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Should Massachusetts commit itself to 100 percent renewable energy?


Sean Garballey

State Representative, Arlington Democrat

State Representative Sean Garballey. handout

It is the consensus of our scientific community that global warming is occurring much faster than anticipated, causing our polar ice caps to melt; making sea levels rise, and increasing the frequency of severe weather events. The largest contributor to this problem is fossil fuel consumption.

We know that advances in technology make clean, renewable energy sources like wind and solar more viable each day, but in Massachusetts, we have yet to lay a complete foundation for a 100 percent renewable Commonwealth.

Communities intending to transition to renewable energy must do so without federal support in the coming years. President Trump has placed the Environmental Protection Agency under the stewardship of a man who has sued the agency 14 times, siding with oil and other industries against federal pollution rules. He is signaling to states to regard climate change as a hoax unworthy of our attention.

The good news is that communities across the globe, including San Diego, Calif. and St. Petersburg, Fla., are plotting their own paths to 100 percent renewable energy. Major corporations like Google and General Motors are doing the same.


Massachusetts, a hub of innovation, should help lead this effort by committing to long-term solutions to help address climate change. I am a lead sponsor of new legislation directing the state to set targets for renewable growth in all major sectors of our economy, with a goal of deriving all energy from renewable sources by 2050. The act also establishes a fund to support job training, education, and job placement assistance for Massachusetts residents hoping to work in the clean energy industry, funded by savings from clean energy projects on state properties.

The legislation would spur job creation, protect our natural resources, and reduce our carbon footprint by making our homes, businesses, and infrastructure more efficient. The Solutions Project, a group which advocates for renewable energy, estimates that moving in this direction would create 53,490 construction jobs and 37,950 operations jobs in Massachusetts.


Passage of this act would benefit the health of our citizens while also delivering substantial relief to family household budgets. Massachusetts leads the world on so many fronts and should lead again by becoming the first state to commit to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.


David G. Tuerck

President of the Beacon Hill Institute, headquartered in Medway; professor of economics at Suffolk University

David G. Tuerck. handout

The proposed legislation mandating a transition to 100 percent “clean” energy by 2050 betrays the economic naiveté of its backers, plus their apparent willingness to sacrifice the interests of Massachusetts residents to what I believe to be the questionable idea of man-made global warming. We might call this bill the “Massachusetts Deindustrialization Act of 2017.”

Yale’s William Nordhaus, who does see global warming as a threat, is arguably the world’s leading authority on the economics of climate change. His goal has been to figure out the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions that would properly balance the social benefits of reduced warming against the social costs of switching to more expensive clean energy. Looking out 50 years, Nordhaus in 2008 estimated a 27 percent reduction to be about right. He finds Al Gore’s proposal for almost a 100 percent reduction, to be “extremely expensive,” with the capacity to inflict as much as $25 trillion in costs on the US economy.


In 2009, the Beacon Hill Institute estimated the economic effects at the state level of US legislation that would have cut carbon emissions by 83 percent by 2050. Updating that methodology and revising it to fit the proposed legislation, we calculate the cost of the bill to Massachusetts to be $4,962 per person in current dollars, or about twice what the average resident currently pays in state income taxes.

Massachusetts gets only about 7.6 percent of its energy from non-nuclear clean sources. Its energy consumption is about .2 percent of world energy consumption. This speaks to both the lengths the state would have to go to become 100 percent clean and how the bill would fail in its purpose, barring 100 percent worldwide cooperation. In reality, global warming is a global problem (if it is a problem at all), and the idea that one speck of humanity can make a difference by going it alone is preposterous.

Among the 50 states, Massachusetts uses the eighth-least energy per capita but it pays the fourth highest electricity prices. Let’s stop this misguided sacrifice of Massachusetts living standards to the gods of climate change now, before anyone takes it seriously.

Last week’s Argument: Should the state expunge past marijuana convictions from people’s criminal records?

Yes: 84 percent (21 votes)

No: 16 percent (4 votes)

As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at