Can New England and Canada Achieve ‘Frenergy’?

John Kassel

Against a backdrop of protesters vehemently opposing bad proposals to bring energy from Canada into New England, governors from the six New England states this week demonstrated their commitment to a clean energy future for our region. They resolved to pool their buying power, regionally, for renewable energy. This will boost wind and solar energy, among other clean sources, at the best available price — a much-needed step on our path to affordable renewable energy and independence from dirty fossil fuels.

The resolution was announced at the 36th annual meeting of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers, held July 29th and 30th in Burlington, Vermont. The protesters outside the meeting had the attention of high-ranking officials from Canada, whose energy system has been linked with ours – in small ways so far – for decades.  That linkage could grow dramatically in the future, for mutual benefit.  Eastern Canada has the potential to serve markets all over New England with low-carbon, low-cost and clean electricity from renewable sources. And New England needs it, if we get it on the right terms.

The wrong terms are exemplified by the Trailbreaker proposal and the Northern Pass transmission project, the two Canadian energy proposals galvanizing protesters outside the meetings in Burlington. Trailbreaker would send slurry oil derived from tar sands in Western Canada to Portland, Maine by reversing the flow of the Portland-to-Montreal pipeline that has cut across Quebec, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine since it was built over 50 years ago. Northern Pass would cut a route running the length of New Hampshire, including through the White Mountains, for a high-voltage DC transmission line to deliver Canadian hydropower to parts of New England. In both cases, the environmental burdens far outweigh any benefits for our region.

However, long-term supplies of hydro, wind and other sources of power – that respect and significantly benefit the landscape through which they are transmitted, support rather than undermine the development of New England’s own renewable energy resources, replace coal  and other dirty fuels, keep the lights on at reasonable cost, and accurately account for their impacts – are what New England needs. The details will be complicated, but they can be worked out.

Conversations inside the meeting were tilting in the direction of such productive cross-border cooperation, and the announcement of a regional resolution to bring clean, affordable energy to New England may have provided some salve for the protesters. Still, we need to continue to be vigilant about Trailbreaker and Northern Pass and we will spend the effort to defeat them if we must. But any effort spent on these deeply-flawed proposals –whether advancing them or fighting them – is an unfortunate use of precious time for both countries, given the urgent call of climate change.

The sooner we get to the task of building our shared clean energy future the better, for New Englanders and our friends to the north.

Focus Areas

Climate Change

Campaigns

Northern Pass

12 Responses to “Can New England and Canada Achieve ‘Frenergy’?”

  1. Bob Bousquet

    With our mutually extensive border areas that are most abundant in wind, solar, current & tidal energy resources; we should be working & pooling our cooperation, together, in order to bring about real solutions in enabling the real uses of these natural resources…& get ourselves off of fossil fuels asap. We also have many volcanic & geo-thermal sites that should be explored & brought into use…these resources are there, continually, & naturally.

  2. Bob Bousquet

    With our mutually extensive border areas that are most abundant in wind, solar, current & tidal energy resources; we should be working & pooling our cooperation, together, in order to bring about real solutions in enabling the real uses of these natural resources…& get ourselves off of fossil fuels asap. We also have many volcanic & geo-thermal sites that should be explored & brought into use…these resources are there, continually, & naturally.

  3. Bob Bousquet

    With our mutually extensive border areas that are most abundant in wind, solar, current & tidal energy resources; we should be working & pooling our cooperation, together, in order to bring about real solutions in enabling the real uses of these natural resources…& get ourselves off of fossil fuels asap. We also have many volcanic & geo-thermal sites that should be explored & brought into use…these resources are there, continually, & naturally.

  4. Bob Bousquet

    With our mutually extensive border areas that are most abundant in wind, solar, current & tidal energy resources; we should be working & pooling our cooperation, together, in order to bring about real solutions in enabling the real uses of these natural resources…& get ourselves off of fossil fuels asap. We also have many volcanic & geo-thermal sites that should be explored & brought into use…these resources are there, continually, & naturally.

  5. Susan Redlich

    Thank you for bringing attention to the new frontier of regional renewable energy opportunities for eastern Canada and New England, especially your emphasis on “the right terms”. I question your statement though, that “the protesters had the attention of high-ranking officials from Canada.” Despite the big turnout at the demonstration and the week-long citizens’ walk through towns along the pipeline, the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers issued no statement or response to the opponents of Trailbreaker of which I am aware. The silence of the Governors Conference on the subject I think speaks for itself, in other words, the proposal is being discussed in back rooms.
    We need to expand the energy planning framework further, not just what can work for this region, but for the global climate. The enormity of carbon to be released by the Alberta tar sands oil field is staggering. Renewable energy development will face an uphill battle in attracting investment as long as the oil fields of Canada are in play. The demonstration in Burlington gave visibility to many groups that see the tie-in between stopping tar sands oil transport and stopping the corporate influence over politicians and resources.
    In the face of the power of corporations to exploit the oil reserves and fund politicians that do not take a stand against fossil fuel projects, citizens will need to present an organized opposition. The Tar Sands Free Town Initiative is one strategy I learned about on the Tar Sands Free NE website: “The Initiative connects people in local communities across the United States and parts of Canada who are fighting the expansion of tar sands in their local community. Building on model resolutions already adopted in Bellingham, Washington, individual municipalities can pass resolutions that keep fuel from tar sands refineries out of their towns. Although tar sands oil itself hasn’t yet entered New England, fuel from refineries using tar sands is being distributed across New England, so municipalities must take action to avoid buying this fuel that supports the tar sands. Also, pipeline companies appear to be taking steps to bring tar sands directly to the eastern seaboard. Municipal resolutions can take a stand against these tar sands plans as well.”

  6. Susan Redlich

    Thank you for bringing attention to the new frontier of regional renewable energy opportunities for eastern Canada and New England, especially your emphasis on “the right terms”. I question your statement though, that “the protesters had the attention of high-ranking officials from Canada.” Despite the big turnout at the demonstration and the week-long citizens’ walk through towns along the pipeline, the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers issued no statement or response to the opponents of Trailbreaker of which I am aware. The silence of the Governors Conference on the subject I think speaks for itself, in other words, the proposal is being discussed in back rooms.
    We need to expand the energy planning framework further, not just what can work for this region, but for the global climate. The enormity of carbon to be released by the Alberta tar sands oil field is staggering. Renewable energy development will face an uphill battle in attracting investment as long as the oil fields of Canada are in play. The demonstration in Burlington gave visibility to many groups that see the tie-in between stopping tar sands oil transport and stopping the corporate influence over politicians and resources.
    In the face of the power of corporations to exploit the oil reserves and fund politicians that do not take a stand against fossil fuel projects, citizens will need to present an organized opposition. The Tar Sands Free Town Initiative is one strategy I learned about on the Tar Sands Free NE website: “The Initiative connects people in local communities across the United States and parts of Canada who are fighting the expansion of tar sands in their local community. Building on model resolutions already adopted in Bellingham, Washington, individual municipalities can pass resolutions that keep fuel from tar sands refineries out of their towns. Although tar sands oil itself hasn’t yet entered New England, fuel from refineries using tar sands is being distributed across New England, so municipalities must take action to avoid buying this fuel that supports the tar sands. Also, pipeline companies appear to be taking steps to bring tar sands directly to the eastern seaboard. Municipal resolutions can take a stand against these tar sands plans as well.”

  7. Susan Redlich

    Thank you for bringing attention to the new frontier of regional renewable energy opportunities for eastern Canada and New England, especially your emphasis on “the right terms”. I question your statement though, that “the protesters had the attention of high-ranking officials from Canada.” Despite the big turnout at the demonstration and the week-long citizens’ walk through towns along the pipeline, the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers issued no statement or response to the opponents of Trailbreaker of which I am aware. The silence of the Governors Conference on the subject I think speaks for itself, in other words, the proposal is being discussed in back rooms.
    We need to expand the energy planning framework further, not just what can work for this region, but for the global climate. The enormity of carbon to be released by the Alberta tar sands oil field is staggering. Renewable energy development will face an uphill battle in attracting investment as long as the oil fields of Canada are in play. The demonstration in Burlington gave visibility to many groups that see the tie-in between stopping tar sands oil transport and stopping the corporate influence over politicians and resources.
    In the face of the power of corporations to exploit the oil reserves and fund politicians that do not take a stand against fossil fuel projects, citizens will need to present an organized opposition. The Tar Sands Free Town Initiative is one strategy I learned about on the Tar Sands Free NE website: “The Initiative connects people in local communities across the United States and parts of Canada who are fighting the expansion of tar sands in their local community. Building on model resolutions already adopted in Bellingham, Washington, individual municipalities can pass resolutions that keep fuel from tar sands refineries out of their towns. Although tar sands oil itself hasn’t yet entered New England, fuel from refineries using tar sands is being distributed across New England, so municipalities must take action to avoid buying this fuel that supports the tar sands. Also, pipeline companies appear to be taking steps to bring tar sands directly to the eastern seaboard. Municipal resolutions can take a stand against these tar sands plans as well.”

  8. Susan Redlich

    Thank you for bringing attention to the new frontier of regional renewable energy opportunities for eastern Canada and New England, especially your emphasis on “the right terms”. I question your statement though, that “the protesters had the attention of high-ranking officials from Canada.” Despite the big turnout at the demonstration and the week-long citizens’ walk through towns along the pipeline, the Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers issued no statement or response to the opponents of Trailbreaker of which I am aware. The silence of the Governors Conference on the subject I think speaks for itself, in other words, the proposal is being discussed in back rooms.
    We need to expand the energy planning framework further, not just what can work for this region, but for the global climate. The enormity of carbon to be released by the Alberta tar sands oil field is staggering. Renewable energy development will face an uphill battle in attracting investment as long as the oil fields of Canada are in play. The demonstration in Burlington gave visibility to many groups that see the tie-in between stopping tar sands oil transport and stopping the corporate influence over politicians and resources.
    In the face of the power of corporations to exploit the oil reserves and fund politicians that do not take a stand against fossil fuel projects, citizens will need to present an organized opposition. The Tar Sands Free Town Initiative is one strategy I learned about on the Tar Sands Free NE website: “The Initiative connects people in local communities across the United States and parts of Canada who are fighting the expansion of tar sands in their local community. Building on model resolutions already adopted in Bellingham, Washington, individual municipalities can pass resolutions that keep fuel from tar sands refineries out of their towns. Although tar sands oil itself hasn’t yet entered New England, fuel from refineries using tar sands is being distributed across New England, so municipalities must take action to avoid buying this fuel that supports the tar sands. Also, pipeline companies appear to be taking steps to bring tar sands directly to the eastern seaboard. Municipal resolutions can take a stand against these tar sands plans as well.”

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