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von Mering and Marion: Expanding the fossil fuel infrastructure is irresponsible

von Mering and Marion: Expanding the fossil fuel infrastructure is irresponsible

Node members Sabine von Mering and Deborah Marion take issue with Metrowest Daily News editors in this guest column for the Daily News:

In their April 3 editorial “Our View: Renewable Energy’s Challenges,” the MetroWest Daily News editors urge a “rational discussion” of appropriate energy sources. However, the editorial falsely suggests that renewable energy projects can’t be brought on-line and goes on to irrationally conclude that therefore we ought to resign ourselves to relying on fossil fuels – without even mentioning the very real challenge that is climate change.

The editors omit important details, for example, when they mention the 16 years of lawsuits against Cape Wind, but omit the fact that William I. Koch lost every single lawsuit, but continued to sue simply to exhaust opponents. Or when they mention birds as potential wind turbine victims, but omit the fact that the Audubon Society favored Cape Wind after years of careful ornithological fieldwork. Or when they omit the important fact that methane leaking from gas pipelines is 86 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide over twenty years.

Harvard’s Naomi Oreskes and NASA’s Erik Conway’s 2010 book “Merchants of Doubt,” and the 2014 film based on it, show that spreading doubt is a familiar tactic in order to prevent action on climate. Funders and beneficiaries of this tactic are typically large fossil fuel companies, who will be, let’s face it, the ones to suffer big losses when the United States finally addresses the climate crisis with the seriousness it deserves. Exxon and Shell clearly had their reasons for systematically withholding knowledge and funding doubt about climate change for decades. The truth is: the rest of us can only benefit from the transition to renewables.

The editorial falsely implies that energy from wind and solar is a costly pipe dream, but as Forbes Magazine reported in January 2018, the International Renewable Energy Agency calculates that “the cost of renewable energy is now falling so fast that it should be a consistently cheaper source of electricity generation than traditional fossil fuels within just a few years.”

Stanford’s Marc Jacobson’s “Solutions Project” shows how the entire United States could be powered with 100 percent clean energy, and already there are states using a substantial percentage of renewable power, for example, Iowa (37 percent), Kansas (30 percent), Oklahoma (29 percent), and California (25 percent). With the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) currently at 13 percent, Massachusetts has some catching up to do. One more reason to support the pending MA House green energy bills that include an increase in the RPS from one to three percent per year.

The editors are right. There is no free lunch: you cannot burn fossil fuels and enjoy a livable climate. Climate change is already a serious threat to human civilization now – just ask people in the Virgin Islands, in Texas, in California, or in Puerto Rico. Extreme weather, as predicted by NASA scientists, cost the United States over $300 billion in damages in 2017. A truly “rational mix” of energy must be a “renewable mix.” Supporting the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure now is not only irrational, it is irresponsible.

We urgently need fact-based media coverage of climate change. As MetroWesters, we deserve the facts.

Join fellow concerned citizens and members of at our next meeting, Thursday, May 3, 7-9 p.m., at First Parish Sudbury, 327 Concord Road, Sudbury. Come learn how we will truly power ourselves into the future.

May the rational forces be with you!

Sabine von Mering, Ph.D., lives in Wayland. Deborah Marion lives in Natick. Both are members of the MetroWest node of 350Mass. Other the MetroWest node of 350Mass members who contributed to the article are Kyle Ahlers, Ashland; Joan Entwistle, Concord; Larry Stoodt, Framingham; Thomas Yelton, Sudbury; Ron Riggert, Sudbury; Elizabeth Newton, Wayland; Bob Morrison, P.E., Sudbury; Carol Lynn, Stow; Leslie Lowe, Sudbury; Paul Dale, Wayland; Tim Brainerd, Framingham; Paul Shorb, Lincoln; Deborah Wolozin, Sudbury.

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Municipal Sustainability Checklist

We have created a municipal “sustainability checklist” that can help towns compare what they are doing with other towns, as well as get ideas and encourage collaboration. For residents, the checklist helps understand what towns are doing and not doing, as well as set priorities for local advocacy. For organizers, the checklist is an excellent tool to organize local groups around, and to build networks of people who care about sustainability.

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