Opinion: Using natural gas as a bridge fuel makes no sense

It’s wise to carefully consider how energy projects impact the land, air and water. Our lives and economy depend on a clean environment. Likewise, the health of our society depends on living cooperatively, respecting each other and creating local solutions to local challenges. Surrendering to corporate pressure and outsourcing our energy needs is detrimental to our democratic process and to the expansion of our local energy economy.
We need to work together and more directly on clean energy goals and understand that natural gas is not a bridge fuel. The double cost for each customer to convert to a gas burning system and thentolaterconvert to an actual clean energy system doesn’t make sense. The extraction and burning of natural gas for the next 50 years certainly doesn’t make sense with its high greenhouse gas emissions. And asking Vermont ratepayers to pay $158 million for the building of fracked gas infrastructure makes even less “cents.” The price tag has risen 78 percent in one year since Phase I of the Addison County pipeline project was approved and the entire cost will be passed on to Vermont ratepayers for the next 35 to 40 years.
Residents and businesses would be prudent to create their own plans for a direct transition to renewable energy and efficiency over the next decade. Many cities and rural areas around the world are adopting energy systems that free them from the negative aspects of dirty fuels. Clean energy and renewable technology is a fast growing industry and is becoming more affordable.
Conversely, oil and gas prices are becoming volatile. The industry is scrambling for expansion at the same time global pressure to curb carbon extraction and slow affects of climate change is rising. Natural gas prices are projected to rise over the coming years and the savings that were promised to Vermonters last year will be long gone. VGS is dependent on the TransCanada pipeline system, which is running into volume conflicts and Gaz Métro has said that rates to industrial clients could increase as much as 20 percent, lessening its advantage over fuel oil.
Renewable energy businesses are “growing up” at a time when human rights are more likely to be considered in policy and procedure. The fossil fuel industry “came of age” when corporations believed they had the right to dominate people and nature for profit. These giants continue to extract resources with little respect for the land and its inhabitants.
Communities of color, indigenous lands and lower-income areas have often been abused, contaminated and abandoned by Big Oil and Gas. Communities in Canada where Gaz Métro extracts natural gas for Vermonters through hydraulic fracturing are struggling to save their water, land and livelihoods. Here in Vermont residents have been treated poorly by the industry and are trying to protect their land and to voice their concerns in a corporate dominated atmosphere. Trust erodes and it takes time and effort to heal relations.
Our energy decisions need to be well informed for their human and environmental impacts. Making positive change is challenging for us all, but is necessary to build thriving communities. Committing to the goals of healthy habitat, locally driven economy, renewable energy systems, human rights and true democracy will enliven the conversations and guide the process for making these difficult changes. We need to dedicate ourselves to moving forward and trust our ability to do it well. Together we can create vibrant lives and widespread prosperity.
Sally Burrell

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