Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Cruel Hoax on Vermonters By Deb Bucknam

Author's note:  I wrote this op ed piece last September.  I was reminded of the article this morning when I heard more startling statistics from Sen. Vince Illuzzi who had spoken with IBM officials about Vermont Yankee's closing.  They told him that not only would their electricity costs go up seven million a year with the closing of Vermont Yankee, but that IBM depends on reliable energy such as supplied by Vermont Yankee.  Why? because while a brown out causes our lights to flicker, a 45 second brown out at IBM cost them 1.3 million because they had to throw out all the chips they were making at the time, and repair the equipment in some way.   Illuzzi also said that Vermont Yankee pays 6.5 million a year to the state for renewable energy projects.  A bill in the General Assembly is proposing to make up for that lost revenue with a "grid parity" tax  on electricity that will cost residential consumers .55 a month, but industrial consumers $430.00 a month. 

All Vermonters need electric energy.  It has become essential to all of us, not only powering lights, televisions and computers in our homes, but powering our water pumps, our furnaces, and medically vital appliances for the elderly and disabled.   The poor pay a disproportionately higher percentage of their income than their more affluent neighbors for this necessity of life.  And of course our economy would come to a standstill if electricity was shut off.

Vermont has in recent years, thanks mostly to Vermont Yankee, paid the lowest electric rates in New England.  Not only is Vermont Yankee’s four cents a kilowatt hour rate the lowest of any power source, it is the cleanest, greenest source of energy Vermonters have.   The Democrats in Vermont, led by Peter Shumlin, however, have perpetuated a cruel hoax on Vermonters to convince them that Vermont Yankee is not safe.  In nearly every news cycle there is a report about some flaw at Vermont Yankee, no matter how minor.  In contrast, the media never reports on the hundreds of oil and gasoline spills and leaks every year in Vermont.  The state news media ignores the death and destruction from wood stove and oil burner fires and gas explosions, and the death toll from pollution caused by wood, coal and oil.  So Vermonters have a skewed view of Vermont Yankee’s safety record.  It is in fact far safer than any other source of energy, including solar and wind.  The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group formed by the world’s democracies,  has recently published a 48 page study on the safety record of nuclear energy versus other sources of energy from 1969-2000.  The statistics are startling:  The number of accidents causing immediate death from all energy sources in the OECD countries from 1969-2000 was 8934; the number of deaths from nuclear power accidents during that same time in OECD countries was zero.  In non-OECD countries, the statistics are similarly startling.  From 1969-2000 there were 31 immediate deaths from a nuclear power accident—at Chernobyl--and  72,324 during that same time from accidents from other power sources.  Deaths caused by pollution from oil and coal in OECD countries are in the hundreds of thousands, while there are zero deaths attributed to radiation pollution from nuclear power plants in OECD countries. 

Finally, Vermont Yankee is a local source of power, employing over 650 Vermonters, and a local source of tax revenue, paying millions to Vermont in taxes.

With that record, one would think that Democrats, who are supposed to have compassion for the poor and working class, and who tout their support for green energy, would be staunch supporters of Vermont Yankee.  To the contrary, Democrat candidate for governor, Peter Shumlin, and his Democrat party, including Senators Kitchel and Choate, have voted not to renew Vermont Yankee’s license after 2012.

It gets worse.  The power that the Democrats want to substitute for Vermont Yankee is wind and solar power.    The Democrats in the Vermont General Assembly have guaranteed subsidies of 20 cents a kilowatt hour for wind power, and 30 cents a kilowatt hour for solar power, and those rates are locked into long term contracts of ten to twenty five years. 

Of course, these rates will borne by all of us, but most particularly on the poor and middle class in Vermont.  Manufacturing jobs in Vermont will also be adversely affected.    Manufacturing plants are heavy users of electricity, and they can and will go elsewhere if their electric costs become prohibitive.

Why do Democrats go against all their traditional bases of support on this issue?  There are two answers.  First, Peter Shumlin and his fellow Democrats are devout zealots when it comes to opposing nuclear power.  The fact that over the past forty years nuclear power has enjoyed a matchless safety record has never gotten in the way of Democrats’ fixed beliefs that nuclear power is malevolent.

Second, Peter Shumlin and his fellow Democrats have profited from the wind and solar energy lobby. David Bittersdorf, President and CEO of All Earth Renewables, a Vermont producer of  wind and solar power devices, and his wife Jan have given nearly $100,000.00 to the Vermont Democratic Party. 

Vermonters and Vermont businesses cannot afford this huge new regressive “tax” that will result from shutting down Vermont Yankee.   Senators Matt Choate and Jane Kitchel failed to represent their Northeast Kingdom constituents when they voted in lockstep with Democratic leadership last session.  During the next legislative session, it is imperative that our elected representatives re-visit this issue and renew Vermont Yankee’s license, especially for those Vermonters who are struggling in this tough economy to pay their household bills. 

No comments:

Post a Comment