By David Ismay and Caitlin Peale Sloan
Massachusetts stands at a crossroads, and the stakes could hardly be higher: Will we invest in a clean and healthy energy future for our children and grandchildren? Or will we continue to subsidize the failing fossil fuel industry that pollutes our air, water, and climate?
That is the choice facing Commonwealth legislators as they privately debate a series of bills that will shape our energy and climate future for the next 10 to 20 years. If done right, these bills could keep Massachusetts on-track for a future powered by clean, renewable, local sources. But if done wrong, these bills could completely derail that future – and our 2050 climate goals – in favor of dirty, climate-warming fossil fuels.
The Fork in the Energy Road
Knowing just how high the stakes are, we were shocked to learn that some state legislators are seriously considering language in the upcoming House energy bill that would lock us into burning more climate-warming natural gas – and paying for two massive new natural gas pipelines – for the next 50 years.
Let us be perfectly clear: Handouts to the petroleum industry have no place in the House bill and adding them is certain to derail the entire bill. We are pleased that more than 90 Massachusetts state representatives have signed a bipartisan letter stating that gas has no place in this energy bill and we applaud their commitment to ensuring the House clean energy bill stays clean.
No Place for More Dirty Fuels in Massachusetts
We know that there are many people out there who claim that we can’t meet our energy needs with clean, renewable sources alone – that we must use natural gas as a bridge to a renewable energy future. But the reality is, that “bridge to renewables” has already been built, if not over-built. Almost 50% of Massachusetts’s electricity today comes from burning natural gas, which is more than enough to “balance” thousands of megawatts of clean, reliable power from renewable sources such as wind and solar. Yes, the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow, but these clean sources are abundant and have been proven to be highly reliable and predictable – and there’s opportunity for dramatic growth in wind and solar power in Massachusetts and all of New England.
Adding more natural gas to our electricity grid, on the other hand, threatens our climate future. It’s a fossil fuel and it emits greenhouse gases that damage our climate. Ramping up natural gas here with big new pipelines and power plants will make it impossible to slash greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts to the levels that both scientists and the law say are necessary if we are to avert the worst impacts of our changing climate.
But that’s not the only reason to avoid the natural gas trap. In future blogs, we’ll look at how relying more on natural gas actually threatens the reliability of our regional electrical grid and at how illegally subsidizing this dirty fuel on the backs of businesses and families will not only hurt our climate, but also our economy.
A Better Clean Energy Bill
Rejecting natural gas alone isn’t going to get us the clean energy bill that makes the most sense for Massachusetts. We need a bill designed primarily to invest heavily in New England’s cleanest and most abundant renewable resource: wind power, both offshore and onshore. Distant, expensive Canadian hydropower – and the hundreds and hundreds of miles of new transmission lines required to bring it here – simply doesn’t make sense financially or environmentally unless it’s paired with wind.
The Bottom Line: No New Natural Gas
We at CLF will never accept an energy bill that looks backwards rather than forwards, pouring our hard-earned savings down the fossil fuel drain. And neither should you. Join us in making sure the Legislature understands that we mean it when we say: You work for us, not for private power companies or the utilities and We the People demand a clean and healthy energy future for ourselves and our families!