ways to promote sustainability and
would like to communicate some of our ideas for legislation to
Congressman Welch. In a brainstorming discussion this morning, this is
what we came up with:
Increasing the m.p.g. of all new cars as soon as possible to 45-50 m.p.g.
Make the production and sale of hybrid cars more affordable to lower and middle income people
Pursue the tenets of the Kyoto Protocol and have the U.S. sign it
Establish better controls on burning permits to help counter the spread of wild fires
Continue government tax incentives for home installations of solar, wind, and hydro energy systems
Peter Pollak, President of Dynapower in South Burlington–
As a local business involved with renewable energy, it is not only imperative
to legislate climate change issues, but clarify that by so doing we will be
creating jobs. The methods should be outlined and have financial benefit for the owner and provider of such things as solar and in Vermont wind. As the current state administartion sees no reason to support wind farms for example we will be in short supply of energy within the next 5 years. The trickle down loss of manufacturing jobs will only add hardship to Vermont employees and employers.
The ultimate strategy is simple, make the cost for every kilowatt hour of
wind for exaple the same as that conventionally generated by coal, gas or
nuclear. If the federal government continues through production tax credits to support wind, it is a good first step. It should be followed with strong American content requirements. Please come to see our facility in South Burlington Vermont. 150 jobs depend on you our representatives to support the programs you have begun and follow them with keeping jobs in the United States and Vermont.
Jon in Johnson–
It goes without saying that
we need legislation to address climate change. Congress had a heavy
hand in supporting its causes, now it’s only common courtesy to help us
mitigate its effects.
So what should they do? The
most simple, non-contentious (and among the most effective) action is
to launch a massive energy and materials conservation education
campaign. We need to join together to change our greedy, negative
habits and Congress needs to let us know that it’s OK (while the fire
of change is still warm in Americans’ minds) and to teach us how to do
Further, conservation techniques need to be funded by Congress.
I’m not sure about the best
way to go about a complete overhaul of our energy infrastructure.
Mandatory caps on GHG emissions seems like it will work.
needs to be legislation to reward renewable energy projects and people
who use renewable energy. Just subsidize the hell out of it.
Also, we need to make sure
not to include nuclear power in the category of clean energy. It is
dangerous, non-renewable, and produces toxic wastes that remain harmful
for longer than most people can fathom.
First steps to get these
things done – Tell people how to conserve and why we need to, stop
funding non-renewable and GHG emitting energies, profess a view more in
line with reality (as opposed to assuming limitless growth, fiscal
expansion, and unlimited supply of resources), and begin heavily
subsidizing renewable energy research and installation.
Rob in Londonderry–
Emissions cap-and-trade programs will likely prove to be an administrative nightmare with very limited success in the long run. Wouldn’t it be more effective in the immediate future to set up an aggressive schedule of carbon taxes?
Ann in Putney–
Why is no one talking about a government-sponsored program to put a solar panel on every appropriate roof in the United States? Existing buildings– whether residential homes or commercial or business establishments–are already connected to the existing electrical grid. No on-site battery storage would be required. Neither would massive cross country transmission lines.
The electricity produced by these home-based solar panels would directly benefit the families and businesses which had them installed. These families and businesses could use the electricity they needed and sell any surplus to the owner of the local distribution lines. They could buy from electricity from the grid when they needed to. I believe this is already being done. I have also heard that here in the northeast, we have as much sunlight as Germany which produces a lot of solar energy.
Other local energy sources–for, instance, hydro-electric power in the Northeast–could be used as back-up.
I am not an expert, but I am very upset that many plans underway, including plans for massive new cross-county transmission lines, are geared to giving control of our green energy resources, not to mention control of our "public" land, to multinational corporations which, by law, have to be more concerned about their bottom line than the local community. Indeed, these corporations often have no affiliation with our country or the needs of our citizens.
Where I live: a Canadian company (Trans Canada) owns our hydro-electric dams; a British company (National Grid) controls our transmission lines; our "local" distribution company, Green Mountain Power, is owned by one stockholder, a French corporation, which also owns the Searsberg wind turbines on "National Forest" land. A Spanish-based multinational proposes to put up more wind turbines on the same "National Forest" land. These multinational corporations may sell to, or be taken over by, any other multinational corporation at any time. How does this bring our energy sources under U.S. control or improve our energy security? How would it improve our national security to have long, unattended transmission lines all over the country? (Not to mention the habitat destruction they would cause.)
Let’s go green, but stay local. I think it can be done. I think our small, New England solar panel businesses could gear up rapidly to respond to a large increase in demand. They would generate a lot jobs and hire local. (The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association in Greenfield, Massachusetts, knows a lot more about these small businesses and solar energy than I.) Thank you for considering these ideas from a non-expert.
Henry in Tunbridge–
We must get opinions and politics out of the determining
action on climate change and get consensus to do what science is telling us
that must be done, reduce CO2 levels from our current 385 parts per million to
350 parts per million where we are likely to be safe from major climate
I am not sure what will allow for this change in our
behavior but I think having a plan to get there would help in allowing people to
get behind the needed actions.
Some recommendations for moving the process forwared:
ever diminishing caps on emissions and allow for trading.
up a "supreme court" level of evaluative authority for determining what
qualifies for offsets.
the creativity of the people , as you are doing here.
us to become more energy efficient in our buildings and our
transportation. Eficiency VT building
audits for all, ride sharing on a massive scale, truly high speed broad band (A
fiber network) for all to then encourage working days form home, satellite
offices, distance learning communities, distance medical and elder
support. This will require a massive
community outreach and awareness program to be embraced.
some smart internet savvy communicators to foster the development of ideas and
then see that they are heard.
pilot projects using all levels of expertise and all sizes from micro to
sustainable energy solutions especially new science such as Hydrogen Boron Fusion
and zero point energy. Nine our to ten
of these projects should be expected to fail in order to get just a few that
realy work and are cost effective and truly sustainable, something the whole
word could make use of. (We wont fix
climate change with out having a solution for all and we might just as well be
the leaders and benefit for the jobs created)
Work towards including the real cost of a product in what we pay for
it. Our market place works well in
deciding human behavior but no products currently have the environmental costs,
nor the military costs of keeping supplies available, not the health costs of
the pollution form manufacturing and consuming those products and no "bank
deposit" is made as we exhaust our supplies of raw materials that also belong
to our grandchildren. Because of this we
buy things that seem cheap but some of them are realy very expensive. Until we move well down this track we will
not have good feedback to encourager behavior change and will continue to live unsustainably.
Marcy in South Burlington–
1. Climate change is an area where government’s role will determine
the kind of earth we leave to our children.
On an individual level, for everyone who is able to trade in the family van for
a Prius to try to improve their children’s current and future environment,
there are many other people who don’t even want to hear about the pollution
and climate change that’s occurring. Many of these good people are content
to, for example, regularly drive gas-guzzling vehicles for transportation,
convenience and/or recreation without any awareness of the effects their
choices are having in this country and abroad.
If we wait for this group (and many businesses) to gain awareness around this serious issue, it will be too late to lessen the suffering current and future
generations will experience. In addition to providing research funding and tax incentives, perhaps government policies and regulations need to cause some financial pain or inconvenience in order to give citizens the incentive to look at the problem, change their behavior, create sustainable ways to power our machines, and undertake meaningful nature conservation measures.
2. I highly recommend Thomas Friedman’s book Hot, Flat and Crowded for
anyone wanting to learn about the urgency of and potential solutions for
addressing climate change.
"The world has a problem: It is getting hot, flat, and crowded. That is,
global warming, the stunning rise of middle classes all over the world, and
rapid population growth have converged in a way that could make our planet
dangerously unstable. In particular, the convergence of hot, flat, and crowded is tightening energy supplies, intensifying the extinction of plants and animals, deepening energy poverty, strengthening petrodictatorship, and accelerating climate change." (HFC p. 5)
"If we want things to stay as they are…things will have to change around
here, and fast."(HFC p.7)
We need the public to recognize that there’s a problem and to become engaged.
Frederic in Hinesburg–
It is critically important to remove government subsidies as much as
practicable for the government/corporate favored, but environmentally
destructive industries of oil & gas, coal, nuclear, and most recently
*18 billion $ tax credit for oil and gas
*research for "clean coal"
*government guarantee of loans and insurance
liability indemnification for nuclear
* $.50/gal subsidy for corn-base ethanol
just to name a few of the obvious ones.
Additionally, the tax deductibility for use of fossil fuel based should be
phased out, as the tax structure itself creates an un-level playing field in the
As a veteran of the past energy crisis (’75-’85), I would caution against
energy credits to promote the use of conservation, solar, wind, and other
renewable energy industries. It was the experience that tax credits were a mixed
blessing at best, because:
1) as a "political football" the endless debate
over enhancing or eliminating credits created uncertainty and havoc within the
industry throughout the term credits were promoted;
2) it quickly became a tax credit business rather
than a solar business, as the majority of solar systems sold in the latter years
were poorly designed/built/installed solar systems, but were very effective as
tax shelters for the marketers and the sophisticated tax-payers. This resulted
in a black eye for the solar industry that lasted a generation;
3) it promoted the false impression amongst the
population that solar, wind, etc. was an unsustainable source of energy in
comparison to conventional, destructive sources, although the subsidy for the
renewables has always been dwarfed by the subsidies that were and are necessary
for the oil/gas, coal, nuclear, and ethanol industries. This is an illusion that
should be addressed head-on by skilled PR people. It is the truth.
A final suggestion, building codes should include and require the use of a
solar water heater or solar electric system in every new building in
geographical areas that have 60+% (or whatever number) possible sunshine.
By-pass the credits.
Jeff in Lancaster, NH–
Thank you for this voice.
Please recognize the destructiveness of poorly considered alternatives.
We are in a crisis that has been brewing for decades. Global climatic
shift is chronic not acute. Let’s not be rash.
I would like to express my personal opinion, and as an Environmental
Biologist, my scientific opinion against industrial wind farms in New
England. Claims of environmental benefits of wind energy are
exaggerated. Turbines have significant adverse environmental, scenic
and property value impacts. Claims of environmental benefits of wind
energy are exaggerated. We should resist mountaintop wind farm
development throughout New England.
The benefits of electricity from wind have been greatly overstated and
true environmental and economic costs have been greatly understated.
The public, media and government officials have been badly misled by
the wind industry, its lobbyists and other wind energy advocates. As a
result current federal, state, and now, county policies promoting
electricity from wind are flawed and detrimental to consumers,
taxpayers and the environment, therefore, are not in the public
Wind may become an important, albeit intermittent augmentation of our
national energy base. Turbans are appropriate in locations where
development would not conflict with; people’s homes and property
rights, recreational opportunities, traditional uses, research and
educational potentials, spiritual needs, and/or their general quality
of life, and where development will not destroy habitats, challenge
species, degrade ecological settings such as critical and/or fragile
wildlife habitats or unique communities.
Mountaintops are isolated cold region habitats surrounded by more
typical local habitat types. These isolated communities are called ‘sky
islands’. Many individuals and species depend on sky island refuges for
their existence. Creatures such as; northern bog lemming, transient
raptures, some neo-tropical birds, some rare bats, Canada Jay, Spruce
Grouse, Hoary Redpoll, crossbills, Northern Goshawk, Boreal Chickadee,
Bicknell’s Thrush, and Cape May Warbler are apt to reside or pass
through these high elevation habitats.
Sky islands in this ecotone have become more isolated as the local
northern boreal climate denigrates toward a southern type. Just as New
Hampshire and Vermont are unique in having Fish Crows and Raven, White
tail and Moose, Southern and Northern Bog Lemming, these boreal sky
islands have ecological communities who’s 11,000-year-old structure is
more endemic then its occupants. As these islands become more isolated
and reduced in size because of climatic shift, they become more unique,
more stressed, and more valuable. The old saw of 400feet in elevation
equating to 100miles of latitude applies in both directions. As
planting zone 5 slips north 100miles, so too does the mountaintop
boreal forest-habitat become more pinched onto the ridge tops.
The scheme to convert our region into a power generation center for
Boston and New York is criminal. To protect the high elevation sky
islands from the tortures of acid rain and global warming by a phony
alternative that in actuality destroys them is to except a Faustian
deal with the devil. Provide a strong voice to help stop this
misapplication of technology.
Rob in South Pomfret–
I am surprised that in all the discussion of global climate change,
geothermal energy gets so little attention. Beneath every square inch of the United States,
if you dig a deep enough hole, there is a virtually inexhaustible supply of
geothermal energy. Once you have the hole, the technology already exists to
convert the heat to electricity. In Iceland, where the geothermal
energy lies close to the surface, 93% of homes are heated with geothermal
energy, and one-third of the country’s total energy comes from the
ground. Geothermal energy produces no pollution, no carbon dioxide, no
radioactive waste. If the power plant is built correctly, nothing goes into
the hole but a recirculating heating fluid; nothing comes out of the hole but
heat. The only problem is getting a deep enough hole.
Geothermal energy would be secure and completely within our control.
No foreign nation could interrupt our supply or artificially inflate the cost
of energy. With unlimited electricity, the development of a hydrogen economy
and/or electric cars could furnish energy for transportation without petroleum.
We could, within a relatively short time, move to a petroleum-free,
nuclear-free energy economy. Why do we not?
The criticism most often cited against geothermal (and most renewable)
energy is that it is "not economically feasible" at present. Yet
we are spending 2 billion dollars each week in Iraq to protect our access to
petroleum. To put it in perspective, that is nearly $200,000 every minute, 24
hours a day, 365 days a year. Countless billions additionally are spent in
foreign aid to buy friends and influence in other petroleum-rich regions of the
world. This is not payment for the energy itself; just payment for the
privilege to pay $3 or $4 a gallon for gasoline. If all the real costs of
petroleum were included in the calculation, I believe no one would think
petroleum was "economically feasible". We could dig an awful lot
of holes for $2 billion a week. We should not just think of geothermal energy
in Hawaii or
near volcanoes. The heat is under Ohio, Minnesota, Texas, and Vermont as well. If we
can figure out how to send people 239,000 miles to the moon and back, we can
figure out how to dig a hole a few miles into the earth.
A wonderful side effect of moving to geothermal energy would be that
our foreign policy could once again reflect our values, not our addictions. We
could be a truly impartial broker of peace in the Middle
East. We could export geothermal technology to places like North Korea and Iran, so they could not use
"peaceful nuclear energy needs" to cloak military nuclear
As we enter in the 2008 political season, let’s find out where
every candidate stands on geothermal energy and nudge them toward a more secure
and sustainable future.