Sign, sign, everywhere a sign…
— 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Dubie emerges from five years of political hermitage to reveal himself as a vocal anti-wind advocate. He insists his stance has nothing to do with a proposed wind farm near his house, ahem.
— Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, the likely GOP gubernatorial candidate, doesn’t like ridgeline wind. He has described a road-to-Damascus moment when he was biking in rural Vermont, saw wind turbines on a ridgeline, and thought they looked ugly.
— Former Douglas Administration Ag Secretary Roger Allbee comes out of the weeds with an essay questioning whether wind and solar energy are in keeping with “Vermont’s environmental heritage,” which he describes in extremely rosy terms.
— Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning, a potential candidate for Lieutenant Governor, has expressed (on this very site) his opposition to any more large-scale renewable projects in the Northeast Kingdom.
— Then you’ve got VTGOP Chair David Sunderland, who has said “there’s science on both sides” of the climate change issue.
Taken together, that’s quite a few signs that the Vermont Republican Party will be running an anti-renewable campaign in 2016. Well, they’ll dress it up as favoring local control and taking “sensible” action (meaning little or none) while providing plenty of lip service about climate change.
This is one of the potential negative effects of a Phil Scott governorship: he would be a major obstacle to further progress on renewables.
It’d be a return to the salad says of Jim Douglas, who was a vocal opponent of wind energy. (Large-scale solar didn’t become an issue until after he left office.) And he outlined his notion of “clean energy” in a 2010 interview with VPR, in which he cited Hydro Quebec and Vermont Yankee as prime examples of his commitment to living green.
I’m sure that sounds just fine to some of my readers, but HQ and VY are not my idea of saving the planet. Myself, I want to see Vermont taking a leadership role in creating a close-to-home, sustainable power system. I don’t want a return to the Douglas days, when the Legislature was trying to push forward and the Governor was pushing back. (During the aughts, the state conducted study after study after study of every issue surrounding renewables, in the time-honored tradition of kicking the can down the road. Those studies make for an impressive rebuttal to anti-renewable arguments, but nobody pays much attention.)
The Republicans likely see renewables as a wedge issue, allowing them to peel off some environmental voters (the ones who worry more about solar and wind than about climate change) and pander to “Vermont values” and the small-town myths we hold so dear. It’s a good political tactic. It just won’t help us do our part to limit the damage we’re doing to the planet.
Phil Scott’s nascent candidacy is not much more than a cloud of warm fuzzes at this point; energy is one of many issues he hasn’t taken a stand on. But the way things are shaping up, I expect plenty of anti-renewable hype from the Republican campaign.