As a former legislator, I understand that any type of Vermont energy policy must play a dual role: it must provide a path to developing clean and environmentally-friendly power sources, while at the same time promote economic development throughout our state. The law says so. And yet for some reason our state's economy is being asked to take a back seat to a statewide energy plan that does not adequately take economic development into account.
Besides producing nearly zero carbon emissions, Vermont Yankee is the single biggest instate generator of electricity, provides about 1000 good jobs, millions in state and local taxes, and keeps our power bills as low as possible. That's why it is so unfortunate to see so many people in Montpelier trying to shut down the plant, even while poll numbers show Vermonters elsewhere want it to stay open.
When the Senate voted to shut down Vermont Yankee, the anti-nuclear activists waved their big puppets and cheered. These people failed to address the real problem: where, specifically, will Vermont get enough locally-made, low-cost, virtually zero-carbon electricity? Stop playing with your puppets and answer that, please.
Will the hundreds of megawatts we need come from biomass power? Doubtful, as a state study group this month recommended burning wood for heat but not for electricity. How about in-state hydroelectric production? Not likely, as Vermont's waterfalls are already pretty much maxed out. Wind? That, too, is doubtful, given that Gov. Shumlin's Windham County replacement in the Senate is pushing to pass a law to restrict wind power -- a move that acknowledges widespread dissatisfaction with the Lowell project and others. What about cow-power, solar or reducing overall demand and improving energy efficiency? Again, all of these options are great in theory, but implementing them will take years. We don't have that kind of time if the state is intent on shutting down our main energy source next year.