Meg Hansen’s op-ed column (“Bad policy begets worse: Repealing the GWSA is the solution,” June 8) about the Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act misleads readers overall and in key details.
In fact, renewable energy and energy saving technologies are ready to produce vastly MORE energy right now, displacing fossil fuels as they do so, even if eliminating ALL greenhouse gas emissions proves difficult. Indeed, they are already doing so. They are the fastest growing energy sources in America, displacing fossil fuels and nuclear. (https://bit.ly/3H3B0SF, https://bit.ly/3MAovz7).
They are also far cheaper and costs continue to decline steadily (https://bit.ly/3NyCwic).
Lastly, energy efficiency, unmentioned here, has always been the cheapest way to meet environmental AND energy needs.
Additionally, like Gov. Scott, Ms. Hansen’s complains about leaving detailed cost analysis to the Public Utilities Commission, completely ignoring the fact that all states have relied on regulatory boards and not elected officials to set electric rates since electricity was introduced.
The vetoed bill would have begun a decades-long process of transitioning towards a better, more economically productive future. This transition will inevitably be gradual, not abrupt, and while economic interests dependent on fossil fuels will clearly be harmed, others will benefit, just like when fossil fuels replaced earlier, less efficient sources of energy during the Industrial Revolution.
Some details (sentences in quotes are from the Hansen column):
1) “… sulfate aerosols released by burning coal and oil have exerted a cooling effect …,” but her link notes: “When the United States and other countries began to lower sulfur emissions in the 1970s to reduce acid rain and respiratory illnesses, the cooling ended abruptly.”
2) “… faulty computer models that have never accurately predicted any catastrophic occurrence,” but they have quite accurately predicted the rise in global temperatures. The crucial word here is “catastrophic,” which is never defined.
3) “Climate catastrophists assert that Earth will perish ….” No, the earth will remain. “Catastrophists” project the current trajectory into the future, predicting that human civilization in its current form will perish. The IPCC summary confirms the first point with high confidence and the resulting “heavy precipitation,” “agricultural and ecological droughts,” and “global mean sea level rise” with medium or higher confidence (https://bit.ly/3QcSQqA, p. 11).
4) “An energy grid is notoriously intractable.” Nonsense. The energy grid can and must respond minute by minute to the ever-changing demands of its customers, and to accidental outages and other problems caused by producers. Grid operators build reserves into the system in case the largest producer or transmission line suddenly fails. Otherwise, if Seabrook were to have an outage, New England would go dark. The likelihood of dozens of 2 MW solar projects simultaneously failing is far lower that that of one huge generator or transmission line going down.
“… abrupt and sweeping changes to large sectors … will make energy unreliable ...” No part of this statement is documented or accurate. It’s hard even to imagine a situation where thousands of customers decide to install heat pumps or purchase EVs on the same day, taking grid planners by surprise. This is empty rhetoric.
5) “Vermont legislators did not pay heed to the public backlash in the United Kingdom last year …,” because it’s totally irrelevant. The backlash concerned “a ban on sales of all new gas boilers” never contemplated here.
6) We are told to “Be honest about values,” right before we are misled. “Increased economic activity leads to greenhouse gas emissions ...” It has in the past. Now, lowering greenhouse gas emissions has increased economic activity in Vermont and created thousands of Vermont jobs (https://bit.ly/3xhmCSf). It’s quite likely that MORE Vermont economic activity is created by energy efficiency and in-state renewable generation than by burning imported fuels and consuming imported energy.
Hansen links to William Nordhaus, who says: “… nations must establish policies that raise the price of CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions,” (p.26) which summarizes the purpose of the bill Hansen is critiquing.
7) “Be honest about the pros and cons of energy sources,” she writes, but again we are misled. Annette Smith’s quoted statement doesn’t tell us WHY she needs propane, nor HOW MUCH she needs. If she has already displaced the need for MOST of the propane she otherwise would have burned, she’s already doing exactly what this bill is trying to achieve for everyone else.
Similarly, Hansen asserts that “Fossil fuel-powered technology has built resilient infrastructure.” But when an unexpected cold spell hit Texas last year, it was this very infrastructure (including at least one nuclear plant) that failed, although the governor blamed wind turbines (https://bit.ly/3xkuFh0).
8) “Fossil fuel-powered technology … has also minimized air, soil and water pollution.” I can only hope that’s a joke, although the many lives lost are not funny.
9) Nuclear power, which generated “just over 4% of global primary energy” in 2019 (https://bit.ly/3zsHJUq) is not “criminalized.” Indeed, billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars continue to subsidize it. While its energy share is shrinking and its costs inexorably rising, renewables are by far the fastest growing and constantly cheaper source.
The fact that most of the world’s energy is produced and has been produced by fossil fuels is no more predictive of the future than the fact that prior to 1700, NONE of it came from these sources. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.