Let’s not promote panic in favor of fossil fuel investments
Re “Why you’ll pay for Beacon Hill’s pipeline folly” (April 22): The latest editorial advocating, in essence, for electric ratepayers to pay billions of dollars for natural gas pipeline investments, and thus for enormous profits for pipeline investors and the fossil fuel industry, makes several misleading points. There are two notable ones.
First, passing a law for a natural gas pipeline would not affect electricity rates for many years, but a new natural gas pipeline could potentially come online in 2022. However, that is the same time frame in which investments in hydroelectricity from Canada and offshore wind should be coming online, undercutting the hypothetical benefits of a new pipeline. Any benefits would also disappear if natural gas is exported from the region.
Second, most data on generation does not go back to 1999. But from 2001 to 2005, the region averaged over 31,000 gigawatt hours annually from coal and oil. In 2014, when generation from these two fuels spiked from January through March because of the polar vortex, New England generated 7,000 GWh from coal and oil, less than a quarter of the earlier amount. Coal and oil generation in January 2018 was only 56 percent of the level from January 2014. These long-term trends are all headed in the right direction.
The Massachusetts Legislature, with the support of the attorney general, has been making sensible decisions to advance a clean energy future and should not stop now. Promoting panic in favor of fossil fuel investments is unhelpful.
Note the image of the smart meter — emphasis on ‘smart’
It’s a great irony that a photo of a “smart meter” on a house in Worcester illustrates the online version of the latest Globe editorial calling for expanding natural gas pipelines.
Smart meters and associated peak-sensitive rates are proven to reduce consumer energy costs and limit peak demand. National Grid ran a small trial in Worcester in 2015, reporting impressive results: “Customers have been able to reduce usage by as much as 30 percent on peak days and to save an average of $100 a year in energy costs.”
But there’s been no follow-through, and Massachusetts now lags far behind the rest of the country. A 2017 survey of residential smart meter deployment by the US Energy Information Administration shows Massachusetts is 46th out of 50 states.
ISO New England, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, and The Boston Globe should not jump to expensive, climate-destroying pipeline expansion as a peak energy solution when better and cheaper solutions, such as smart meters, are ready and waiting . . . and waiting.
State officials’ good intentions still leave us with bad policy
Thank you for your informative editorial on the state of our region’s energy market (“Why you’ll pay for Beacon Hill’s pipeline folly”). I also wish to commend you on your reporting on the subject over the past few months. While I understand that the intentions of Attorney General Maura Healey and members of the Legislature are good in addressing our responsibility to mitigate CO2 emissions, this is clearly a case of the perfect being the enemy of the good.
The cost of gas, as reflected in my heating bill, increased by 7 percent from March to April. Apparently, our energy costs are among the highest in the nation. But that’s the least of it. I’m outraged that we had to buy Russian gas in a workaround of the sanctions imposed for their actions in Ukraine and Crimea. Likewise, it’s practically criminal that cleaner-burning natural gas plants are forced to burn oil. And if that’s not bad enough, old coal-fired plants are being kept open to make sure we don’t experience electricity shortages. What are our elected officials thinking?
Build the pipelines! In the long run, it will be cheaper and much better for the environment.
We’re not doing enough to transition to renewables
Sunday’s editorial suggests that, lacking a new $6 billion to $8 billion pipeline carrying fracked gas from Pennsylvania to Massachusetts, gas prices will soar during cold winters, as will carbon emissions from the use of fuel oil and coal to meet demand.
The premise that more natural gas is essential is predicated on the conviction that we must transition to renewables later in this century using 20th-century technologies. Instead, if in addition to solar (currently capped by the state) and wind generation we would add to the mix the biogas and thermal energy that wastewater and food waste can generate, then we could forgo pipelines and save a lot of money.
Using distributed Community Water and Energy Resource Centers, or CWERCs, Massachusetts could flip to local renewable generation of energy while more effectively managing its water resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
As Earth Day passes, I challenge us all to pursue environmentally restorative and economically attractive ways to ensure energy security while building climate resilience. We must extend our renewable energy opportunities rather than spend billions of dollars in a dying fossil fuel industry.
Swiftly abandoning fossil fuels is the only reasonable option
Your Earth Day editorial cites energy costs and the threat of environmental damage as a rationale for new fossil fuel infrastructure, which strikes me as the definition of an oxymoron.
Officials must consider the long-term costs of energy along with the externalities. How much does it cost to build infrastructure that will be abandoned prematurely? How much will it cost to remove from the atmosphere methane and CO2 that will result from fracking, transporting, and burning natural gas? How much will it cost to repair the damage and injuries caused by increasingly violent storms, and what about the commensurate rising insurance premiums? How much will it cost to build seawalls to protect Boston from rising tides? And when the seawalls ultimately fail, how much will it cost when city residents become climate migrants?
Continued investment in fossil-fuel infrastructure is the definition of insanity. The only reasonable option is to abandon fossil fuels as quickly as humanly possible. Our existence depends on it.