Who speaks for renewables?

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.

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6 thoughts on “Who speaks for renewables?

  1. gregdennis

    Apparently you haven’t been following 350 Vermont (350VT.org) and Rising Tide. Both groups have been outspoken about their support for renewables in Vermont. As has the Vermont Sierra Club through Robb Kidd and others. I’m a 35-Vt.org volunteer and regularly speak with my elected reps about renewables and fossil fuel divestment.

    Reply
  2. Cc

    Isn’t a big issue that a lot of the solar projects are not only not benefitting the communities they are put into, but also that most of that energy is shipped to Massachusetts?

    Reply
    1. John S. Walters Post author

      Sometime I’ll address the concerns about selling REC’s. It’s a bogus issue unless a vendor is making false representations to customers. In which case it’s a sales ethics problem, not inherent to renewable energy.

      For now, a couple of points.

      1. All electricity goes out into the grid as soon as it’s produced, and is used immediately. There is no way to ensure that you are consuming power from a nearby solar or wind farm, unless you and the power source are both off the grid.

      2. The selling of RECs helps offset the cost of renewable installations, making it much easier to make them financially viable and helping keep our prices down. Opponents of renewables try to make hay about the fact that “we don’t get credit for the renewable energy,” which is true, but for me that’s a side issue. The most important thing is that we are building renewables and helping foster a new, low-carbon energy infrastructure. Even if we don’t get the “credit,” we’ve still produced energy, and that means we don’t have to burn as many fossil fuels.

      Reply
  3. walter moses

    To quote Buffalo Springfield, “there’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear”.

    The question was asked, “are you in favor of renewable energy like wind and solar?” 95% answer yes. There is a huge majority.

    Now ask the same question with some caveats that Vermonters are stuck with.
    1. Carved out and blasted mountain tops.
    2. Roughshod riding over local planning and zoning.
    3. A governor that says,”if towns don’t want it I won’t support it”. Lying in his teeth.
    4. A PSB that ignores the health of individuals that live with monster wind.
    5. Government subsidies that make the whole thing possible for both solar and big wind.
    6. The likes of Klein, Shumlin, Powell, Burns, Rechia, and Blittersdorf telling you what’s good
    for you.
    7. Local legislators that ignore you when asked questions about any of the above. Totally
    unresponsive.
    No legislator from my district in Bennington County has ever answered one
    of my emails. Campion, a senator, lives 2-3 miles from my farm. He must be a very busy
    man.
    Now the voters have had enough. The backlash is well underway.
    John, you need to get out more, away from that insanity in Montpelier.

    Reply
  4. newzjunqie

    Not concerned, personally don’t expect them to get anywhere. But they now have a brand-spanking new cause celebre-criminal charges (which she attempted to deny) for glory-seeker & so-called environmentalist, whose primary duties are making videos of proceedings then carpet-bombing any website who will let her with them, Annette Smith.

    Fanclub who dutifully does her bidding madder than hell and not going to take it!!!

    Reply

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