Opinion: Green  technology  not  yet  able  to  meet  all  demands

In a letter to the editor last week, environmental scholar and leader Bill McKibben showcased the progress Germany has made in moving from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources as a reason we should reject a natural gas pipeline in Addison County. The argument goes that investing in a fossil fuel infrastructure only makes us more reliant on fossil fuels, in this case natural gas.
He cites one day in Germany when the country generated 74 percent of its energy from renewables as the example we should strive for. Hear, hear. Except you can bet that day wasn’t in winter. Unfortunately, like many who oppose natural gas, he fails to distinguish generating electricity from generating heat.
In fact, Germany gets less than 8 percent of its heat from renewable sources (mostly biomass like burning wood products). The country has set a goal of 14 percent of its heat from renewables by 2020 — a far cry from the 74 percent one might infer is possible from Bill McKibben’s letter.
Solar, wind, biomass have made great strides in generating electricity, and much more should be done. But there are no advancements in technology on the horizon that will allow those technologies to heat, for example, Porter Hospital or Middlebury Union High School or even my 1850s house. Middlebury College, with its heavy investment in a biomass plant (burning wood chips) and its goal to be carbon neutral, still gets 50 percent of its heating out of sludge-like fuel oil.
That fact is, we burn fossil fuels in the northern climates or we die, economically and literally. Until someone can solve that, we are left with the unfortunate choice of which fossil fuel to burn. Natural gas has plenty of issues, to be sure, but it is the best available technology today — and for the foreseeable future — to stay warm and make at least a small dent in carbon dioxide output.
Peter Conlon, Cornwall

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