Environmental protestors of the proposed extension of Vermont’s Gas’ pipeline from Burlington to Middlebury gathered in front of Champlain Valley Union high school last week to rail against the project and the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing to extract the gas. While acknowledging that natural gas would reduce the cost of fuel for Vermont residents and businesses by 40 percent or more, and reduce the carbon footprint by roughly half compared to the use of fuel oil, the protestors were adamant that the money used to build the pipeline could be better spent on renewable energy projects — with even less damage done to the environment.
They are right, of course.
Except they confuse the source of funding. Vermont Gas is a private company that is building the pipeline to Middlebury in phase one, with a possible extension in phase two to the International Paper plant in Ticonderoga, N.Y.. Phrase three takes it to Rutland. The project will be built without any cost to the taxpayer. When protestors suggest that money (roughly $70 million to get the pipeline to Ticonderoga) could be better used in other ways, the implication is that government could spend that money more wisely by putting it into weatherization projects or renewable energy.
Ah, but to do that, the taxpayer pays that $70 million. That’s a big difference.
We’re supporters of the fight to reduce the nation’s carbon footprint. We support spending on renewable energy as a way to jumpstart that industry and keep it in business. We do that in hope that new technologies will drive down the cost of renewable energy and someday make it competitive with fossil fuels so it can compete in the marketplace without federal handouts.
We’re not there today, nor will we be in the near future.
The challenge today is to make as much progress toward the goal of reducing our carbon footprint as quickly as we can without bankrupting our governments, residents or businesses. The proposed Vermont Gas pipeline to Middlebury, Ticonderoga and eventually on down to Rutland, helps that cause. Indeed, a case can be made that by moving all those potential customers off of fuel oil and onto natural gas, we’ll do more to reduce the carbon footprint of the area almost immediately (as soon as it comes online in the next few years) than we could hope to do by lining Vermont’s ridgelines in this area with wind turbines, or filling our fields with solar panels. It is not a perfect option, but it is a realistic one.
The fight to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a long-term game that has to be met with economic realities in mind. The pipeline would not only immediately reduce the area’s carbon footprint, but it also doesn’t add to our tax burden, and it strengthens the local economy by cutting fuel costs. More profitable businesses, mean more tax revenues to do the good things government can do. It’s a win-win-tie, but two out of three isn’t bad.
Angelo S. Lynn