Could an Electric Car Be in Your Future?

Oct 6, 2015 by  | Bio |  2 Comment »

Cars. They cost a lot and pollute a lot. One exciting new opportunity to address both these problems are electric cars. They’ve come a long way. Gone are the days when the Toyota Prius was the only hybrid available to consumers.


Electric cars save money and the climate – and they’re fun to drive! A win-win-win for drivers.

My interest in this was recently sparked at a gathering I attended of electric car owners and local car dealers on a sunny Vermont evening. The event, put on by Drive Electric Vermont, brought dozens of electric and hybrid vehicles to Shelburne so that those of us who don’t currently drive electric vehicles to get a glimpse of what we’re all missing. Electric vehicles have boomed in the last five years. No matter where your loyalty lies in terms of car manufacturers, there is now an electric car for you.

The car owners at the event had nothing but praise for their vehicles. Their enthusiasm made me wonder, could an electric car be right for me? So I set out to find out.

I recently purchased a 2015 Volkswagen Jetta. I commute a whopping 314 miles every week. Gasoline alone now costs me more than $21 dollars each week. This actually does not sound like much, since I just upgraded from a car that was lucky to get 22 mpg; however, over the course of my 13-week internship with CLF, I will spend close to $300 dollars, just on gas. The average person driving the same commute in an electric vehicle would pay just $11.30 a week, adding up to $146.95 over the course of 13 weeks – not even half of what I’ll spend driving my gas-powered car.

The price of electricity would have to quadruple to even come close to the price of gas, but if those savings are not enough to send you running out to the electric car dealership, the drastic savings in pollution might be. Transportation now accounts for 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the country. Every gallon of gasoline burned emits about 20 pounds of carbon dioxide and other pollutants. That means my commute contributes nearly 190 pounds of polluting greenhouse gasses – every week.

Drilling for oil will only become more difficult, risky, and, in turn, costly as we continue to deplete easily accessible reserves. Soon we will have to fill our conventional gas- and diesel-powered cars with gasoline from even dirtier sources, such as the Canadian tar sands. Our continued reliance on resources such as the tar sands will only lead to greater amounts of greenhouse gas warming our climate. Because of the corrosive nature of tar sands, we will likely also experience more frequent and damaging oil spills like the one in Marshall, Michigan, that is now entering its fifth year of clean-up.

The numbers have my brain convinced that my wallet and environmental conscious will be better served by an electric vehicle. Meanwhile the test drives I took really sold my heart on the idea. The electric cars accelerate faster and handle like silent little sports cars. It is truly exciting to have all of that potential energy at your feet with no gasoline to speak of. As far as I’m concerned gas pedals everywhere need to make way for power pedals. With all of that in mind I can confidently pledge my next car will be an electric vehicle.

Already a believer in (and driver of) an electric car? Tell us what you love most about your car by commenting below.

Grassroots Tell Governors: Keep Out Tar Sands!

May 8, 2014 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

New England citizens have been sending a strong message to their governors: block the looming invasion of dirty tar sands-derived fuels from their states, and do it now.  Recently, citizens sent more than 5,000 letters in Massachusetts and more than 1,300 letters in Vermont to Governors Patrick and Shumlin, asking the Governors to block tar sands-derived fuels from their states. If used in gasoline and home-heating oil, tar sands-derived fuels would worsen carbon pollution and hasten climate change.

With new pipelines coming on line, there is a looming threat of dirty fuels such as tar sands dramatically worsening the carbon footprint of gasoline in New England.  While we currently have almost no tar sands in our local fuel supply right now, that is expected to drastically change in the near future: by 2020, as much as 18% of our fuel supply could be derived from tar sands, increasing our greenhouse gas emissions enough to offset the noteworthy gains achieved through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).  This threat will take New England states backwards in efforts to combat climate change at a time when instead we need to be embracing clean fuels like electric vehicles. In light of this threat, citizens as well as civic and business leaders are calling on their governors to take immediate action on clean fuels policies and keep tar sands out of the region.

Civic and business leaders in Massachusetts recently held a press conference at the Lenox Hotel in Boston, announcing that citizens sent more than 5,000 to Governor Patrick calling for action against dirty fuels.  An influx of tar sands in Massachusetts could offset the state’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the emissions reductions mandates of the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act, our participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and recent efforts to spur consumer adoption of electric vehicles. At the event, CLF was joined by representatives of climate action groups Better Future Project and Mothers Out Front as well as members of the business community — Tedd Saunders, Chief Sustainability Officer for the Saunders Hotel Group, and Kathleen Connors, Founder and CEO of Voltrek, an electric vehicle charging infrastructure provider.  We were also joined by Massachusetts Senator Marc Pacheco, a strong voice for clean energy in Massachusetts.  The speakers’ message was clear: Massachusetts has been a leader in developing clean energy policies, but those gains will be wiped out if we don’t take action; now is the time for Governor Patrick to support policies that will support clean fuels and keep Massachusetts tar sands free.

In Vermont, leaders in the environmental community recently sent a similar message to Governor Shumlin.  CLF was joined by Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, Sierra Club,, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Vermont Natural Resources Council, and Vermont Public Interest Research Group in sending a letter to Governor Shumlin calling attention to the recent grassroots support and calling on his Administration to take action before an influx of dirty fuels offsets Vermont’s recent clean energy gains.

Our states must take action to avoid this looming disaster.  Join CLF by calling on your governors, gubernatorial candidates, and legislators to take action against dirty tar sands-derived fuels, and support the clean energy economy!

Tar Sands Coming Soon, to a Pump Near You?

Jan 31, 2014 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »


Could this be a scene in the US soon, bringing tar sands gas to tanks in New England?

Today the US State Department announced in its final supplemental environmental impact statement that the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would pump 830,000 barrels/day of high-carbon, dirty oil from Canada to the United States, would have a negligible impact on climate change. Seriously? Well, that’s what the document concludes. Though the State Department acknowledges that the construction and operation of the pipeline would boost the dirty tar sands sector and contribute to climate change, the scale of the impacts unfortunately is greatly downplayed.

So, what does this mean for New England? The risks to our region’s efforts to reduce climate pollution are very real. While the Keystone Pipeline would be physically located across the country and most of the tar sands-derived product it delivers would be exported, its impacts would be felt here. As detailed in NRDC’s recent report, What’s in Your Tank? Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States Need to Reject Tar Sands and Support Clean Fuels, if the Keystone XL pipeline goes forward, it is likely that some of the tar sands delivered to Gulf Coast refineries will end up being sent to the Northeast. Between Keystone and the proposed Portland-Montreal pipeline, the Northeast unfortunately is primed for high-carbon tar sands to enter our transportation fuel mix imminently. And if these projects move forward, as much as 18 percent of the region’s petroleum-based fuel supply could be derived from tar sands by 2020.

The New England states must heed this urgent wake up call – tar sands are coming, and if we do nothing the impacts will be devastating. To avoid backsliding from the important policy efforts to reduce carbon pollution reduction in place across New England, our policymakers must pursue clean fuels policies to hold the line against dirty tar sands fuel threatening our regional transportation energy mix and our clean energy future.

Energy: Out with the Dirty, In with the Clean

Apr 23, 2013 by  | Bio |  2 Comment »

Come join Conservation Law Foundation and our allies THIS SATURDAY in Burlington, Vermont for a discussion on Vermont’s Energy Choices.

Vermont’s Energy Choices: Old Dirty Problems and Clean Energy Solutions
Saturday, April 27th, 1:30 PM at the Billings Auditorium at UVM in Burlington

The time is NOW to move away from dirty sources of energy such as tar sands, nuclear, oil and coal. Solutions are available now to move us away from expensive, dangerous and polluting energy.

Come hear national and international experts on the problems of dirty energy – from fracking to tar sands – and  the real-world successes of renewable power – including community based renewable power in Europe.

Throwing up our hands is not an option. Come find out how to make a clean energy future our reality.

You can sign up and more information here:  See you Saturday!

Tar Sands in Vermont? No Way!

Jan 29, 2013 by  | Bio |  1 Comment »

photo courtesy of @

I joined with residents of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom today and fellow environmental colleagues to protect Vermont from the devastation of tar sands oil.

We filed a legal action to ensure Vermonters have a say over any proposal to move tar sands through Vermont. See press release here.

The request asks that the increasingly imminent proposal to move tar sands through an existing Northeast Kingdom pipeline be subject to state land use (Act 250) review. See request here.

Tar sands oil poses unique risks to the many natural treasures of the Northeast Kingdom and also imposes extreme climate change risks.

Tar sands oil is a gritty tar-like substance that produces far more emissions than conventional oil. The vastness of the tar sands reserves in Western Canada means that using tar sands oil delays efforts to move towards cleaner energy supplies, and sends us backwards on climate change.

As James Hansen, a leading climate scientist has said, the exploitation of tar sands on mass will be, “game over” for the climate.

Already there are requests to move tar sands east from Alberta to Montreal. The only realistic way to move it beyond Montreal to the deep ports it needs for transportation is through the Portland Montreal Pipeline which passes through Vermont.

There has already been one spill in this old pipeline in Vermont. A spill of tar sands oil – which is much harder to clean up – would be devastating.

Our filing requests that any plans to use the pipeline for tar sands oil be reviewed though Vermont’s land use development law – Act 250 – to protect our land, water and air resources threatened by this dirty fuel .

The Pursuit of Clean, Renewable Energy: The “North Atlantic” Right Way

Dec 12, 2012 by  | Bio |  5 Comment »

Yesterday, the North Atlantic right whale was only an historical symbol of one consequence associated with the relentless and unsustainable pursuit of energy.  Today, it is also a new symbol of renewable energy done the right way.  The agreement CLF is announcing today reflects support for the pursuit of renewable energy and also demonstrates that real leadership to change how we pursue energy can come from industry itself.

The pursuit of cheap energy from the 17th century forward hasn’t exactly been what one would call sustainable. From the time the first right whale was killed for its oil to today’s efforts to take and refine oil from the Canadian tar sands, our industries have drawn down limited resources with little regard for the environmental consequences. In fact, the right whale stands as a particularly distressing symbol of our history of exploitation.

The North Atlantic right whale was so-named because it was considered by whalers to be the “right” whale to kill. It was slow, swam close to shore, and was easy to harvest – accommodatingly floating to the surface with a head full of oil after it has been killed. Between the 17th and 19th centuries, the North Atlantic right whale, an animal that according to Herman Melville’s 1851 reflections in Moby Dick “would yield you some 500 gallons of oil or more” in just its lip and tongue, was hunted to the brink of extinction. The relentless pursuit of this limited resource in such an unsustainable way is the reason that today the North Atlantic right whale is considered critically endangered, with fewer than 500 animals remaining.

Despite the right whale’s lesson, our reliance on oil continues. According to the United States Energy Information Administration, the United States consumed a total of 6.87 billion barrels (18.83 million barrels per day) in 2011. Our reliance on exhaustible, limited fossil-fuel resources is causing climate change and setting into motion a series of unavoidable consequences, but still we drill for oil – albeit no longer in the head of a whale.

So while today’s landmark North Atlantic right whale agreement is a collection of voluntary measures designed to provide further protections for the North Atlantic right whale, primarily by reducing or avoiding sound impacts from exploratory activities that developers use to determine where to build wind farms, it is also so much more than that.

The offshore wind developers party to this agreement – Deepwater Wind, NRG Bluewater, and Energy Management, Inc. (owner of Cape Wind) – are willing to go above and beyond because they recognized that more could be done to protect North Atlantic right whales in the pursuit of energy. These developers’ willingness, and indeed enthusiasm, for protecting the whales reflects a new way of thinking – a 180-degree turnaround from the way other companies viewed energy generation over the last century and a half.  Instead of treating the natural world as an adversary to be exploited and consumed, these companies recognize that we can accommodate natural systems (like the whales’ migratory patterns and feeding grounds), that we can avoid extracting limited resources, that we don’t have to burn fuels that exacerbate climate change, and that we can still produce the energy to fuel modern society. Now that’s the right way.

A View from Inside (and Outside) the Annual Meeting of the New England Governors

Aug 7, 2012 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Last week I found myself on the beautiful shores of Lake Champlain in Burlington Vermont at the 36th Annual meeting of the New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers.

Normally, this meeting is a low key affair that doesn’t have a big impact on the place where it is being held. That was not the case this year. Protests outside the meeting drew attention to issues, like potential import of tar sands oil into New England, that were not on the formal meeting agenda.

An Op-Ed by CLF President John Kassel which ran in a number of regional newspapers before and after the meeting and can now be found on the CLF blog, as well as those protests and pointed inquiries by the press in the meeting forced drew focus towards important and contentious issues like tar sands oil imports and the Northern Pass project.

But the action inside the conference was real and important.  Some notable highlights:

  • The Governors adopted a plan for “regional procurement” of renewable energy that creates an important framework for getting much needed clean renewable energy to get built across New England
  • The Governors and Premiers came together to hail the progress that has been made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across our shared region since 2001 and to lay out a framework for further action
  • A plan was adopted for moving towards a cleaner transportation system that maintains and builds mobility while moving away from gasoline and other dirty fuels that produce a range of pollutants

The overall story here is of a cross-border region that is struggling to do the right thing for its economy and its environment.  The challenge we all face is ensuring that our states and provinces live up to the promises of their words, making the difficult transition away from dirty fossil fuels and providing leadership to both the United States and Canada to build a new clean energy economy.

More Tarzan, Less Tar Sands

Jun 20, 2012 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Moving to a clean energy future means keeping the dirty stuff out. If you are cleaning house in a dust storm, the first thing you do is close the door. 

photo courtesy of Zak Griefen

Environmental groups gathered to show the need to close the door in New England on tar sands oil – the dirtiest of dirty oil. We are moving in the wrong direction to bring oil in and through New England that increases global warming pollution even more.  

Tar sands are a carbon bomb that will catapult us past several dangerous climate tipping points. It has no part in our region’s clean energy future.

A new report, Going in Reverse: The Tar Sands Threat to Central Canada and New England, outlines an array of threats associated with tar sands.

In late May, a pipeline company announced it would reverse the flow of a 62-year-old pipeline bringing oil from southern Ontario to Montreal. Reversing the pipeline opend the door to another pipeline reversal enabling tar sands to flow through Vermont, and New Hampshire to Portland, Maine. The tar sands industry has been in a desperate search for a port of export since the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway projects have become mired in controversy. CLF and others expressed concern that these proposals are being advanced by the same pipeline company responsible for the largest tar sands spill in U.S. history resulting the devastation of the Kalamazoo River near Marshall, Michigan. 

As the placard of one young CLF supporter noted, we need “More Tarzan, Less Tar Sand.” The help of a super-hero would be nice. In the meantime, let’s just shut the door.

Associated Press story:  Alarm Raised About Potential Tar Sands Pipeline


What the Keystone XL decision should mean for Northern Pass

Nov 17, 2011 by  | Bio |  Leave a Comment

Protesters against Keystone XL - November 6, 2011 (photo credit: flickr/tarsandsaction)

Last week, a major disaster for our climate and our nation’s clean energy future was averted – at least for now – when the Obama administration announced that it won’t consider approving the Keystone XL pipeline’s border crossing permit before it reconsiders the Keystone XL pipeline’s environmental impacts and the potential alternatives to the proposal on the table.  For all the reasons that my colleague Melissa Hoffer articulated in her post last week, the Keystone XL victory was a resounding, if limited, triumph with important lessons for environmental and climate advocates across the country as we confront, one battle at a time, the seemingly overwhelming challenge of solving the climate crisis.

The Keystone XL decision also hits home in another way. It sends an unmistakable signal that the federal government’s review process for New England’s own international energy proposal – the Northern Pass transmission project – needs the same type of new direction.

The parallels between the State Department’s Keystone XL environmental review and the mishandled first year of the U.S. Department of Energy’s review of Northern Pass are striking. In both cases, we saw:

  • Troubling, improperly close relationships between the developer and the supposedly independent contractors conducting the environmental review, with unfair and inappropriate developer influence on the review’s trajectory, undermining the public legitimacy of the review process;
  • An extraordinary grassroots uprising against the proposal from diverse groups of residents, landowners, communities, businesses, and conservation and environmental groups;
  • Massively expensive lobbying and public relations campaigns by proponents designed to confuse and mislead lawmakers and the public
  • Repeated failures by permitting agencies to ensure fair, open, and truly comprehensive review of the full range of impacts, including climate impacts, and the reasonable alternatives for meeting our energy needs in other, less environmentally damaging ways.

With all the legal, procedural, and substantive deficiencies our national advocate colleagues have been pointing out for years, the Keystone XL review (before last week) is a dramatic example of what we can’t allow to happen with Northern Pass. Right now, things don’t look good – it appears that the Department of Energy is engaging in an “applicant-driven,” narrow review of a few potential project routes, not the broad, searching analysis CLF and many others have demanded again and again (and again).  Last week’s decision to conduct a wide-ranging new review of Keystone XL shows that there is still the opportunity (and now a clear precedent) for the Department of Energy to bring the same spirit of renewed scrutiny and public responsiveness to its review of Northern Pass.

New Hampshire and New England deserve an impartial, comprehensive, and rigorous review of the Northern Pass project – and all reasonable alternatives – by the permitting agencies entrusted with protecting the public interest. Indeed, what we need now is a serious regional plan that addresses whether and how best to import more Canadian hydropower into New England and the northeastern U.S. With huge projects like Keystone XL and Northern Pass on the table, our nation’s energy future is at stake, and it has never been more important – for our communities, economy, natural environment, and climate – to get it right.

For more information about Northern Pass, sign-up for our monthly newsletter Northern Pass Wire, visit CLF’s Northern Pass Information Center (, and take a look at our prior Northern Pass posts on CLF Scoop.