The anti- wind and -solar crowd had a big to-do at the Statehouse yesterday, wearing construction-type green vests and lugging all kinds of props as they pressed their case for the current iteration of anti-renewables legislation: a ban on ridgeline wind and “local control” over siting decisions.
This post is not about their arguments. This post is about the absence of response from those who supposedly favor renewable energy.
With the exception of VPIRG, our environmental groups have been curiously silent. On paper, they support renewables as part of a broad-based effort to combat climate change. But in practice, they stay off the battleground.
Disclaimer: I don’t have pipelines into their war rooms, and I don’t know the details of their lobbying efforts. I’m judging based on what I can see. And what I see is an extremely active anti-renewable movement and a distressingly quiescent response.
I’m talking VNRC, the Conservation Law Foundation, and the Sierra Club among others. They all pay lip service to renewables, but what do they actually do? Where is the pro-renewables gathering at the Statehouse?
These days, they’re spending a fair bit of time fighting the Vermont Gas pipeline. Which, okay, fine, you don’t want our state to be sullied by the presence of fracked gas. But hell, we get roughly half of our electricity from (out-of-state) natural gas-fueled power plants. Pipeline or no, Vermont is playing its part in maintaining a strong market for fracked gas.
Meanwhile, the best way to wean ourselves from fracked gas is the rollout of renewables. And while the antis continue to spew their propaganda, who is fighting back? Who is countering the fear tactics of the antis? In media coverage, reporters usually get response quotes from industry sources, not advocates. And nothing against Iberdrola or David Blittersdorf, but they’re not going to convince any skeptics.
A few years ago, the Sierra Club’s Canadian branch issued a thorough, well-documented report on the anti-wind movement, exposing its falsehoods and its ties to fossil fuel interests. Has anyone in the Vermont chapter read that report? Have they tried to publicize its findings?
Vermont could be at the forefront of an American renewables revolution. We’re off to a solid start after many years of careful study, deliberation, and research. But the loud voices of the opposition are threatening to derail our progress. And legislators, being people, tend to listen to the loudest voices.
If environmental groups have adopted a hyper-cautious approach, so have lawmakers who support renewables. They don’t argue back, they don’t make the case. These days, they are trying to mollify the antis by adding more transparency and local input to the regulatory process. The problem is, the antis cannot be mollified by anything short of a halt to renewable energy in Vermont.
Look, they began by targeting wind energy. Now they’ve trained their guns on solar. If there were any plans for new hydro, I’m sure they’d oppose that as well. Meanwhile, we are exporting our share of the environmental damage stemming from our energy consumption.
Focusing on the buildout of renewables is a short-term strategy that ignores the comprehensive damage already being done by climate change. Our environmental groups are surely aware of this. Their policy positions reflect that reality. But they’re not acting like it.
I welcome any response from these groups. Check this post later for comments below, and/or updates to this text.