The price of power

It always cracked me up, when I got accused of running a “socialist” newspaper, that the worst, most personal abuse I ever got was from Annette Smith and the anti-wind movement.

So I’m pleased to see the state is finally pushing forward in a serious way with wind energy in its portfolio.

The state’s energy plan calls for 90 percent of our energy to come from renewable sources by 2050, a target only made possible by the Legislature naming hydro energy as a renewable. Shipping energy in from out of state while claiming a green footprint here is a coward’s way out.

Yes, I know, wind towers require clearing as much as several acres of pristine (albeit second-growth) Vermont mountaintops and building roads.

The government of British Columbia, which province is under terrific corporate pressure to build dams and sell electricity into the US (especially California) market, is through its crown corporation, BC Hydro, planning on building a dam, called Site C, that would flood “only” 5,340 hectares of land or about 13,000 acres. Because much of BC is steeply mountainous, good agricultural land is at a premium.

In the valley bottom, the Peace River has the only Class 1 agricultural land in the province, outside of BC’s Lower Mainland, which is under pressure of its own as it is adjacent to the Vancouver metropolis. That’s of particular concern to me, I freely admit, because my great uncles Joe and Mick Schobert homesteaded some of that land 90 years ago.

The homestead can be seen in the right hand side of this photo (respecting the copyright so I’m not reproducing it here). To the left is the smoke coming from the Taylor refinery complex. On summer nights, I have outside at the homestead and read by the light of the flare pit burning off the waste products. It’s a bummer when it coincides with the northern lights in the winter, because it’s almost impossible to see the aurora borealis for the flare pit fires.

But don’t worry if you’re part of the anti-Keystone XL pipeline movement. This is “clean” oil, produced the old-fashioned way by drilling and all the pollution is in Northern Canada, so you don’t have to see it or worry about it.

The tar sands project, with the “dirty” oil is about 500 miles east. The only debate about its footprint is whether you will be able to see the hole they’re digging for it from space with the naked eye or whether you can already.

That, my Vermont friends, is the cost of power you don’t want to see generated, or hear when you’re downwind on a quiet night.

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