U.S. Energy Secretary speaks at Middlebury College

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, seated between Sens. Patrick Leahy, left, and Bernie Sanders, answers a question about the use of natural gas during the Sustainable Energy Summit held at Middlebury College on Friday, May 16, 2014. Independent photo/Trent Campbell

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, seated between Sens. Patrick Leahy, left, and Bernie Sanders, answers a question about the use of natural gas during the Sustainable Energy Summit held at Middlebury College on Friday. Independent photo/Trent Campbell

Editor’s note: This article is by Zach Desparts of the Addison Independent, in which it was first published May 19, 2014.

MIDDLEBURY — The U.S. Secretary of Energy praised Vermont’s efforts in renewable energy development and defended the expansion of natural gas use at a panel at Middlebury College Friday morning.

Secretary Ernest Moniz was flanked by the state’s congressional delegation and Gov. Peter Shumlin, as well as state business and academic leaders.

“I didn’t come here not already recognizing the innovation that’s been displayed in Vermont,” Moniz told the standing-room-only crowd at the college’s McCullough Student Center.

Shumlin and the delegation praised Moniz, a theoretical physicist and longtime professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for his public service. Moniz previously served in several science-related capacities in the Clinton administration, culminating in a post as the Under Secretary of Energy from 1997-2001.

Leahy, the state’s affable senior senator, said that Moniz is tasked with overseeing the most complex area of federal policy and jurisdiction.

“When you became secretary, I didn’t know whether to offer you congratulations or condolences,” Leahy joked.

Leahy also urged the secretary to push for more funding for methane digesters, which harness the gas emitted by cow manure and turn it into energy.

Rep. Peter Welch listed numerous ways Vermonters are embracing and encouraging use of clean energy, including Green Mountain Power’s introduction of net metering, the construction of a biomass plant at Middlebury College and the expansion of solar panels at homes, schools and businesses across the state. Welch said that Moniz is instrumental for Vermont and the nation to continue that progress.

“I’m proud to introduce one of the key drivers of this mission,” Welch said of Moniz. “With the secretary’s help, we’re going to do more of what we’re doing well.”

Shumlin praised the public service Moniz has performed as an official in both the Clinton and Obama administrations.

“He is one of the most forward-thinking energy secretaries America has ever seen, because he gets climate change and gets what we have to do to get there,” Shumlin said.

Shumlin also chided that Moniz was the only cabinet official that “looked like a true Vermonter,” an undoubted reference to the secretary’s shoulder-length hair.

Moniz took the jab in good taste, and confided to the audience that his ’do had drawn comparisons to Javier Bardem’s character in “No Country for Old Men.”

In his remarks, the secretary stressed that climate change is a serious issue that Americans must confront immediately. He made reference to the National Climate Assessment, a White House report released last week that posited that the United States is already feeling the effects of climate change, which will only grow more severe in the future.

Moniz noted that the report came shortly after similar reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a project of the United Nations.

“They’ve all reinforced the story that many of us, probably most of us in the room, have been talking about for a long period,” Moniz told the crowd. “We need to mitigate the effects of climate change and need to adapt at the same time.”

Moniz warned that the longer humans wait to address climate change, the more difficult and expensive it will be to do so. He listed a litany of ways the climate has already changed: an increase in global temperatures by one degree Celsius over the last decade, increased precipitation in the Northeast, higher storm surges and increased temperatures across the country.

The secretary said that Vermont and the Department of Energy have had a strong relationship, and that the state is on the right track when it comes to making investments in the energy of the future.

Moniz made reference to a scene from another film, this time the 1967 hit “The Graduate,” where an overbearing family friend tells the recent graduate Benjamin Braddock that the next growth industry is plastics. Moniz said that today, the new emerging industry is in renewable energy.

“I would do a re-run of that scene with two words: clean energy.”

MONIZ DEFENDS PIPELINE

The event began 15 minutes later than its advertised 10 o’clock start, and Sanders opened the question and answer session with the understanding that it would be brief.

In what was a surprise to no one that follows the news in Addison County, the proposed Vermont Gas Systems pipeline through the Champlain Valley was brought up for discussion.

R.J. Adler, a Middlebury graduate who now works in the solar industry in Vermont, asked the panel how Vermont straddles the divide between promoting renewable energy while supporting the expansion of natural gas, a fossil fuel.

Moniz said that the Department of Energy, much like Vermont, has embraced a strategy of promoting energy sources that are less carbon-intensive than burning coal.

“Our strategy is called ‘All of the above;’ we start with the statement to go to low carbon,” Moniz said. “With that condition, we are investing across the board in what can be technologies to advance low carbon.”

According to Environmental Protection Agency estimates, burning natural gas produces 50 percent less carbon dioxide than burning coal. Moniz said that by reducing its use of coal as an energy source by shifting to natural gas, the United States has decreased its emissions.

“We are roughly halfway to the president’s 17 percent (greenhouse gas emissions) reduction goal by 2020, and half of that has been gas substituted by coal,” Moniz said.

Moniz hinted that natural gas, which does emit harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, would become a smaller part of the nation’s energy portfolio as the use of renewable energy sources increases.

“We see gas as a bridge, in some parts of the country, and an important one,” Moniz said.

He said that natural gas, as a cheaper energy source, also is good for business.

“Today, gas is contributing to a substantial manufacturing revival,” Moniz said, adding that as a result of the expansion of natural gas, the country has seen a $100 billion investment in new manufacturing.

Large manufacturers in Addison and Rutland counties, such as Agri-Mark, Otter Creek Brewing and Omya have said they will save substantially on energy costs by switching to natural gas.

A group of activists, who later said they were mostly Middlebury College students, briefly interrupted the question and answer session by shouting for Gov. Shumlin to oppose the pipeline. They wore orange armbands with a variety of anti-pipeline slogans.

Rebecca Foster of Charlotte, an outspoken pipeline opponent who has penned letters to state media organizations, was the last to speak.

“How can you stand and be proud of being from a green state when we are proposing to make a natural gas, fracked pipeline to International Paper, that will make us just as regressive as all the other states in the country?” Foster asked of the panel. “If you’re concerned with reducing greenhouse gases, you should be speaking out against the pipeline.”

The question, like the other about the Vermont Gas pipeline project, drew applause from many in the crowd.

“I think the state has the capability of answering that question,” Sanders said, and brought the event to a close.

The other panelists included Green Mountain Power CEO Mary Powell, Middlebury College Director of Sustainability Integration Jack Berne, University of Vermont engineering professor Paul Hines, Vermont Energy Investment Corp. Executive Director Scott Johnstone and Waterbury energy expert Jamison Ervin.

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Kathy Nelson
2 years 4 months ago
“I think the state has the capability of answering that question,” Sanders said, and brought the event to a close.” Sounds like a line from Orwell’s “1984. From a letter dated 15 May 2014 from Nextera Energy (wind developer out of Canada that has been wreaking havoc in Ontario, CA) to all NEPOOL REC sellers; subject – Vermont SPEED Program and Renewable Energy Credit Purchases: “As of January 1, 2014, the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) will no longer accept megawatt hours of electricity from a renewable energy source that are claimed or counted by a load-serving entity, province,… Read more »
Richard Ratico
2 years 4 months ago

Nextera Energy is behind a push for more dangerous nukes. Plain & simple. Please come clean, Kathy.

Kathy Nelson
2 years 4 months ago

Richard, you’re commenting on the wrong story. When you finish your cocktails with Bob then click here:

http://vtdigger.wpengine.com/2014/05/19/legacy-americas-nuclear-power-plants-spent-fuel-place-put/

I did make one mistake in my comment, Nexterror isn’t from Canada, they’re based in Florida. They’ve done a lot of damage in Ontario, just like Gaz Metro out of Quebec has made wreckage here in VT.

John Greenberg
2 years 4 months ago

NextEra Energy owns Seabrook.

Kathy Nelson
2 years 4 months ago

Point? Green Mountain Power in VT buys power from Seabrook. You’re probably using some of that power right now.
This story is about the misuse of RECs in VT. Nextera has brought that to the front. Does that make Nextera the bad guy, the good guy, or just a bunch of corporate thugs who don’t want to get sued?

John Greenberg
2 years 4 months ago

The point is that your characterization of Nextera as “wind developer out of Canada that has been wreaking havoc in Ontario, CA” is partial and misleading.

Kathy Nelson
2 years 4 months ago

As usual, John, you only read or see what you want to see. I corrected my mistake by saying that Nextera was not Canadian owned but based in Florida. There is nothing “partial or misleading” about the mayhem perpetrated by Nextera in Ontario:

http://ontario-wind-resistance.org/tag/nextera/

Why is it so hard for you to do your own research?

John Greenberg
2 years 4 months ago

Kathy,
Your correction concerned the LOCATION of the company, not its business. Specifically, you failed to correct the impression that the company is just a “wind developer.” So I pointed out that the company also owns nukes. Since you are an avid lover of nuclear power and an equally avid opponent of wind power, your omission struck me as relevant. Others can decide for themselves.

What research is it that you think I’ve failed to do?

Rob Pforzheimer
2 years 4 months ago

Nexterror (formerly Florida Power & Light, FPL) is also the largest wind developer in North America. They have killed thousands of birds, including eagles, osprey and owls in California, and other states, and have cut down active eagles nests in Ontario and Minnesota. NEXTERROR CUTS DOWN EAGLES NEST IN ONTARIO http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtF6TUYfj8c

On earnings of $7 billion they paid no taxes, largely because of the tax credits for their wind turbines. They are perfectly willing to game the system, but don’t want to be involved with Vt’s fraudulent REC sales.

Vt’ers hold onto your wallets when your electric bills go up.

Alexandra Thayer
2 years 4 months ago
Sadly, last Friday Middlebury College demonstrated that the 1st Amendment has no place on campus. The public was invited to the Vermont Sustainability Summit and were addressed by Vermont’s senators, Congressman and governor. However, the Middlebury College Dept of Public Safety and its director took hostile action against a a man who held up a sign expressing his opposition to a natural gas pipeline proposed (Stop the FRAKKED GAS PIPELINE). (I later learned he is a father, a Middlebury grad, & the pipeline would cross his property and carry fracked gas). The man carried it down the center aisle and… Read more »
Judith Sargent
2 years 4 months ago

Congrats Alex for standing up to the Security types and defending the citizen who held up a sign about the gas pipeline planned for western Vermont. And thanks for defending all of our rights to freedom of speech. Thanks for making it clear a peaceful guy who was merely trying to hold up a sign at a public gathering on alternative energy was not preventing anyone from hearing anything.

Kathy Nelson
2 years 4 months ago

Maybe Bernie, Leahy, Welch and Moniz should read this:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterferrara/2014/05/18/president-obamas-global-warming-calculated-deception-means-democrats-have-abandoned-working-people/

Shame on Middlebury college for their treatment of concerned citizens. I only wish it were possible for our DC delegation and our ethically challenged governor to feel shame for all the harm they have done to the people of Vermont.

Alice Soininen
2 years 4 months ago

My only wish is that ALL opinions were respected. Ms Nelson is obnoxiously outspoken and extremely mean-spirited when those with opinions differing from hers have a chance to politely and publicly voice theirs. Such actions serve to pit neighbors against neighbors who otherwise respect differing opinions.

Kathy Nelson
2 years 4 months ago
Alice, when it comes to pitting neighbor against neighbor then no one does that better than your obnoxious son, John Soininen (VP of Eolian Renewable Energy, AKA Seneca Mountain Wind). The cruel lies perpetrated by John Soininen has brought about social upset that will linger in the Northeast Kingdom for a generation. I also think it was cruel and mean spirited for the Soininen family to appear at the PSB Sound/Noise Hearing at the People’s Academy in Morrisville to not only belittle those who are suffering but further their own financial interests in soaking the public for subsidies for junk… Read more »
Kathy Nelson
2 years 4 months ago
John Soininen is one of the wannabe wind developers desperate to get a project in Ferdinand, VT. Below is a letter his mother wrote to the Rutland Herald in 2005 when the Sheffield project was proposed near her home in Sutton. I guess she’s changed her mind again now that her obnoxious son wants to be a wind developer. http://www.rutlandherald.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051009/NEWS/510090336/1030 Wind proponent changes her mind October 09,2005 October is one of the most beautiful months of the year. Some would argue that it is the most beautiful month of the year in Vermont. I find it curiously ironic that our… Read more »
Alice Soininen
2 years 4 months ago
The letter referenced by Ms Nelson (above)was written when I was the CFO and Director of Support Services at the King George School. At that time we bought into the negative propaganda served up by the Brouhas (who perceive that they have much to lose given their proximity to the Sheffield turbines and the assumed loss of property value). We totally reversed our opinion of renewals after much research and viewing Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth. Yes, John Soininen is our son but we were pro-wind long before he became involved in the wind industry. We have nothing to gain. John… Read more »
Mark Whitworth
2 years 4 months ago

Yes, Alice. We must close all of Vermont’s coal-fired plants immediately.

Kathy Nelson
2 years 4 months ago

Mark, if we close all the coal plants then how is big Democratic campaign donator, Tom Steyer, going to get his money to buy his politicians? Coal is his money maker.

Alice says her neighbor, Paul Brouha, offered “negative propaganda” about industrial wind but the truth is that everything Brouha told her about the problems with industrial wind has come true. Alice is inconstant with her opinions, as well as her facts, and I am glad her son’s wind disaster project in the NEK has failed.

Paul Lorenzini
2 years 3 months ago

Mark, that was funny!

not as funny as the other side, a different kind of funny.

They.

2 years 4 months ago
While not cited by the Addison Independent in the article above, the Rutland Herald did report that at the same Middlebury energy summit Gov. Shumlin said: “Energy efficiencies last year in the state managed to reduce the state’s energy consumption by 13%.” If this statement were true it would be an incredibly remarkable achievement. The problem is that the Governor’s statement as cited is simply not true. There was no 13% decrease in Vermont’s energy consumption last year. The Governor’s comment is just another instance of him playing loosely with numbers to promote himself and his agenda. When the Governor… Read more »
John Greenberg
2 years 4 months ago

Peter Yankowski,

“There was no 13% decrease in Vermont’s energy consumption last year. ” Please provide the correct figures and your source for them.

2 years 4 months ago

John Greenberg:

You’ll have to get those figures from the Governor, he’s the one who claimed the 13% reduction in the state’s energy consumption in 2013.

There are no such figures on the Department of Public Service’s web site or any where else to back up the Governor’s claim as far as I can see.

John, even you have to admit that claiming a 13% reduction in the state’s energy consumption is really pretty outrageous.

If you can find something to support the Gov’s claim, please share it with everyone.

John Greenberg
2 years 4 months ago
Peter, You accuse the governor of saying something that “simply isn’t true,” but when asked for the factual basis for your accusation, now say: “There are no such figures on the Department of Public Service’s web site or any where else to back up the Governor’s claim as far as I can see.” In other words, you haven’t got a clue whether the governor is right or wrong, but are unembarrassed to accuse him of lying. Even for you, Peter, that’s a new low. Before you try to drag me into this, I am NOT defending the governor’s remark. I… Read more »
2 years 4 months ago

John:

I didn’t drag you into anything.

You willingly jumped in head first in a foolhardy attempt to defend yet another “Ready, Fire, Aim” moment by the Governor.

Will you ever learn?

John Greenberg
2 years 4 months ago

Peter,

Exactly how do you conclude that I was making an attempt — “foolhardy” or otherwise — to defend the governor?

I asked you to provide a source. You couldn’t. I then explicitly stated that I am NOT defending the governor or his statement.

You ASSUME that I am defending the governor, because you ASSUME that you know my political views, just as you ASSUME that you know what you clearly do NOT know about energy usage in Vermont.

There’s a pattern there.

Cairn Cross
2 years 4 months ago

My bet is that the Governor’s quote (as reported above – I have not read the actual quote and can not report on the veracity) was formed based on the information provided on the website below.

https://www.efficiencyvermont.com/About-Us

Drop below the fold to see the 13% figure.

I have no opinion on whether the information is correct but simply posit that this might be the source.

You gentlemen might like the following website to help you figure things out:

http://lmgtfy.com/

2 years 4 months ago
Cairn: It’s also my guess that the Governor may have gotten his thinking from Efficiency Vermont (EV) as there is no other reference to this topic to be found that supports his statement on reduced energy consumption in 2013. However, the problem is that the EV report does not support the Governor’s assertion of: “Energy efficiencies last year in the state managed to reduce the state’s energy consumption by 13%.” Before posting my comment on the Governor’s statement regarding the state reducing its energy consumption by 13% in 2013, I first called EV for clarification of exactly what its report… Read more »
Cairn Cross
2 years 4 months ago
Peter I happen to agree with your analysis of how the comment came to be and my comment which was meant to be humorous was more directed at the exchange between you and Mr. Greenberg hence my reference to “let me Google that for you.” Your thorough answer to my comment might have made a good starting comment and kept the “prove it” back and forth from happening which I find to be a tiresome part of social media. The point of whether efficiency is a “reduction” is a subtle one. Overall consumption can go up but efficiency measures can… Read more »
2 years 4 months ago

John:

There is indeed a pattern here and the people of Vermont have caught on to the Governor’s practice of playing fast and loose with the facts. The energy reduction comment fiasco is just the latest episode in this sad soap opera.

For confirmation read the Governor’s flagging polls numbers.

In the meantime, check to see if there is any water in the pool before you dive in head first.

2 years 4 months ago
Cairn: Your humor is welcomed as part of the mud wrestling process with John Greenberg. You can be assured that if I say white, John will say black and so on, which if you find tiresome is fully understandable. But I can’t help myself when it is so easy to push John’s buttons. Not stating the Efficiency Vermont information up front allowed me to draw John into an argument he couldn’t win and there in lies the fun. Maybe I need a senior day care center or something to more constructively channel my energy. (Attempt at humor) One last point,… Read more »
John Greenberg
2 years 4 months ago

“I can’t help myself when it is so easy to push John’s buttons.”

You’re right Peter, it is. All you’ve got to do is lie.

2 years 4 months ago
Peter, Some years ago, he also said, before being appointed Governor by the Legislature (he did not have enough popular votes, but enough party votes), that Germany was getting 30 % of its electrical energy from PV solar, whereas, at that time it was about 2-3 %, and now, some years later, it is about 5 %. The only way a 13% reduction in energy consumption can occur, if there were a sudden, massive depression, or if about 15 percent of the VT population decided to move out of state in early 2013. Last year was 2013 and the 2013-2014… Read more »
2 years 4 months ago
Willem: A couple of years ago on national TV, Mr. Shumlin made the same or a very similar comment about solar use in Europe. Shumlin was called out on his statement by the program’s anchor (on live TV) who said he believed that Shumlin was incorrect. Shumlin steadfastly held his ground. In the meantime, the show’s producer quickly looked into the issue on the internet and corrected Shumlin on the spot by saying his comment on solar was off by a factor of 10X. Not being about to admitted he was wrong, Shumlin went on to say…..well that’s what I… Read more »
2 years 4 months ago

Here’s a link to a November 2010 vtdigger article that provides a copy of the video of then Senator Shumlin mistakenly stating that 30% of Germany’s energy was coming from solar.

http://www.vtdigger.org/2010/11/14/how-a-political-smear-went -viral.

The Shumlin’s squirming in this video reminds me of the first day of fishing season looking into a can of squirming nightcrawlers about to be placed on a hook.

Parental guidance warming: this video may be upsetting to consumer’s of Shumlin kool-aid.

John Greenberg
2 years 4 months ago

Thank you Peter, for providing actual facts and documentation for your attacks on Governor Shumlin.

That’s really all I’ve been trying to get you to do for months now.

2 years 4 months ago
John: With the long ago passing of the Lone Ranger its good to see that someone is still looking out for: “Truth, Justice and the American Way”. Here’s a lead for you as you continue your important work. Go to the March 17, 2010 issue of Seven Days. There you will find a survey of Montpelier insiders who by a large margin cited Peter Shumlin as the most ethically challenged individual in the Vermont legislature. You probably want to get in your Prius and drive to Montpelier and keep the 5th floor under surveillance for any evidence of outrageous statements… Read more »
Paul Lorenzini
2 years 4 months ago

How is all this making VT more affordable? For the wealthy only?

Paul Lorenzini
2 years 4 months ago
Hey Mr. Pete, I get Climate Change too. And Global Warming. And Agenda 21. They are all a scam of the globalists. There are more people on this planet then globalists, yup, that’s right, globalists are not people, they are the ultimate capitalists, and the opposite of equality, and freedom. Take the Earth while you can, never let a disaster go to waste, or create a disaster, and utilize the opportunity, that is the theory of they, not the theory of we, the people, and natural selection. Soft tyranny, Agenda 21, The Green movement, I had on of those once,… Read more »
2 years 4 months ago
When I asked Patrick Leahy for help after the Town of Monkton tried to take my Century farm without telling me, a woman land co-owner after we paid Vermont property taxes 9 months late, He was silent. When elders and other vulnerable and poorly resourced landowners of Monkton, Vermont were harassed by Land agents sent by the pipeline wanters, I heard no outrage, no injuctions, no recourse. When Canadians aquired much of Vermont’s power and now Gas business, leaving local names like Green Mtn Power, VT Gas, there is a monopoly. Seems like the politician leaders prefer to hear from… Read more »
Jane Palmer
2 years 4 months ago
Secretary Moniz said,“We are roughly halfway to the president’s 17 percent (greenhouse gas emissions) reduction goal by 2020, and half of that has been gas substituted by coal.” Does the Secretary know that Vermont does not acquire any of it’s electricity from coal burning facilities? Does he know that less than 12% of the entire population of this state is currently addicted to methane? I would have liked to ask him why we would want to hook more users up to burn more fossil fuel when our governor and even the president says we need to get off of it..just… Read more »
2 years 4 months ago

For an in-depth discussion of the “true accounting” of the VGS pipeline extension, see this episode of NOFA-VT’s Policy Update:
http://bit.ly/NOFAVTPolicyUpdateVGS

Hattie Nestel
2 years 4 months ago

Mary, good point. WHERE was BILL McKIBBEN?
He sure knows how to speak out and organize against theipeline when he’s I D.C. And at other colleges?
When he is in residence at Middlebiry, there is no so sign of him and his well organized 350.org students???
Something here does not compute!!!
Hattie Nestel from the Shut it Down affinity group he’ll bent on shutting down Vermont Yankee

Paul Lorenzini
2 years 3 months ago

Middlebury is his bought haven, he bought it and he will protect it, and the fools that lick his toes, 350.org, will do his bidding, and even flog themselves, in the name of McKibbens words. True or False?

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