It was great to see the recent Times Argus editorial courageously begin to take on some of the national choices we will be facing as global warming starts cooking more and more of our future. However, a carbon tax and more government regulation are just the start of the changes we will all have to make in this rapidly changing predicament. Those are national issues, but the real work must be done down here at the local level. The daily choices each of us make in our energy uses will determine the future.
Luckily, Vermont is blessed with citizens who are dedicated to fostering local changes and providing assistance to neighbors who donít know where to start. Citizen-fueled energy committees have formed in most of Vermontís major towns. Recently, representatives of those committees came together at the annual Vermont Energy and Climate Action conference to share experiences, learn new strategies, and remind all of us of the importance of reducing Vermontís carbon footprint.
While many of the local energy committee volunteers are motivated by their concern for global warming, there is another seldom-discussed issue: the increasing cost of fossil fuels. VECANís keynote speaker, futurist Chris Martenson, reminded attendees that the fuel supplies are diminishing, while new sources such as the Canadian tar sands are difficult and expensive to extract. This means that our future fuel oil and gasoline are going to cost more than we want to pay. A carbon tax would serve as an incentive for people to make important changes in their fuel usage.
Meanwhile the Montpelier Energy Advisory Committee and others like it are working hard to discover ways the city and its residents can make changes now before the costs become unmanageable. The recent district heat system is a good example of an adjustment that will help keep the downtown business district competitive in the face of future energy price explosions. Last summer, the committee held an ice cream party down at the Statehouse to introduce folks to the basics of weatherization and alternate energy planning.
Currently, the committee is working on helping people cut down on their use of oil-based home heating and gasoline. Both of these are responsible for nearly 80 percent of the fossil fuels used in Vermont. (Electrical demand is a much smaller part of the energy mix than most people think; this demand is declining thanks to the work of Efficiency Vermont.)
Over the next several months, the committee will be working to create projects and events designed to help all Montpelierís citizens lower their fuel demands and save money. For example, we will be engaging in a ďhome energy challengeĒ to help citizens weatherize their houses. On average, weatherization saves more than 30 percent on heating costs; throw in a wood pellet stove and the savings are even larger. The night before Town Meeting Day, we will be holding an Energy and Resilience Fair where people can come to talk with efficiency professionals and learn about various programs and services that are available.
Teams of people around Montpelier are working hard on other issues as well. Montpelierís ad-hoc Transportation Committee is also looking at ways to expand Ride Share, the Circulator and a possible car share program. Its members are working with the Energy Action Network to create a net zero plan for Montpelier.
The goal of the new Vermont comprehensive energy plan is to have 90 percent of our stateís energy needs provided by either local renewable sources or by conservation by 2050. This goal can only be met if Vermonters make smart adaptative changes. The choice is yours. Your local energy committee is here to help.
Dan Jones is chairman of the Montpelier Energy Advisory Committee.
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