Vermont Clean Energy Summit Report Part II

“Someone Save Our Lives Tonight”

By Kevin Joseph Ryan

In Part I of our report on the Vermont Clean Energy Summit, we told you about the seminar held at Burlington’s Miller Landing on Monday the 9th, to find ways to finance alternative energy here in Vermont. Senator Bernie Sanders (I- VT) played host to the proceedings, and emphasized the reality of global warming as he sees it, bringing forth a host of examples to drive home the point. Bernie pointed to a cadre of scientists who support the theory, expensive efforts to weatherproof homes and even insurance salesman who say something must be done. Strange bedfellows indeed for Vermont’s socialist Senator, but soon he turned the gavel over to Vermont’s Governor, Peter Shumlin.

The Governor spoke of how green jobs are the future of Vermont, and pointed out that Vermont is leading the nation in so-called “green jobs”, “Last week, it was announced that Vermont s unemployment rate from the peak of that recession, the very worst days, the darkest days of that recession, 8.3% , are now down to 4.9 %, the fourth lowest unemployment rate in America…Vermont has more green jobs than any state in America.” said Shumlin. While a nice figure to be able to show, Vermont unemployment was never at 8.3%, and according to most figures, never hit more than 7.6% in 2008. Vermont unemployment has fallen roughly one point in the past year, down from 5.7%.

It is good that we are making progress. Shumlin noted, “Electricity and renewable development – I think there we’re make great progress, but were going to have to move much faster.” At the current time, 4.4% or roughly 13,000 jobs, can be described as “green energy” jobs here in Vermont. What is odd is that both Shumlin and Sanders have promoted closing the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, which would cost the state over 600 of those jobs.

The Governor is committed to the course of action in increasing spending on renewable energy. “When you hear about conversations about whether we should be spending money on energy efficiency or checks back to Vermonters, small checks, I would say, that’s a place where we should all stand together and say listen, are you kidding? We thought we put that debate to rest.” Not only that, Shumlin says, but the jobs created would be here in Vermont, unlike with oil production. Shumlin pointed out, “Today the national media is focused on what’s going on in…North Korea, we’re gonna see if they’re gonna test some missiles over there or not, countries that don’t like us, producing oil we’re addicted to.” Shumlin may be confused on this point, as U.S. allies Russia, Saudi Arabia and the Arab league produce 51.78% of the world’s oil, with a total of 42 million barrels per day, while North Korea produces 118 barrels per day, far less than .05% of the total supply.

Shumlin had at least one other Vermont priority to cover Monday morning, transportation alternatives. “How can we plug in instead of fill up? That’s our challenge”, said the Governor. He pointed out that fully half of all fossil fuel consumption was accounted for by automobiles and transportation. While dealing with our automobile emissions is certainly helpful, the Department of Energy doesn’t quite see things the same way as Shumlin. According to them, only 14% of greenhouse emissions are from transportation, while 39% is the result of industrial activity and power stations. “We all know that for the foreseeable future, power is much cheaper than oil, obviously for the emissions issue, there is no discussion there.”, pointed out the Governor. Apparently, that last part was accurate.

So, from this, what we can gather, is that renewable energy for Vermont makes up a large part of Peter Shumlin’s agenda for the future, whether statistics, facts or any other variable agree with his conclusions. This may be why as Vermont stasticians have determined that the Vermont Renewable Energy Portfolio goals of 20% renewable energy production by 2017 will prove impossible, the Shumlin Administration is supporting a bill to replace that goal with a standard of 90% renewable energy by 2050.

Before leaving the podium of the summit, Shumlin emphasized that the challenge remains on how to pay for renewable energy efforts here in the Green Mountains, and that he had two special guests to explain how that could be done, Vermont National Guard General Michael Dubie and the Department of Energy’s Richard Kauffman. Before leaving that podium to his guests, The Governor had a parting remark for the crowd on renewable energy. “We need to find out how to crack this nut.”, he said.

Amen, Governor, amen.


To be continued in Part III