by Don Keelan
If the hypocrisy swirling around the climate change discussion was a gas, its volume would outweigh that of carbon dioxide.
On Friday, September 17th, several diesel-fueled buses left Vermont for New York City. The passengers boarded on the east and the west sides of Vermont with Bennington and Brattleboro as the last pick-up points before they arrived in NYC for the weekend’s 75,000-person Climate Strike March.
While the Vermont brigade made their way to NYC’s UN Plaza, a small army of over-sized SUVs were headed to Vermont. They were part of the 13 million annual visitors who come to Vermont for skiing, touring, second homes, and leaf-peeping. (Agency of Commerce and Community Development) Tourism is a significant but unspoken source of the annual 48% of the State’s polluted air due to transportation.
I, too, contribute to the pollution when I use my fossil-fuel car for the 200 or so miles I travel each month on Vermont’s roads. I, and tens of thousands like me in Vermont, will have to, one way or another, get rid of our fossil-fuel cars in the not-too-distant future since there will be no gas stations or repair shops to take care of fossil-fuel vehicles. In the meantime, let the visitors come to Vermont, but they better fill up their SUV gas tanks before they enter the State.
When it comes to using wood pellets, hypocrisy is not far behind. We should use wood pellets instead of oil to heat our homes and businesses; notably, it prevents Vermonters from sending dollars to out-of-state sources. Only one company in Vermont manufactures wood pellets; its annual capacity is a fraction of the total pellets consumed from out-of-state and Canadian manufacturers.
Another source of alternatives to heating oil is wood chip-fired furnaces. However, a significant volume of wood chips is required to keep the furnaces functioning. Don’t take the trees from Vermont forests; the deforestation takes place in New Hampshire and elsewhere. But not Vermont.
The hypocrisy of where Vermont fuel dollars are sent continues when you examine who owns the stock of the largest electric supplier in the State—Green Mountain Power. One sends one’s monthly payment to the company’s Brattleboro payment office, but final payment control rests north of us in Canada, where GMP ownership resides. So much for keeping the funds within the State.
Vermonters have a long history of not tolerating poor labor conditions, the use and abuse of child labor, and the destruction of the environment to mine or manufacture a product. However, those who advocate for the immediate need for electric vehicles have suspended their concerns.
The rare minerals required to make the EV components require ignoring the unspeakable working conditions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guiana, and China. As long as we don’t have to witness the conditions that tens of thousands of people endure, who cares?
There is a path to deal with what is happening in the world regarding the climate. It should be addressed without hypocrisy. We can start here in Vermont.
How to do so has been put forward by this writer in the past. Select a town and produce a computer-based model of what it would entail if the entire town–homes, schools, businesses, and government–converted to full-electric. Indeed, such a computer-based model would disclose the physical, financial, and emotional costs of converting. After obtaining such information, we should address the results rationally, equitably, and sensibly.
According to a September 24th article in the WSJ, thousands of large corporations are rethinking their initial approaches to Climate Change. They have spent billions of dollars only to discover their goals could have been more achievable. The UK has also announced that it is pushing the mandating of EVs out another five years.
Vermont needs to get the fossil fuel transition right. If it fails to do so, there will be discontent, if not outright revolt. Let us use the present to eliminate the dictating, mandating, emotion, and, above all, hypocrisy that continues to swirl around the issue of Climate Change.
The author is a U.S. Marine (retired), CPA, and columnist living in Arlington, VT.