By Don Keelan
Jared Duval is not a household name in Vermont. Still, he is well-known in the climate change arena, serving as the executive director of the Montpelier-based nonprofit Energy Action Network.
Those who may be unfamiliar with this 9-year-old, $700,000-in-assets organization may wish to become informed. The organization’s mission, as noted in its 2020 filed Form 990, is “EAN works to achieve Vermont’s 90% renewable by 2050 total energy commitment and to significantly reduce Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions in ways that create a more just, thriving, and sustainable future for Vermonters.” Not a problem — its mission is not unlike scores of other Vermont nonprofit organizations.
The problem is that Mr. Duval, who serves as one of the 23 members of the Vermont Climate Council, has taken it upon himself to express in the Vermont media his opinions on why Vermont should remove itself from fossil fuels. It is unclear whether the expressed views are solely Mr. Duval’s or those of the VCC. The Legislature created the VCC as part of the Global Warming Solutions Act (vetoed by Gov. Phil Scott) and is charged with providing, by Dec. 1, 2021, its recommendations to have Vermont’s greenhouse gases lowered by 26% in 2025 from where they were in 2005.
I find it unusual for a member of a state government committee to publish their opinions on issues currently being researched, analyzed and debated by the committee on which they serve. Additionally disturbing is that the author is on the payroll of an organization almost 100% committed to electrifying all of Vermont and eliminating fossil fuels. It is as if the VCC has gone rogue.
This past June, I commented on another member of VCC. Ms. Danielle Bombardier published her views in the Vermont media, suggesting that when Vermonters weatherize their homes, which might as well be mandatory, the use of union labor is highly encouraged. Ms. Bombardier is the secretary/treasurer of the Vermont AFL-CIO.
What’s worse is that Mr. Duval’s comments border on inaccuracy and disingenuousness. Duval makes an issue that each year Vermonters send $1.5 billion out of state to buy the fossil fuels we consume. According to Duval, it will no longer be the case when we go fully electric or use wood pellets for heating purposes.
Mr. Duval also notes that we are dealing with Saudi Arabia and Russia to import fossil fuels, countries that “abuse human rights and undermine democracy.” He never mentions (recently noted in the Wall Street Journal) that President Joe Biden is begging OPEC + to increase their oil production. Nor does he say that before Jan. 20, 2021, the United States was close to being the leading exporter of oil in the world. Since then, in Arlington, Vermont, 87% octane gasoline has gone from $2.19 per gallon to $3.33.
Nor does Mr. Duval disclose that a substantial portion of the electricity that Green Mountain Power (a Canadian-owned company) imports is from Canada. And to meet the anticipated electric demand even more, Vermont dollars will be sent north of the border or to Seabrook, New Hampshire.
Mr. Duval should do what I did: speak to Vermont’s leading expert on wood pellets. Had he done so, he would find that there is only one plant in Vermont that manufactures wood pellets, and its annual production is limited. Furthermore, as I discovered, most pellets currently used in Vermont “come from Canada, New England, and New York and maybe 20% from outside that area.” So much for converting to wood pellet devices and keeping dollars in Vermont.
Mr. Duvel firmly believes that the state’s motto of “Freedom and Unity” applies to reaching the state’s 2050 goal. This might be possible if education, reasonableness, common sense and veracity are at the forefront.
It is time to recognize Duval’s conflict. Otherwise, when the VCC’s report comes out on Dec. 1, it will mark the day that Vermont became not one state united but one state divided.
Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington, Vermont.