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Kurkoski/My Turn: Pipeline not an answer

For more than eight years, I have been an active member of the Warwick Buildings & Energy Committee and the North Quabbin Energy group. Most of our projects have centered on defining and addressing the areas where energy is being needlessly wasted, and we’ve achieved noteworthy results so far.

So I was drawn to attend a meeting about the proposed natural gas pipeline carrying fracked gas through our area. The meeting of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Quadrennial Energy Review Task Force was held in Hartford, Conn., on April 22. Eighteen representatives from federal and state governments and the utility and gas industries spoke for almost three hours about “New England Regional Energy Infrastructure Constraints.” They often referred to the shortage of “cheap” natural gas this past winter, and their supply-side solution to this problem by installing more pipelines.

They spent only a few minutes talking about what is called the “demand side” of the problem, that is, looking at how we can reduce our need for energy with conservation and efficiency measures. On the “supply side,” they briefly mentioned increasing the amount of energy being produced by using renewable energy options such as wind and solar.

The following are the comments (with slight editing for clarification) that I presented to the Task Force during the public comment period:

“I would first like to say that the Northeast does not have an energy supply problem. The problem that we have is a demand/supply issue. If the problem is only referred to as a supply problem then only supply solutions will be looked at.

“When we talk about meeting our energy needs, the conversation should start with:

“First, conservation;

second, energy efficiency and if we have a concern about climate change — third, renewables;

fourth, polluting technologies such as fossil fuels and nuclear should be used only as a last resort.

“If we do not implement this list in the above order we will leave a very different climate and a planet that is very difficult for our children to live on.

“I would next like to illustrate the power of conservation, energy efficiency and renewables. Two years ago my wife and I had the good fortune to be chosen to participate in the National Grid Deep Energy Retrofit Pilot Program. Thank you to National Grid and the state of Massachusetts. By super insulating and air sealing our house, installing an air-source heat pump and a 2.4kW solar system, along with practicing conservation, our total energy bill for heat and electricity for last year was $60, which equals 300 pounds of CO2 equivalent.

“This was during last winter with its ‘polar vortex.’

“Conservation, efficiency and renewables have been mentioned by only a few of the presenters today. We need to bring conservation, efficiency and renewables to center stage to solve our energy needs.”

I offered these recommendations:

∎  Institute to a greater extent “peak load shaving” (often addressed by voluntary cut-backs during periods of high demand).

∎  Make it mandatory that all future buildings are Zero Net Energy or Zero Plus Energy (where a building generates as much as or more energy than it uses).

∎  Institute a more aggressive “time of use” electric and gas metering system (higher rates during times of high demand).

∎  Put a severe carbon tax on all polluting energy producers.

∎  When comparing fuels, measure CO2 equivalent emissions for the complete cycle of extraction, transportation, storage, burning and waste products of all energy options.

∎  Remove all incentives and support for energy producers of fossil fuel and nuclear.

After having given these comments both in person and by email, and hearing the opinions of our government and industry representatives, I realize that we all have a great deal more work to do.

Some of our high-ranking government officials support the installation of a pipeline from Wright, N.Y., to Dracut, but a growing number of our legislators are beginning to support the grass-roots movement to oppose this and other pipelines. Even more are beginning to hear from their constituents that new fossil fuel infrastructure is NOT a good option, that we can meet the perceived supply-side problem with better incentives to reduce our energy use. Also, it is just plain wrong to both take private and protected land by eminent domain for the profit of a private industry, and then require us, the ratepayers, to foot the bill through a proposed tariff.

In the end, the pipeline installation issue will be decided at the state and federal levels.

I urge you to get involved and make your voice heard by sending your comments to qercomments@hq.doe.gov before June 20, as well as all other government officials you can think of.

Steve Kurkoski is a Warwick resident.

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