Activist touts VY benefits

Posted

Thursday, January 11
BRATTLEBORO -- For the next three weeks, legislators will hold a series of hearings as part of their global climate change initiative.

They will be discussing various topics and listening to experts with various backgrounds.

Those experts include environmental eminence grise Amory Lovins, Middlebury College visiting scholar of environmental studies Bill McKibben and Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore.

"We think that Vermont is a real trendsetter," said Moore. "Vermont has the lowest carbon emissions in the country because of nuclear and hydro power."

Moore and his company Greenspirit were hired by the Vermont Energy Partnership. According to the partnership's Web site, it advocates for "sensible solutions that ensure Vermont has reliable, affordable, and clean energy, drawn from diverse sources and competitively priced, now and in the future."

The partnership lists more than 70 organizations and individuals as partners. They include the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp., Central Vermont Public Service, Efficiency Vermont, Entergy, Dart Everett, former Gov. Tom Salmon, IBM, the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association and the Vermont Grocers Association.

Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. has been retained in a consulting capacity.

"We are not lobbyists but rather strategists and communicators," wrote Moore, in an e-mail to the Reformer. "We believe that nuclear energy is a clean and safe choice for electricity production. That doesn't mean we won't have a conversation with an elected official but we do not work behind closed doors and we are transparent in our policies and our relationships."

Moore is a semi-controversial figure in his own right, moving from the radical fringes as a founding member of Greenpeace to a supporter of nuclear power, which he sees as a means of reducing greenhouse gases.

"I believed that nuclear energy was synonymous with nuclear holocaust," wrote Moore, in an essay explaining his conversion. "Thirty years on, my views have changed, and the rest of the environmental movement needs to update its views, too, because nuclear energy may just be the energy source that can save our planet from another possible disaster: catastrophic climate change."

Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. is a consulting firm that works in forestry, biotechnology, aquaculture, plastics and mining, developing sustainability messaging in the areas of natural resources, biodiversity, energy and climate change.

"Nuclear energy is clean and safe compared to other energy sources," he said, adding he helps develop strategies that lead to "win-win solutions that are good for both the environment and the economy."

"We have come more and more to the conclusion that nuclear energy is a very important part of a sustainable energy portfolio," said Tom Tevlin, president and CEO of Greenspirit.

Amanda Ibey, the program coordinator for the partnership, said Moore, acting in an advisory capacity, would bring his experience of "promoting sustainable solutions to some of the world's most pressing environmental issues" to the debate in Vermont.

"Vermont Yankee has played a vital role in providing Vermont with electricity for the past 30 years," she said. "It has provided clean, reliable and much-needed power to Vermont."

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Ibey added that "Vermont is the lowest in greenhouse gas emissions very much because of nuclear and hydro power."

But one local activist, Ed Anthes, of Nuclear-Free Vermont, questioned Moore's motivation.

"Moore is making his money going and saying 'don't worry, be happy,'" said Anthes, who said the Vermont Energy Partnership is "a paid lobbying firm and not a grass roots group."

"Moore's background may be commendable but his argument is invalid," said Anthes.

For Peter Shumlin, D-Windham, president of Vermont's Senate, the debate over nuclear energy boils down to just one issue.

"There is no one who lives in Windham County who isn't concerned about high-level radioactive waste on the banks of the Connecticut River," said Shumlin. "Until that issue is addressed, none of us will sleep well at night. You can't convince us that nuclear power is clean power until you deal with the waste."

But Moore argued that "it is incorrect to call it waste, because 95 percent of the potential energy is still contained in the used fuel after the first cycle."

"Now that the United States has removed the ban on recycling used fuel, it will be possible to use that energy and to greatly reduce the amount of waste that needs treatment and disposal," wrote Moore.

Moore also believes that "dry cask is a perfectly safe and secure way to store spent fuel," to which Shumlin replied, "I don't believe in Santa Claus anymore."

Anthes said reprocessing can't be done without making a mess, as in West Valley Reprocessing Plant in New York, Hanford in Washington and Rocky Flats in Colorado.

Jason Gibbs, spokesman for Gov. James Douglas, said the governor would be willing to listen to Moore and the Vermont Energy Partnership because "the governor meets with all sorts of groups and individuals. We will be interested in what he (Moore) has to say in the context of the governor's desire to continue Vermont's role as an environmental leader."

As far as dry cask storage, said Gibbs, "the governor's strong preference is that the federal government live up to its promise of getting the waste out of Vermont."

Moore has argued that nuclear energy is "the only large-scale, cost-effective energy source that can reduce (greenhouse gas) emissions while continuing to satisfy a growing demand for power."

Moore said the 103 nuclear reactors delivering 20 percent of America's electricity "effectively avoid the release of 700 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually -- the equivalent of the exhaust from more than 100 million automobiles."


Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com or (802) 254-2311, ext. 271.

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