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New book by Middlebury author backs community energy sources

MIDDLEBURY — For those who question how they could possibly contribute to the reversal of America’s dependency on nonrenewable, finite energy sources, Middlebury resident Greg Pahl’s latest book “Power from the People: a Community Resilience Guide” gives an optimistic answer.
With a foreword by noteworthy environmental justice leader Van Jones and a glowing review from Ripton’s Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, Pahl’s “community resilience guide” not only makes the case that local energy projects are a viable way to transition to a more sustainable energy economy, it proves its point with case studies from across the country and culminates in a call to action.
In the midst of a national panic about high gasoline prices and an election year where both presidential candidates support more extraction of nonrenewable resources, the book offers clarity and pragmatism designed to appeal to environmentally minded readers. It breaks down the energy battle into something manageable, offering household suggestions for individuals and groups looking to organize.
“I think all strategies that work toward an increased use of renewable tech are worthwhile,” Pahl said. “But the key issue I’m promoting is the advantage of local community efforts.”
Pahl made the case for community-based energy projects saying they create more jobs and opportunities, foster greater energy security and price stability, get community members involved in their own energy solutions, and retain money in local economies.
“There’s a multiplier effect,” he said. “Local energy dollars keep getting re-spent locally, rather than getting siphoned off out of county and out of state.”
Pahl draws from his own experience with the Middlebury-based Acorn Renewable Energy Co-op, where he is on the board of directors. Acorn offers solar power and wood pellet heating resources to its members.
Pahl admitted that Addison County, which has the kind of local diversified economy that makes transitioning away from centralized power a whole lot easier, is already “several steps ahead.”
“But the ‘journey of a thousand miles saying’ applies to all of these projects,” he said. “It is equally possible almost anywhere.”
Pahl also noted that when he wrote his previous book, “The Citizen Powered Energy Handbook,” he drew from many case studies in Europe. This time around, he found that there were “many more of these types of projects (in the United States). There has been a lot of advance in the last five or six years. A lot more people are aware and noticing examples that they can see and emulate.”
Pahl found that, across the board, one factor was apparent in every successful project:
“A small group with committed local citizens, who acted as cheerleaders and project champions from the very beginning and never gave up until the project succeeded.”
Greg Pahl will give a talk on local energy production at Ilsley Public Library next Wednesday, Sept. 26, at 7 p.m.

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