During the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration proposed building a road along the spine of the Green Mountains in order to create jobs in the state. Vermonters wisely rejected the plan: They understood that desecrating the mountains would entail a deeper cost than any economic benefit the road might bring.
Unfortunately, Gov. Shumlin lacks the same level of wisdom and has been aggressively promoting utility-scale wind development along our ridgelines. The reason, he claims, is that we need to do something about global warming. But these large-scale projects will have a negligible impact on climate change: Because their output varies so widely depending on wind conditions, utilities must compensate by ramping up and down other power plants, often fossil fuel-based. Those plants operate less efficiently as a result and emit higher levels of greenhouse gases. What’s more, every ridgeline development requires clear-cutting hundreds of acres of forest – a carbon dioxide sink – to make way for tower pads, transmission lines and access roads. A poor trade-off for 25 years of intermittent power.
These massive projects are not about being “green,” they’re about making money, much of it from government subsidies. For the Lowell project, Green Mountain Power expects to reap $46 million in production tax credits and millions more through the sale of renewable energy credits. Public money would be far better spent in support of small, decentralized renewable energy projects that directly power the community where the project is sited. This would lead to higher cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and lower environmental costs.
We still have largely pristine mountains in this state because of the wisdom of an earlier generation of Vermonters. At stake today are at least 200 miles of ridgeline. Don’t let future generations point to ours as the generation that sold out Vermont’s soul.