Climate activist McKibben urges action, warns lawmakers of threats to Vermont way of life

Bill McKibben addresse the Vermont House of Representatives on Wednesday. He said Vermont can be a leader in climate change adaptation and prevention. Photo by Audrey Clark

Bill McKibben addresses the Vermont House of Representatives on Wednesday. He said Vermont can be a leader in climate change adaptation and prevention. Photo by Audrey Clark

Climate activist Bill McKibben brought his campaign to address climate change to the Vermont House of Representatives Wednesday, saying that Vermont can lead the nation in adapting to and stopping climate change.

He praised the Legislature while outlining priorities for more change, including thermal efficiency improvements, divestment from fossil fuel investments, and construction of more renewable energy projects.

McKibben later went before a House panel to take questions and discuss ideas about what the state can do. The appearance of the well-known Ripton resident was the result of an unusual invitation to speak to the House chamber under the Golden Dome by House Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morristown.

After listing a series of grim figures on the rate and severity of climate change, he told House members that if we don’t act now we are in for “a planet straight out of science fiction.” McKibben emphasized that there are no silver bullets. “Maybe, however, there is enough silver buckshot.”

McKibben chimed in on the issue of wind power, a topic that is before lawmakers this session. He said a three-year wind moratorium some legislators favor is the wrong thing for Vermont to do because we do not have three years to spare.

“I am glad there are people standing up for our mountains,” he said, but “by far the greatest threat to their integrity, biology, and beauty is climate change.”

He said he hoped one day to see wind towers on the mountain behind his house, though, “We do not need them on every ridge line.”

 Environmental activist Bill McKibben testifies before the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development on Wednesday.


Environmental activist Bill McKibben testified before the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development on Wednesday after speaking to the Vermont House of Representatives. Photo by Audrey Clark

McKibben, who teaches at Middlebury College, praised lawmakers for having “some of the country’s most devoted environmental legislators.” He also praised state government in general for leading the nation on climate change adaptation and prevention, and he singled out the ban on the oil-extraction method of “fracking.”

McKibben cited a number of effects of climate change already felt in the state, mentioning later ice-outs and lilac bloom dates and severe rainstorms. (See related story: At Statehouse, companies, business owners detail impacts of changing climate)

“Even if we do everything right we’re going to go right up to the two-degree red line” after which scientists say the earth as we know it will be dramatically changed, he said. McKibben argued that we must stop climate change and that “stopping it means getting off gas and coal as soon as possible.”

According to McKibben, a priority for the Legislature should be first to focus on thermal efficiency.

“If we get really tight houses then our options will improve,” he said.

Vermont should also ban importation of tar sands oil through any Vermont pipeline and divest from the fossil fuel industry. “Why pay tens of millions of dollars to recover from Irene and pay companies that contribute to it?” he asked.

Other solutions are to increase public transportation, reduce sprawl, and promote local food. He told the General Assembly that he did not think nuclear power was going to be a major part of the solution because of its large capital costs.

McKibben received standing ovations both at the beginning and end of his talk.

Reaction to his unusual address under the Golden Dome displayed some of the divergent views on what actions the state should take. The House Republican Caucus issued a press release after McKibben’s speech, saying, “a decision by the State of Vermont to allow Vermont Yankee to remain open is quick, simple and inexpensive. The caucus encourages Gov. Peter Shumlin and Attorney General William Sorrell to show true climate change leadership and allow a low-carbon electricity generator to remain open.”

Shumlin has been a long-standing opponent of Vermont Yankee and has campaigned for its closure.

Rep. Don Turner, R-Milton, noted in an email that while the GOP caucus shares McKibben’s concerns, the state “must act within practical constraints of affordability to taxpayers and ratepayers. Pursuing every recommendation suggested by Mr. McKibben would be a challenge to the state’s economy due to high, front-end expenditures in energy, transportation, and other infrastructure.”

Turner said the costs would “harm quality of life for all Vermonters” and create a stiff financial burden.

The Vermont Energy Partnership, of which Entergy, the owner of Vermont Yankee, is a member, also issued a press release, saying Vermont Yankee is an “ideal option” for helping power the growing number of electric vehicles, in conjunction with wind and solar energy.

For his part, McKibben minced no words in his talk, painting the climate change as a threat to the state Vermonters know today. “This is an emergency,” McKibben said in his speech. The world today is “not as sweet as the world we were born into. Our iconic Vermont of long winters and glorious falls will be badly, badly stressed. But it’s no use crying about it.”

He ended by saying, “I have confidence that if any political body is up to the challenge, it is this one.”

McKibben testifies to House panel

After his speech to the House, McKibben testified before the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development.

Rep. Bill Botzow, D-Pownal, chair of the committee, opened that meeting by asking, “Our real interest as I see it is we are going to be here in the future. We are a determined people. But our actions … are going to be fundamentally different. … How can Vermont be best positioned in the commerce world to make our living off an inevitability?”

McKibben responded that Vermont should continue to attract innovators, lead the transition to renewable energy, and continue to lead the local food movement. “We have lots and lots of natural advantage to play with.”

Rep. Sam Young, D-Glover, whose district is between two major wind projects in the state, asked McKibben how he viewed the balance between renewable energy and the environmental costs of, for example, mining rare earth metals to build wind towers. McKibben said that unfortunately, we have to do environmental triage. “We’re in a world that’s about to go over the cliff.”

“My guess is that [opposition to wind power] will fade fairly fast.” In fact, McKibben guessed that wind towers in Vermont will one day become a tourist attraction. “That’s what’s happened in a lot of other places.”

Rep. Bob Bouchard, R-Colchester, asked whether McKibben supported nuclear power as a viable alternative to fossil fuels.

McKibben said he’s not opposed to nuclear power, but he thinks Vermont Yankee is “badly run” and that adding more nuclear power plants would be too expensive for Vermont to easily take on.

McKibben said hydro power is also an option, though federal and state regulations can inhibit the building of dams.

“We are using energy in such quantities that we have to do everything we can to catch up with the curve of physics here.” He said we’ll need luck on our side, even if we do everything right. As for changes, he said we have to “figure out how to do them quickly, but as a community.”

Botzow asked what young entrepreneurs are doing that gives McKibben hope. McKibben responded that they have an “almost intuitive, innate sense of connectedness among people that comes from growing up in an Internet age.”

This sense of connectedness makes it easier to get things done that reach beyond one city or state, in his view. In fact, McKibben believes Vermont’s small size is a strength in the Internet age because it’s more nimble and has a stronger sense of community than larger states. “I think it’s the most exciting state in the union.”

Audrey Clark

Comments

  1. Stephanie Kaplan :

    If McKibben paid any attention to the reality of what happens to the mountains and to wildlife during and after construction of his beloved wind turbines, he could not spew such stupidity. He obviously feels no “connectedness” to nature whatsoever. The only thing he feels connected to is his own ego.

    • krister adams :

      Ms. Kaplan: Calm down. Mr. McKibben pay’s more attention to such issues than most Americans. He astutely observes that our Vermont beauty faces much more of a threat from Climate Change than wind towers. If we don’t incorporate sensible RE, such as wind power, into our energy portfolio, we may just kiss tress, birds and clean lakes goodbye.

  2. Speaker Shap Smith has given a huge public platform to Bill McKibben to express his point of view for all to hear. Now, will the Speaker provide that same platform to an a qualified individual on the other side of the issue to speak?

  3. Justin Boland :

    Winds towers as tourist attraction. Sounds a lot like the melody to “They will greet us as liberators…”

  4. Vermont an RE leader? Vermont should reduce emissions from buildings by having a strictly-enforced ZERO-ENERGY BUILDING code for residences and other buildings. Such buildings would have grid-connected PV solar systems on their roofs or nearby.

    Doing energy efficiency first and renewables later is the most economical way to go; especially important when funds are scarce. Governments providing huge subsidies for renewables BEFORE doing a great deal more in energy efficiency may be politically expedient, but it is costly and unwise; akin to putting the cart BEFORE the horse. 

    It would be much wiser, and more economical, to shift subsidies away from expensive renewables, that produce just a little of expensive, variable, intermittent energy, towards increased EE. Those renewables would not be needed, if the funds are used for increased EE. 

    EE is the low-hanging fruit, has not scratched the surface, is by far the best approach, because it provides the quickest and biggest “bang for the buck”, AND it is invisible, AND it does not make noise, AND it does not destroy pristine ridge lines/upset mountain water runoffs, AND it would reduce CO2, NOx, SOx and particulates more effectively than renewables, AND it would not require expensive, highly-visible build-outs of transmission systems, AND it would slow electric rate increases, AND it would slow fuel cost increases, AND it would slow depletion of fuel resources, AND it would create 3 times the jobs and reduce 3-5 times the Btus and CO2 per invested dollar than renewables, AND all the technologies are fully developed, AND it would end the subsidizing of renewables tax-shelters benefitting mostly for the top 1% at the expense of the other 99%, AND it would be more democratic/equitable, AND it would do all this without public resistance, division, anxiety and social stress.

  5. Nicole Bourassa :

    Hi Stephanie: I believe McKibben is saying that climate change is going to have a whole lot more impact on our mountains and wildlife than turbines. He states: “I am glad there are people standing up for our mountains,” he said, but “by far the greatest threat to their integrity, biology, and beauty is climate change.”

    Have you read any of his work? You would know that he uses facts and research to make his claims, not his ego.

    • Randy Koch :

      This argument pretty much misses the point.

      Let’s say hypothetically that climate change will in fact have a bigger effect on ridgelines and wildlife than industrial wind. So what? You still have to prove that sacrificing ridgelines and wildlife to industrial wind will somehow prevent climate change. This is exactly where the two sides disagree.

      Hysteria doesn’t cut it: it IS arrogant for the Bill McKibbenses and the Paul Burnses to assert the right to destroy.

  6. Nicole Bourassa :

    Hi Stephanie. I believe McKibben is saying that climate change is going to have a much greater (devastating) impact on our mountains and wildlife than turbines. He states: “I am glad there are people standing up for our mountains,” he said, but “by far the greatest threat to their integrity, biology, and beauty is climate change.”
    Have you read any of his work? You would know then that he uses facts and research to make his claims, not his ego.

  7. Vermont is a poor state. Reducing CO2 emissions by Vermont should be done at the lowest possible cost per ton. IWTs on ridge lines is a very expensive way to reduce CO2 emissions.

    Vermont’s efforts will be totally useless unless China, India, Brazil, etc., stop increasing THEIR CO2.

    In 2012, China’s CO2 emission INCREASE was 400 million metric ton, equal to 50 times Vermont’s total.

  8. Stan Shapiro :

    Watch ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’. McKibben is analagous to Colonel Nicholson.The reason to have the moratorium is that we simply have no way of calculating the benefit of reducing CO2 emissions vs the cost of destroying mountain habitat.Wind developers are only about the money.They are not about saving our mountains.McKibben is wrong if he thinks this fight will fade away.On the contrary he underestimates how violated people feel by their incursion.The vast majority of effected towns have overwhelmingly voted against thes projects.

  9. Sally Shaw :

    I agree with most of Bill McKibben’s views, but his stance on nuclear is out of line with his carbon concerns. Nuclear is a carbon and capital intensive industry from cradle to grave. Mining, milling, enrichment, fuel rod fabrication, construction (costs in the $billions per reactor), transportation, decommissioning, dry cast fabrication and long-term and temporary storage, diesel and grid back-up power are all coal and oil-powered processes. Uranium mining leaves 98% of the mined material behind in huge radioactive slag heaps that contaminate the indigenous communities where the mines are located. Enrichment accounts for 90% of the CFCs emitted in this hemisphere–CFCs are greenhouse gases 100 times more potent and long-lasting than C02. You could build a ton of wind farms and solarized parking lots for the price of one nuke. The Chernobyl meltdown cost Russia more than the total profits from all its other 54 nukes combined for their entire years of operation. Not to mention the radioactive footprint, contaminating our rivers, lakes, seas, land and air every second they operate with toxic radioisotopes some of which will still be around and need to be isolated from the environment until 252,013 AD. Not to mention radioactive, carcinogenic tritium, leaking from uninspected underground pipes and contaminating groundwater and rivers and “legally” spewed into the air contaminating the entire water cycle with every reactor operation day. Not to mention the ENVY fuel pool which contains an order of magnitude more high level radioactive waste than the Fukushima fuel pools. Not to mention the unworkable evacuation plans, the police state and the billion dollar NRC budget needed to guard and oversee these world’s most deadly manmade toxins. Does Bill need to see Fuku in VT to get real? Nothing is worth this risk or this cost (largely subsidized by the taxpayer).

    • Sally,

      The NREL-envisioned IWT build-out aims to achieve 20% wind energy by 2052, and assuming a 20-year life, almost all of the existing 52,000 MW of IWTs would need to be replaced during 2012 – 2032, if economically/technically viable, plus the new IWTs built during 2012 – 2032 would need to be replaced during 2032 – 2052, etc.

      Assuming a life of 20 years, onshore capacity factor of 0.30 and offshore of 0.38, energy production growth at 0.9%/yr (electric vehicles), a spreadsheet-based analysis shows, it would take about 425,000 MW of IWTs, onshore and offshore, to provide about 1,170 TWh in 2052, which would be about 20% of the total US production in that year.

      The 40-year cost for new and replacement IWTs, balancing OCGTs and CCGTs, and grid reorganization would be about $2 TRILLION, unsubsidized, with further annual capital costs after 2052 to maintain the 450,000 MW of IWTs as an on-going energy producer.  

      The increased capital cost of IWT build-outs, IWT replacements, balancing plants and grid reorganization, and the impact of the lesser CFs and shorter lives would greatly increase the US levelized cost of energy. If US wind energy goals were increased to 30% or even 40%, levelized costs, and various other adverse impacts, would be proportionately greater.

      Unless other developed and developing nations, i.e., China, India, Brazil, etc., handicap themselves in the same manner (which appears unlikely, based on the outcome of COP-18 in Dohu, Qatar, in 2012), the US, with huge trade and budget deficits, would be at an even greater economic disadvantage than at present.

      Add to that situation wind energy not being anywhere nearly as effective regarding CO2 emission reduction as increased energy efficiency, one may wonder if the Western World is on the right course regarding CO2 emission reduction.

      http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/151031/global-warming-targets-and-capital-costs-germany-s-energiewende
      http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/71771/energy-efficiency-first-renewables-later
      http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/46652/reducing-energy-use-houses 
      http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/89476/wind-energy-co2-emissions-are-overstated 

      • John Greenberg :

        Willem Post writes:

        “Unless other developed and developing nations, i.e., China, India, Brazil, etc., handicap themselves in the same manner (which appears unlikely, based on the outcome of COP-18 in Dohu, Qatar, in 2012), the US, with huge trade and budget deficits, would be at an even greater economic disadvantage than at present.”

        That will come as news to China, whose investment in wind is greater than ours, as well as to the other nations he mentions as well.

        In fact, wind production is increasing at double digit rates around the world. Statistical worldwide information is available here: http://www.wwindea.org/webimages/Half-year_report_2012.pdf. Here is a convenient spreadsheet chart: http://www.thewindpower.net/statistics_countries_en.php And a more developed article from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_by_country

        Here are a few other tidbits, gleaned in a <5 minute Google search: "In 2011, China led the global wind power market again, by adding 17.63 GW of new wind capacity, equivalent to 43% of the global annual market." http://www.gwec.net/china-wind-market-update/

        "India had another record year of new wind energy installations between January and December 2011, installing more than 3 GW of new capacity for the first time to reach a total of 16,084 MW. As of March 2012, renewable energy accounted for 12.2 percent of total installed capacity, up from 2 percent in 1995. Wind power accounts for about 70 percent of this installed capacity. By the end of August 2012, wind power installations in India had reached 17.9 GW1." http://www.gwec.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/India-Wind-Energy-Outlook-2012.pdf

        Finally, it is worth noting that while Spain, with the world's 4th largest capacity is an economic basket case, the other 4 of the top 5 countries are all economies doing better than the remainder of the world in these rough economic times. The top 5, in order, are China, the US, Germany, Spain and India.

        Before Mr. Post cites his favorite bogus study about Spanish wind development and job growth, I'll point out that the study provides NO empirical data, but instead relies entirely on the author's modeling. According to most economists, Spain's economic woes are not due to windmills. They're due, just like everyone else's to a real estate bubble and a banking crisis, which in Spain's case, also provoked a currency crisis.

        Mr. Post is welcome to believe that he alone understands the economic implications of utility-scale wind development better than the economic policy teams of governments around the world. Readers, however, are free to disagree with him. I, for one, do.

        • John,
          You are looking at wind energy sites that tout capacity, not production.

          Putting up heavily-subsidized IWTs, MW, is one thing, getting production, MWh, out of them is something else, as GMP and Sheffield is beginning to find out.

          Concentrate on PRODUCTION, it is sooo much smarter and revealing. It takes more work to get to that data.

          By now, everyone knows how the NEK grid can’t use the expensive variable, intermittent junk energy from Lowell mountain without a $10.5 million synchronous-condenser, and, according to David Hallquist, that will solve only part of the NEK grid problems.

          Check the national capacity factor of Chinese IWTs. It is dismal.
          Germany is about as bad 0.187, the Netherlands 0.228

          Only Ireland and Scotland have near 0.30 capacity factors.

          The US has an average capacity factor of 0.289 for the last 5 years, among the best in the world, largely because of the Great Plains.

          Maine CF is 0.25
          New York State 0.249

          Read this article for information.
          http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/169521/wind-turbine-energy-capacity-less-estimated

          Then read this article to see just how effective wind energy is regarding CO2 emission reduction.

          http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/89476/wind-energy-co2-emissions-are-overstated

          • John Greenberg :

            My point had nothing whatever to do with either production or capacity.

            I was responding to YOUR argument that building wind turbines would handicap the US economy vis-a-vis the countries you named. I pointed out that these countries are investing in wind just like we are, and in China’s case, far more so.

  10. We know that Mr. Mckibben is very concerned with greenhouse gases to a point that he wants to put Exxon, other fossil fuel producers and greenhouse emitters out of business.

    But, when addressing the Legislature, did Mr. McKibbon mention anything about the proposed Springfield, VT bio-mass plant which is expected to burn about 420,000 tons of wood chips each year and at the same time spew out tons of CO2 and other noxious gases? If not, why not?

    How many acres of Vermont trees will have to be cut each year to feed this monster?

    How many tons of CO2 will be emitted by the plant?

    How many tons of CO2 will not be absorbed as a result of the trees cut down?

    How much fossil fuel will be burned by chain saws cutting trees, skidders dragging the trees out of the woods, trucks to drive the trees to the chipping plant, energy to run the chipping operation and so on and so on?

    It seems to me that this one bio-mass plant has the potential to wipe out any improvement in air quality that may be realized by decorating our mountain ridges with wind turbines.

    Wait a minute, the Springfield bio-mass plant can buy carbon credits from the Vermont wind turbine operators to mitigate the carbon it produces. Net-net, we get more greenhouse gases in Vermont, yet we’re OK because of these wonderful carbon credits. A real lose, lose proposition for Vermonters, unless you’re a seller of carbon credits.

    Its time for Speaker Smith to invite other points of view beyond Mr. McKibben to the big stage at the Capital, so that as Paul Harvey used to say: ” An now, for the rest of the story”. We didn’t get the full story from Mr. McKibbens.

    Until we get the rest of the story, the moratorium is needed.

  11. Charles McKenna :

    Bill McKibben did a masterful job of describing the challenges we face in combating climate change. His presentation was backed by science and rational thought.

    Our greatest environmental challenge today is climate change, caused primarily by carbon dioxide emissions. And although it’s a global issue, corrective action must be taken locally. And Vermont is in the process of doing just that.

    Vermont pumps approximately 8 million metric tons of green house gas into its atmosphere every year. So to do its part in fighting climate change, Vermont must displace its fossil fueled energy with greater efficiency and carbon free energy – primarily wind and solar – in all sectors and as soon as possible.

    Cost effective wind energy requires two major ingredients – maximum available wind speeds and large efficient wind turbines. In Vermont, the best winds are on our ridgelines, where most turbines must be located.

    Wind turbine installation is urgent, both to avert the damage of increased climate change, and to develop energy independence and economic opportunity an advanced carbon-free energy network will offer – with new business opportunities and more good jobs for Vermonters.

    The relatively minor and limited short-term disruption caused during large wind turbine installation on our ridgelines will pale in comparison to the very long-term, severe, and costly damage unchecked climate change will cause to those same ridgelines – and our entire state.

    Vermont contributes only a small portion of global green house gas. But the responsibility is ours for dealing with the pollution we ourselves cause. And doing it – proactively and early – will open our economy to exceptional growth as others seek to replicate our success and use our technology. Delay is not a sane option.

    • Charles,

      Delay is not a rarional option, but putting IWTs on ridge lines is irrational, because there are so many less costly ways to reduce CO2 emissions that should be done first.

      Vermont is a poor state. Reducing CO2 emissions by Vermont should be done at the lowest possible cost per ton. IWTs on ridge lines is a very expensive way to reduce CO2 emissions.

      Vermont’s efforts will be totally useless unless China, India, Brazil, etc., stop increasing THEIR CO2.

      In 2012, China’s CO2 emission INCREASE was 400 million metric ton, equal to 50 times Vermont’s total.

  12. Walter Dodd :

    Yesterday I listened to Bill McKibben’s address to the Vermont House of Representatives.
    This morning I read this article

    The article was accurate and well written with a single glaring omission.
    The article never even mentioned the following quite from Bill McKibben’s speech:

    “We have to make sure the steps we take will actually help-the carbon numbers, say, for industrial biomass don’t look very promising. But there are literally dozens of other things we could be doing.”

    To many of us in North Springfield this may be the most significant sentence of the speech. That is because an industrial biomass facility is proposed for our village and advancing through the Public Service Board at this time. We are spending much effort and personal funds to fight a facility that our federal and state laws encourage.

    Consider the effect of industrial biomass on global warming. Our present laws encourage a five part assault on the environment and government budgets.

    1. A wood biomass burning power plant burns wet wood chips to produce electricity at extremely low efficiency and producing as much or more CO2 as an equal capacity coal fired plant.
    2. Trees are harvested which were actively absorbing and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, only to put that carbon immediately back into the atmosphere and wait a generation for replacement trees to mature to the same level of carbon absorption.
    3. Harvesting and transporting the wet wood chips requires fossil fuel energy and creates more emissions than transporting other fuels.
    4. Developers of wood biomass burning power plants are awarded dollars from our national and state taxpayers and national debt in the form of subsidies, tax credits and grants. They may also be allowed to charge higher than market rates to their customer utilities, which in turn get credit for a “green” or “renewable” power supply mix.
    5. Operators of wood biomass burning power plants may sell carbon credits to operators of fossil fuel plants, all the while producing as much or more CO2 than the facilities to which they sell the credits.

    The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has instituted an efficiency standard for power generation that has the effect of outlawing new wood biomass burning electrical power generating facilities. This resulted in the cancellation of at least two projects.

    Shouldn’t our green legislature here in Vermont do the same?

  13. Josh Fitzhugh :

    I am constantly amazed, as I read posts and comments like these, how Anne and VT Digger have created a vehicle for such robust debate amongst people of strong minds and opinions. If debate leads to truth, and the truth “can set us free,” then surely Vermont with VT Digger’s help will be one of the freest states in the union!!

  14. Chuck Kletecka :

    Opponents of large wind projects never mention what the value of that low carbon power might be in the future. On the national and global scale (where the action is) the only practical tool for reducing CO2 emissions is a serious carbon tax.

    Can you imagine the demand for, and value of, the power these projects will be producing 10 or 20 years from now if we get our act together? Certainly that’s the future I’m banking on.

    A moratorium of even a few years further delays building the capacity we are going to need for the long haul. We got into this mess by not thinking about future consequences of our carbon addiction. Unless you think this is all a hoax, saying that large wind shouldn’t be even a part of the capacity we build now is just plain irresponsible.

    • Chuck,
      There are many things done wrong due to “carbon addiction”. One must not forget, cars, etc., contain a lot of plastic made from carbon. The Boeing-787 is about 50% carbon fiber. It is not just energy production.

      IWTs on ridge lines in New England are not economically viable, because wind speeds are not high enough, and the QUALITY of the wind is poor (compared to flat sites, such as the Great Plains and offshore), meaning the wind comes from various directions and speeds at the rotor, which means the rotor cannot be as efficient as stated in Vendor brochures, hence the lower real-world capacity factors than the CFs of 0.32 or better, assumed by IWT developers.
       
      Below are some real-world numbers regarding the much less than expected results of the Maine ridge line IWTs for the past 12 months.
      http://www.coalitionforenergysolutions.org/maine_wind_thru_3q2012m1.pdf 
       
      Mars Hill, 42 MW 0.353; uniquely favorable winds due to topography.
      Stetson I, 57 MW 0.254
      Stetson II, 26 MW 0.227
      Kibby Mtn 132 MW 0.238
      Rollins, 60 MW 0.238
      Record Hill, 50.5 MW 0.197
       
      The Maine weighted average CF = (42 x 0.353 + 57 x 0.254 + 26 x 0.227 + 132 x 0.238 + 60 x 0.238 + 50.5 x 0.197)/(42 + 57 + 26 + 132 + 60 + 50.5) = 0.247; excluding Mars Hill, the CF would be 0.234.
       
      Note: CF reduction due to aging is not yet a major factor, as all these IWTs were installed in the past 5 years.

      If it were not for the overly-generous subsidies, IWTs would not be built on ridge lines. No bank would loan money for such risky projects.

      As above noted, Vermont is a poor state, and should concentrate on
      – increasing energy efficiency
      – ZERO-ENERGY residences and other buildings
      – high-mileage vehicles

      Together, the latter two have about 75% of Vermont’s emissions, whereas energy generation has only 4%..

      http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/169521/wind-turbine-energy-capacity-less-estimated
      http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/46652/reducing-energy-use-houses
      http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/71771/energy-efficiency-first-renewables-later

  15. Charles McKenna :

    Walter,
    I’m in agreement with you re Bill McKibben’s statement on biofuels and yours on burning wood. Right on!

  16. Kevin Jones :

    I strongly agree with Bill that we need to act now to confront the challenge of climate change. I agree with both Bill and legislative leaders that we should move forward to improve the thermal efficiency of Vermont’s buildings. I could not agree more with the comment attributed to Bill that” we have to make sure that the steps we will take will actually help…”

    Unfortunately there is a big disconnect between Bill McKibben’s identification of the problems and his solutions under Vermont law. I am not sure if he has ever read the state statute implementing the Vermont SPEED program which is the program that all of Vermont’s wind projects are participating in. I strongly suggest that Bill read the provision of the SPEED legislation that promotes the utilities sale of renewable energy credits from the SPEED projects. A little additional research would demonstrate that Vermont utilities are largely selling all these renewable energy credits into the MA and CT renewable programs not retiring them for Vermont load. As I and others have argued this does not result in either a net increase in renewables in the region or a reduction in Vermont carbon emissions (the Vermont SPEED projects are actually increasing Vermont’s ghg emissions).

    Unfortunately Speaker Smith and Bill McKibben have done both the global climate and Vermonters a great disservice by focussing on rhetoric while ignoring real problems such as fixing Vermont’s fundamentally flawed renewable programs. In testimony before the PSB, Green Mountain Power’s own witness stated “I observe that the current SPEED construct of sellings RECs….is in tension with other Vermont goals regarding air emissions and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Specifically, to the extent that VT utilities sell the RECs associated with the renewable resources…..they are no longer able to claim those sources’ renewable content and thier low/zero emission profile.”

    It is wrong for Vermonters to preach about banning fracking and opposing tar sands at the same time that we turn our backs on the fact that we have a sham renewable energy policy right here at home. Vermont has the most fundamentally flawed renewable energy program in the country and our leaders are standing there proclaiming “my what a wonderful set of clothes the emperor is wearing.” Neither Speaker Smith or Bill McKibben are protecting our mountains or making “sure the steps we take will help” the global climate when they ignore fundamentally broken public policies such as the Vermont SPEED and Standard Offer programs. A three year moratorium would seem short compared to the near decade that Vermont has been operating under the renewable energy shell game that is financing Wind development on our ridgelines. How many megawatt hours of renewable energy are the Vermont SPEED resources producing for Vermont customers? Please answer that question and with a straight face tell me whether this is what you would call confronting the climate challenge?

  17. S Costello :

    Does anyone take into consideration that the big yellow object in the sky plays a part in climate change? I think that there is a lot of hysteria and hypocrisy when we discuss the human impact on global climate.

    I do believe in being environmental aware when it comes to our actions. Has anyone noticed the white unmarked planes flying in the sky spewing “contrails”? Really, please look up on a clear blue morning. Watch these planes and what is happening after they fly over. They MAKE clouds. Let’s forget the fact that this DOES change our weather. Let’s think about the jet fuel used and carbon emissions that they are putting out. To me, this is the number one priority that we have to address before we destroy more of our environment. Please visit the following website.

    http://www.geoengineeringwatch.org/

    I am amazed that NO ONE, not one “weather person” on TV, no one in the “free press”, NO ONE will speak of this happening. It’s as though we are putting our fingers in our ears and humming because we don’t want to hear the truth.

    Please consider some obvious causes of pollution and climate change before we destroy more of our beautiful state.

  18. Kevin,

    Offering 27 c/kWh for 25 years to out of staters with LLCs who put up 2.2 MW of PV solar panels at a cost of about $10 million is a travesty.

    Payment to out of staters = 2200 x 8760 x 0.14 = $5,203,440 per YEAR. This is money that goes out of state.

    And then this expensive energy is rolled into the rate schedules of Vermont households and businesses.

    All this under the SPEED program. Who dreams up such stupidities?

    I just cannot believe Montpelier folks could act so much against the economic interests of Vermonters.

    In addition each such facility takes up about 10-15 acres of land that could be growing trees that sequester CO2.

    • Kevin,

      Correction.

      The above equation should be 2200 x 8760 x 0.14 x 0.27 = $728,482/yr for 25 years

      In addition, the out of staters also get 30% of the $10 million as a subsidy gift from the federal government, plus a subsidy gift from the state of Vermont, and they can write of the entire investment in about 5 years, which saves them state and federal taxes.

  19. Craig Davids :

    This is encouraging. Thanks for your hard work Bill McKibben.

    http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/renewables-now-cheaper-than-coal-and-gas-in-australia-62268

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