Duval: energy future Liberty & Unity | Remark
Our state motto can and should be a guide to Vermont’s energy future. But first we must recognize how our current dependence on fossil fuels undermines both freedom and unity.
Vermont imports 100% of the fossil fuels we use. It makes us dependent on oil-exporting countries, puts our energy dollars in the hands of multinational fossil fuel companies that fund climate science denial, and helps leaders in countries like Saudi Arabia and Russia that violate human rights. and undermine democracy. On average over the past decade, we’ve spent about $ 2 billion a year on fossil fuels for transportation and heating – a good chunk of our economy of around $ 33 billion – with about 75% of that. , or $ 1.5 billion a year, draining just outside the borders of Vermont. In contrast, any alternatives that can reduce or eliminate dependence on fossil fuels keep a much larger share of our hard-earned dollars circulating here in Vermont, supporting jobs for our neighbors and reinvesting in Vermont’s economy and values. from Vermont in a positive feedback loop. . A ‘Vermont way’ for energy includes weatherizing the home, electric vehicles or other clean and efficient transportation options, using heat pump technology for space heating and space heating. ‘water, locally sourced wood used in efficient stoves and boilers, and sustainably sourced B100 biodiesel to replace fuel oil.
Think about it: when we invest in weatherizing homes, most of that money goes to local contractors, supporting our neighbors’ jobs and then reducing our heating bills year after year. Or when we buy electricity to power an electric vehicle or heat pump, our energy dollars support linemen, tree cutters and local clean energy producers. And when we heat with local wood, our energy dollars go to Vermonters who are forest land owners, foresters, loggers and truckers, investing in a value chain that helps keep our forests as forests. All of these clean alternatives to climate-polluting fossil fuels not only enhance our freedom by creating more energy independence, they also strengthen our sense of oneness by investing in our community.
As we strive to create more high-quality jobs and family support for unemployed or underemployed Vermonters, clean energy jobs offer a promising avenue. On average, wages in the clean energy sector are higher (about $ 27 / hour median wage) than the statewide median wage for all sectors ($ 19 / hour). A recent EAN analysis shows that weatherizing the homes of 120,000 low- and moderate-income Vermonters over the next decade would help create or sustain around 5,000 jobs – and that’s only a fraction of the comprehensive energy transformation activity that Vermont will need to build the climate economy that can meet our legally binding emissions reduction commitments. The economic opportunity is immense.
Aside from contributions to the state’s economy and local jobs, perhaps the biggest benefit of moving away from fossil fuels is the savings it can mean for Vermont consumers. Over time, fossil fuel vehicles and heating systems have generally been the most expensive ways of getting around and keeping homes and buildings warm. Specifically, propane and fuel oil have been more expensive, with higher and more unpredictable price spikes, than alternatives like wood heating and electricity used efficiently through modern cold climate heat pump systems. And even when gasoline and diesel prices are relatively low (as they were a year ago, before they went up by around 50% …), they are nowhere near the same. equivalent of about $ 1 per gallon or less than most Vermonters who drive electric vehicles. vehicles have access from their electric utility. In fact, by combining the savings in fuel and maintenance, rural electric vehicle drivers in Vermont would save on average more than $ 1,500 per year, according to a recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Total it up and the savings for Vermonters associated with overtaking fossil fuels and fossil fuel equipment ranges from a conservative estimate of around $ 50 million per year (Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development) to $ 973 million. per year (Rewiring America). These savings can be realized when, at every opportunity, we replace end-of-life fossil fuel vehicles and heating systems with more efficient and technologically advanced electric and renewable alternatives, including electric vehicles, gas pumps. heat for space and water heating; and advanced wood-burning solutions (especially efficient pellet stoves and automated boilers). In some cases, existing oil heating systems with indoor fuel tanks can also simply switch to B100 biodiesel without requiring any equipment change.
Helping more and more Vermonters use energy equipment powered or powered by clean energy sources that cost less year after year can also ease the strain on family and business budgets, helping to free up money. money for other needs in difficult economic times. And never again buying equipment that requires fossil fuels avoids locking in decades of costs and pollution that Vermont, Vermonters and the climate can no longer afford. Going beyond fossil fuels means more energy freedom for Vermont. Efficient and clean energy alternatives, especially for transportation and heating homes and buildings, also contribute to greater unity by helping to create a stronger Vermont economy with more and better paying jobs for Vermonters and lower energy costs for Vermont consumers year after year.
There is a way forward in Vermont for our energy future, and it can be guided by our state motto. Together, we can move beyond the reliance on fossil fuels that undermines our shared values in favor of cleaner energy choices that truly advance freedom and unity.
Jared Duval is Executive Director of Energy Action Network and lives in Montpellier.