Clean energy does not come out of a smokestack

  Dear editor, As Vermont considers the recently released Comprehensive Energy Plan, it is urgent that citizens take a close look at just what is being proposed for Vermont’s energy and environmental future, because most Vermonters have no idea what policies are rapidly being cemented in place without much public debate or consultation.  One quickly notices how adept we humans are at speaking out of both sides of our mouth. The energy plan frets about high carbon emissions that cause global warming but then proposes policies and taxpayer subsidies to incentivize tree-burning “biomass” energy, which has the highest carbon footprint of all.  The latest scientific research states the inconvenient truth that new, tree-fueled biomass electric facilities emit carbon at a rate 50 percent higher than old coal plants, are dirtier than fossil fuels for most conventional air pollutants and will significantly increase forest ecosystem and wildlife impacts on already stressed forests.  Even efficient combined heat and power biomass facilities emit carbon dioxide at a rate 24 percent higher than oil and 97 percent higher than natural gas, and have an air pollution profile dirtier than even oil, so they are not “good” for global warming, or for schools and hospitals with their at-risk populations.  New England already has the highest asthma rates in the country. Producing tiny amounts of new biomass energy requires drastic increases in forest cutting.According to the Vermont Biomass Energy Working Group one million additional tons of cutting — a 62 percent increase in Vermont logging — would provide just 1 to 2 percent of Vermont’s heat and electric. Frighteningly the Comprehensive Energy Plan proposes getting 25% of Vermont’s energy from bio-energy, fueled largely by forests, by 2025. Timber! We have big energy and environmental challenges, but wishful and delusional thinking; such as burning forests is “green” just because it is “local,” is no better than West Virginians who want the money provided by dirty energy from their “local” resource.    Instead, locally-produced solar, geothermal, appropriately scaled and located wind and hydro energy, along with conservation and efficiency, can drastically clean up our energy supply and help save our environment without destroying it. This is where we need to be putting our energy, so to speak. Chris Matera, P.E. Founder, Massachusetts Forest Watch