Op-Ed: Saving the environment and saving money

Source: By Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, VTDigger • Posted: Friday, June 8, 2018

As a nation, Vermonters are ahead of the curve when it comes to energy efficiency and renewable energy. While many Vermonters have already taken steps to protect the environment and save money on their fuel bills, many others are considering installing solar panels, heat pumps, clean wood heat, geothermal energy, or making their homes and businesses more energy efficient.

There are many pro-environment and pro-consumer options out there, but sometimes it is hard to know which ones make the most sense for your family or business. That is why I am organizing an Energy Resource Fair and Town Meeting this Saturday, June 9, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., at Vermont Technical College in Randolph Center. The goal is to provide practical information for Vermonters from all income levels on how they can save money on their fuel bills and protect the environment by investing in energy efficiency and sustainable energy.

The fair will feature dozens of exhibits and workshops, a panel discussion with national and local experts, an electric vehicle expo, a whole-home efficiency makeover trailer and lots more. We’ll also have information about affordable financing options and incentives that can benefit almost everyone. For more information about the fair, please call 1-800-339-9834 or visit www.sanders.senate.gov/events/energyfair.

To my mind, global climate change is perhaps the single greatest threat facing our planet. In fact, we are already seeing its dire consequences all across the world from out of control wildfires, more frequent and extreme storms, record heat waves and drought, melting ice caps and more.

For hundreds of years, we have burned fossil fuels to heat our buildings, generate electricity and power our vehicles. In the process, we have released huge amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, to the point that atmospheric carbon dioxide is now at its highest level in the past 800,000 years. It is no wonder that average air and ocean temperatures have been steadily rising for decades, and 16 of the 17 warmest years on record have all occurred since 2001.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that if we have any hope of avoiding the worst consequences of climate change – including large-scale crop failures, increased hunger, illness and migration, rising sea levels, eco-system disruptions and extinction of species, and more extreme weather — we have to dramatically curb carbon emissions, starting now.

Yet President Donald Trump clings to the absurd notion that climate change is a hoax created by China. He has filled his cabinet with climate deniers, withdrawn the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, rolled back President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, and opened our fragile coastal waters and precious public lands for new oil and gas extraction.

The good news is that despite Trump’s efforts to prop up his friends in the coal, oil and gas industries, there is a revolution occurring in renewable energies like solar, wind and geothermal. Total investment in renewables last year was double the investment in fossil fuels, and renewables now account for nearly 20 percent of domestic electricity production. Moreover, as prices for renewables continue to fall, investing in clean energy not only helps the planet but it increasingly makes good financial sense as well. Solar energy is now the cheapest form of non-subsidized new electrical generation.

The renewables industry is also creating good-paying jobs – more than 350,000 in this country alone. The U.S. solar sector already employs a quarter million people – more than Apple, Google and Facebook combined – and the potential for additional job growth is huge. Impressively, Vermont ranks second in the nation for solar jobs per capita.

In Washington, I am not just fighting the Trump administration’s attacks on the environment, but I am introducing and supporting legislation to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy. For example, I am co-sponsoring legislation to move us toward 100 percent renewables by 2050 by ending fossil fuel subsidies, investing in renewables instead and modernizing our energy grid.

While Vermont is one of the strongest pro-environment states in the country, we can always do better, and the more we know about the new technologies that are available the faster we can advance. I hope you will join us on Saturday, June 9, to learn how we can more effectively combat climate change as well as save consumers real dollars on their energy use.

In my view, we have a moral obligation to leave this planet to our kids and grandchildren in a way that is healthy and habitable. Let’s have Vermont lead the way.