Vermont Clean Energy Summit, Part I

“Bernie and the Jets”

by Kevin Joseph Ryan

Monday morning at nine AM is a time when many folks wearily resign themselves that the weekend is over. They roll up their shirtsleeves and put their efforts to the goals before them. Governor Peter Shumlin and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders decided they’d set a good example this week and so convened the Vermont Clean Energy Investment Summit at Burlington’s Miller Landing.

It should come as no surprise that the Summit focused on the development of “Green and Clean” renewable energy development here in the Green Mountain State. However, this meeting, largely made of attendees and panelists from the Vermont business community, took for granted that the future of the Vermont economy lay in renewable energy, and the question on the table was, “How will we pay for it”?

The program ran from 9:45 AM to 3 PM, a largely all day affair, and the latter part of the afternoon was laden with panelists from David Blittersdorf of AllEarth Renewables to Gaye Symington of the High Meadows Fund. Early on, however, the Summit brought out its heavy hitters.

Senator Bernie Sanders led the event, and stated, in his opinion, the importance of clean energy investment. “While many in Congress are sadly turning away from science and scientific findings, we understand that Global Warming is real, and it is caused by human activities. Virtually every scientific institution in the world has concluded that, and concluded that greenhouses gases as a significant part of that,” noted the senator. However, what Bernie fails to note is that scientific reality is not based in consensus, but in evidentiary demonstration of scientific principles, a distinction lost on most global warming alarmists.

One such set of doubters comes out of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, which last summer conducted what it called its CLOUD experiment. The result, as has been long postulated by Henrik Svensmark of the Danish National Research Center, is that cosmic rays from the sun contribute to the formation of clouds, which in turn affect the weather and temperature here on Earth. Even Bernie Sanders, while pointing out that massive investment is required to save our planet from climate change, looked out the window on the dreary, cold weather and asked, “As we walk the street today, we wonder, where is that global warming?”

For the Summit’s purpose, it was enough to acknowledge that rising temperatures and freakish weather caused by people was a simple reality. The question was what government could do about it. What Sanders failed to note was the economic costs of such solutions. Bernie told the group that weatherization efforts saved low income Vermonters $14 million per year in heating costs, or $916 in savings per household. It seemed almost an afterthought that the process added $5700 to the cost of a home.

Nothing wrong with efficiency, if it is so in both cost and productivity. According to Bernie, Vermont is now using less electricity than they did several years ago. The national Department of Energy disagrees, however. Today, Vermont uses 5.83 gigawatts of power, whereas during the mid-nineties, only 5 gigawatts were used.

The Senator continued to try drive the point home that Vermont, and in fact the country was in dire straits due to Climate Change and Global Warming. Bernie reminded the crowd that he recently held an event with the reinsurance industry, who are not known for being environmental radicals. That press conference, held in conjunction with Sheldon Whitehouse (D – RI), featured Frank Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America, who made the claim “The number of natural catastrophes has risen fairly dramatically.”, Despite the fact that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says instead that hurricanes have been weakening in intensity for the past several years, and have averaged between 16-20 per year, consistent back to 1850.

Nutter’s prescription was that additional spending was necessary to make housing hurricane proof and reduce carbon emissions. While no one would ever want to lose their home to a terrible weather event, again, the cost of housing would certainly increase, and one must first be able to afford a home before one can lose it. Sanders, however, accepted the claim of insurance salesman Nutter as fact. Strange bedfellows, Sanders and the insurance industry. Wasn’t it Sanders who proposed eliminating health insurance companies in 2009 with national single-payer insurance?

As with Sanders’ claims about the future quality of the weather, the Summit only got worse from there, as Governor Peter Shumlin came out to speak on his vision of Vermont’s energy future, followed by Richard Kauffman, Special Advisor to Obama Energy Czar Sthephen Chu.

That we’ll cover in part II of this TN Report.