By Allison Despathy
H715, the Clean Heat Standard narrowly vetoed by Gov. Phil Scott, stirred concern, rage, disbelief and resistance from many Vermonters. They were responding to the details, the details somehow missed by the 99 representatives who voted to override his veto – just one shy of the necessary 100.
So many Vermonters absolutely love and respect the earth and their environment. So many try hard to live lightly and do their part and more to ensure a safe, clean, healthy planet for future generations. It is easy to latch on to an idea with high hopes for resolution. But the Clean Heat Standard was not a real solution.
This legislation was impulsive, poorly designed, would not have made any real beneficial impact for the environment and further would have resulted in massive financial stress for Vermont residents and many local businesses and thus our economy. Many options were presented to both committees and the legislators that would offer real solutions for energy use reductions and beneficial measurable impacts without burdening Vermonters. Unfortunately tunnel vision existed around this legislation and details were ignored as many seemingly uninformed legislators, without seeing the warning signs, charged ahead for “environmental justice.”
There are multiple ways in which this legislation was impulsive, industry driven and not a real solution. But the most important were the problems related to highly controversial biofuels.
The majority of biofuels cost more energy to produce than what their use would save. Comprehensive energy analyses prove this. To plant, grow, spray, harvest, and process biofuels, typically made from genetically modified soybeans, sugar beets, canola and corn, requires more fossil fuel energy then would be saved. The Clean Heat Standard had no caps on biofuel use. Many biofuels require massive clearing of land often done on prime agricultural land and also in third world/developing countries and rainforests, which results in loss of ecosystems and diversity as well as toxic chemical exposures for the people and environments.
Arthur Neslen writing for The Guardian reported that, “European Union renewable energy targets may have increased greenhouse gas emissions because the dirtiest biofuels produce three times the emissions of diesel oil, according to the most complete EU analysis yet carried out. Biodiesel made from palm oil emits more than three times as much and soybean oil around twice as much, when the crops’ effects on land use are considered…” He also found in the European Commission’s report that, “For every megajoule of energy used, the study finds that palm oil emits 231g of CO2 equivalent and soybean oil 150g/CO2e, far higher than the UN climate science panel’s estimates for any fossil fuel.”
A Senate amendment to cap biofuels at 10% was not accepted. Replacing fossil fuels with environmentally-unfriendly biofuels, without clear guidelines, would have created serious problems.
The genetically modified crops used for biofuels deplete the soil, demand high energy output, and fill the soil and air with chemicals. Support of this controversial genetic engineering technology and the risks to humans and our environment was yet another disturbing aspect to this proposed legislation. Many Vermonters are very familiar with the concerns regarding genetically engineered crops. Vermont was the first state to pass legislation requiring the labeling of genetically modified foods back in 2014.
H715 also foisted a disguised, devastating carbon tax on local fuel businesses and ultimately Vermont residents.
The incredibly corrupt history and some of the major concerns with the biotechnology industry and their past role in war crimes and abuses of the land and people are best summarized by Vandana Shiva, an ecologist and activist from India. For many decades now, Shiva has been pushing back on Bill Gates. Monsanto, glyphosate and the biotechnology industries’ damage and colonization in India.
In her book, Oneness Vs.The 1%, she states, “The toxic cartel of the war has come together, once again. The Big 6 pesticide and GMO corporations that own the world’s seed, pesticide, and biotechnology industries are BASF, Bayer, DuPont, Dow Chemical Company, Monsanto and Syngenta. Monsanto tried to buy Syngenta which is now merging with ChemChina; ChemChina’s acquired Syngenta for US$ 43 billion and plans a merger with Sinochem in 2018. Dow Chemical which brought up Union Carbide (responsible for the Bhopal gas leak disaster that continues to kill and maim millions), is now merging with DuPont in a $130 billion deal. Not to be outdone, Bayer is buying up Monsanto for $66 billion. These deals alone will place as much as 70% of the agrochemical industry in the world in the hands of only three merged companies. Through cross-licensing agreements, who will be in the cockpit will be decided by issues like image-building, shedding liability, reducing taxes and expanding monopoly rights through patents and non-inventions.”
This is the corporate game. People and the environment are hurt by their actions. Impulsive legislation that supports unregulated use of biofuels and includes disguised carbon taxes ultimately supports corporate agendas and destruction of the people and environments around the world.
The Clean Heat Standard was dangerous legislation that would not have served Vermont, Vermonters or the environment. We are fortunate it did not pass. The only winners with this legislation would have been the biotechnology industry, the biofuel industry, and global corporations who would have replaced many small fuel businesses in this state that could not have withstood the costs and financial burdens of this legislation.
Whatever ‘environmental justice’ means, this isn’t it.
Sourcing energy for Vermont and elsewhere is not an easy conversation. In this past legislative session, $80 million dollars was dedicated to weatherization. Also $45 million was put towards a municipal energy resilience program. There are actions and solutions in place that actually will make a difference. Many Vermonters are informed and are seeking and creating ways to continue to “live lightly” with the land and act consciously with regards to resource and energy use by making decisions everyday that help our environment.
A healthy relationship between the land and the people is exemplified in the philosophy, belief systems and lifestyle choices of so many Vermonters. It is evident in their food, farming, homesteading, building, integrated energy systems, reduced energy use, conservation efforts and so much more.
Vermont policymakers must serve the people and the land, not corporate agendas that would harm both with legislative attacks like the Clean Heat Standard.
The author is a St. Johnsbury clinical nutritionist.