Letter to the Editor: Energy answer: Less demand, more local, no NIMBY
As Jedi Master Yoda famously said, “Do or do not, there is no try.” Vermont would be well served to heed his words as it considers implementation of S.51, the bill to support Vermont’s goal of 90 percent renewable energy by year 2050. In the best of circumstances this is an ambitious goal and in the present bureaucratic mindset it is absolutely unattainable due to the current labyrinthine and anachronistic permitting and licensing process.
The appropriate management of any situation needs to align with the acuity of the situation. Anyone who has been whisked off to emergency surgery from the Emergency Room is well aware acting quickly and thoughtfully are not mutually exclusive. Vermont has the knowledge and the power to attain responsible power generation, it just needs to get past the timidity of actually using them. Indecision actually is a decision that reverts to the status quo. The status quo is looking worse and worse and while Rome burns America’s incarnation of Nero is foolishly chasing clean coal as a solution while no such things exists.
Vermont has tirelessly catalogued its resources in great detail, the trick is going to be making the true decision to bring those resources that are deemed legitimate online in a timely and efficient fashion. Common sense cannot be legislated.
To take a genuine full swing at 90 by 2050 Vermont has no choice but to do the following.
First, decrease demand by increasing efficiency. The less we use the more we save and the less we need. Making 90 percent of a smaller number is by far the easiest goal to attain. The easiest electron is the one never used.
Second, decrease transmission distances as transmission loss can lead to squandering of up to half of the energy produced via the transmission lines. Local production and local consumption would negate transmission loss and increase vastly the efficiency of the distribution of power decreasing the need for as much generation given Vermont’s modest resources. Making electricity locally could cut in half the amount of generation.
Third, the catalogued sources of generation should be reviewed and prioritized based on positive impact as well as likelihood of being brought online. A hierarchy needs to be created and a genuine and substantive effort made to facilitate bringing these sites online as quickly as is reasonable. The current standard of years of endless vetting for the sake of doing so and mulling simply are no longer in line with the danger of the reality we are facing. Are we going to do this now or after it is too late?
Lastly, NIMBYism has to go. Earth is one big vessel upon which we all are passengers. As such, every back yard is your own back yard as demonstrated by the apocalyptic disaster of Fukushima, Japan, which is now threatening the entire west coast of America with radioactivity that will last for hundreds of years. There will always be reasons to protest and argue, however that era has passed, time is running out for real this time, and realistic resources are limited.
Vermonters dealt with an out-of-touch federal government years ago with the rural electrification plan which was too slow to fit Vermont’s needs. Vermont took it upon itself to take on the task alone and quickly developed its own array of power generation that remains vital to our economy to this day. S.51 will be a litmus test of if the same response to rural electrification back in the 1800s will be resurrected in the 2000s. Vermonters back then made a hard deadline for themselves, rolled up their sleeves and got it done because they had to. That same attitude is embodied in S.51 and it has to be resurrected in earnest and materially if we are to truly move forward with a responsible energy plan and hope to have any chance of 90 by 2050.
Anders Holm MD
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